01-02-2020 Letters and Commentary

New beginnings

I wish I could say that my New Year resolutions in the past have all been successful. Actually, they haven’t. I’m not going to reveal what they’ve been, but I’m also not going to be too bummed about it either. Even if New Year resolutions are not totally successful, they do have advantages enough to continue to make them. So, what are the advantages? First, they make me stop and honestly think about where I am. They are a reality check. Where am I with various aspects of life? Relationships. Health. Education. Leisure. Physical fitness. Spiritual fitness. Mental fitness. Career. Or even retirement. By honestly evaluating where I am I establish a new starting point, a baseline foundation on which to build where I want to be. Identifying areas for progress leads to the next advantage – writing down specific goals and the steps to their accomplishment. Writing down goals forces us to materialize our thoughts into bite-sized commitments. Documented, measurable steps encourage us to push on. “I’ve come this far” we can say. Another advantage is that establishing meaningful goals helps us get control of our lives in new tangible ways we can increasingly experience. Not that we should give ourselves excuses before we even start, but even “failed” resolutions get us farther than no resolutions at all. We also need to understand that failure need not be permanent. So we missed this step or that short-term goal. Life is a cross-country race, not a sprint. Get back on track, and “pick them up and put them down”. There is some Biblical guidance about this subject too (no surprise). Here’s one thought: Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the lord directs his steps”. Maybe this time ask for help directly from God in establishing the right goals and for accomplishing them. There’s another advantage – increased interaction with God. A real winner.

Return of the Legislature

After taking some time with family and friends to enjoy the holidays, I’m looking forward to the Legislature returning to session next week to pick up right where we left off – working to improve the lives of the hardworking people of our state. The year 2019 ended with a spirit of bipartisan cooperation and the signing of meaningful, good-government budget reforms that will significantly improve the way we do business in our state. After one of the most contentious budget battles we’ve seen in a long time that included cuts to programs that are vital to Southwest Michigan families, I was relieved that these programs received their proper funding in the final budget agreement. Thanks to our newly enacted budget reforms, I’m confident that future disagreements will be worked out in a timely manner. As I prepare to return to Lansing, I have a full legislative agenda that I will be pushing on behalf of the people of our community. I look forward to getting my expungement package out of the Senate and signed into law; my commercial fishing bill out of the House; the introduction of my legislation to help Southwest Michigan’s craft

brewing industry; introducing legislation to provide financing flexibility to local governments for public parks and recreational improvements; and much more that is still in the early stages of development. I understand that this office belongs to you and that I’ve been sent to Lansing to do the job you want me to do. As new issues come before the Legislature in the New Year, I encourage you to reach out to my office via phone at 517-373-1403 or email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov to share your thoughts and opinions with me.

Home heating help for those in need

As we enter into a new year, we’re also entering the season’s coldest days. I wanted to take the opportunity to remind Southwest Michigan residents that winter heating assistance may be available through programs offered by the state, utility companies and community organizations. The State Emergency Relief Program offers assistance for low-income residents who may need help due to an emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance. The site includes details on the Home Heating Credit, which you can read more about in the Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide. The site also features the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides free services to help reduce energy use and energy bills. Another program, the Winter Protection Plan, offers safeguards for senior citizens and low-income gas and electric customers from service shut-offs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. The program allows eligible customers to defer payment to ease the burden of high winter utility bills during the protection period. To apply, please contact your natural gas or utility company. Additionally, the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency offers emergency aid. Residents may learn more about the agency’s programs by visiting www.smcaa.com. The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) provides utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org. During this cold season, it is important to be proactive to help avoid unnecessary utility shut-off problems so you can keep your homes and families warm this winter. As always, if you need help dealing with a state government issue, please contact my office at 517-373-6960, or by email at SenKLaSata@senate.mich-igan.gov.

