02-08-2018 Columns

Bigger paychecks, more jobs, strong economy January marked the first official month of our new tax reform legislation, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, being law. Benefits from this bill are already being felt across the country and right here at home. Many got their paychecks at the beginning of the month and about 90 percent of Americans are seeing higher wages already. That’s not all. In January, we added 200,000 jobs to the U.S. economy and wages rose at the fastest pace in more than eight years. And more jobs are on the way. Pfizer, one of Southwest Michigan’s largest employers, announced that they will be moving back $15 billion to the U.S. from overseas tax shelters. This is just the latest in the good news for Michiganders building off Fiat-Chrysler moving production of their RAM Super Duty back to Michigan from Mexico and DTE energy slashing consumer’s energy bills. All because of our landmark tax reform legislation. It remains one of my top priorities to help spur job creation and economic growth here at home. I’m excited to continue working with my colleagues to produce results for Southwest Michigan families and businesses of all sizes. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is just one more example of how we’re working to get our economy moving, and putting more dollars in your paychecks. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Tax relief for all Michiganders Legislation providing tax relief to all hardworking Michiganders was approved last week by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House. I was glad to vote for this package of bills, which is aimed at providing income tax relief for families and seniors and will enable people to keep more of their hard-earned money. The bills will continue and increase personal exemptions for Michigan taxpayers and their dependents on their income taxes, while providing additional relief for senior citizens. This is a win for all of the hardworking taxpayers in Southwest Michigan. The state budget is in good shape and our economy continues to grow. The time is right to ease the tax burden and put more money back into the pockets of Michigan families where it belongs. The technical fix related to recent federal reforms saves $172 per person on state income taxes each year, $688 for a family of four. Raising the personal exemption provides an additional $102 in relief for a family of four.

The legislation, House Bills 5420-5422, will: Ensure Michigan taxpayers can continue claiming personal exemptions on income taxes after federal tax reforms signed into law last month, and increase the state personal exemption from the current $4,000 to $4,300 for the 2018 tax year, with gradual increases reaching $