This New Year, see what you can do online at socialsecurity.gov

Are you looking for new ways to save time in 2020? Social Security offers many of its services online by signing up for a secure “my Social Security” account. Once you create an account, you can review your work history and see an estimate of your future Social Security benefits. We recently made several enhancements and introduced new features to “my Social Security”. With your personal “my Social Security” account, you can also: Estimate future benefits with a Retirement Calculator that allows you to compare different retirement dates and include future earnings estimates (NEW); request a replacement Social Security card; check the status of your Social Security application. If you already receive benefits, you can: Get a benefit verification or proof of income letter; set up or change direct deposit; change your address; request a replacement Social Security or Medicare card; get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099); opt out of certain mailed notices (NEW). The Message Center is a secure, convenient portal where you can receive secure, sensitive communications. The Message Center now allows you to opt out of receiving some mailed notices. You can now choose to receive the annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount online. Unless you opt out of receiving notices by mail that are available online, you will receive both mailed and online notices. All of these features can help you save time by doing business with us online. Create a “my Social Security” account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. We also offer many other online resources at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. Let friends and family know they can access them from the comfort of their home or office and on the go from their mobile phone. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Inconceivable act

Dear Editor, Recently I had the misfortune to find the Christmas wreath I purchased for my wife’s grave stolen. The emotions I felt were indescribable. How could anyone with a conscience steal off of someone’s loved ones grave? I’m sure that the person(s) who are responsible for this inconceivable act will most likely not care about what I’m writing or how I felt when I discovered that it had been taken. I spoke to a deputy and the florist and I was shocked to hear how much this is happening in cemeteries. My heart goes out to the people that have had this happen to them. I just wanted to write this so that people can be aware of what is going on and to help prevent this action from taking place. Don Ertman

Republican claims about tax cuts law were false

Dear Editor, In December, 2017, Donald Trump and his Congressional Republican allies passed the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” At the time, they claimed that this bill would not increase the federal deficit, would create millions of new jobs, and would pay for itself through sharply increased economic growth. Two years later, the data are clear – every one of the Republican claims was a lie. For fiscal year 2018, the U.S. federal deficit increased by 17%. For 2019, the increase was 26%, which pushed the deficit to $984 billion. The response from Trump and the Congressional Republicans who caused this dramatic increase in the federal deficit has been a resounding silence. Did the massive tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals create millions of jobs? No, they did not. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that during the four years prior to the Republican Tax Cut law, the economy added an average of 213,000 jobs each month. In the two years since passage of that law, average job creation has declined by around 11,000 per month. Has there been sharply increased economic growth? No, there has not. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that during the four years prior to the Tax Cut law, real Gross Domestic Product, the most common measure of economic growth, increased at an average annual rate of 2.4%. In the two years since the law was passed, annual GDP has averaged around 2.5%. In the most recent quarter real economic growth slowed to 2.1%. The primary beneficiaries of the Republican Tax Cuts have been corporate executives and other wealthy individuals. The theory that tax cuts for the rich “trickle down” to the middle class has once again been debunked. When the rich receive tax cuts, the only consequence is that they pay less taxes. As a result, deficits increase and the rich get richer. Congressional Republicans, including Congressman Fred Upton, have been fiscally irresponsible. They passed a law that has dramatically increased the federal deficit while primarily benefiting the wealthiest individuals. Please keep these facts in mind when you cast your vote this coming November. Larry Feldman, Lakeside

Winter weather safety

Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us may not be ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you are more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall. Staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months. Winterize your home by installing weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows, and insulating water lines that run along exterior walls. Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside. If you do not have a working smoke detector, install one. Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available. Get your car ready for cold weather use before winter arrives by servicing the radiator and maintaining antifreeze levels. Check tire tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires. Keep your car’s gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded that includes a cell phone charger, blankets, food and water, booster cables, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction). Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages by stocking food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers and ensuring that your cell phone is fully charged. No one can stop the onset of winter. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready for it when it comes. Visit www.bchdmi.org for more health and wellness information.


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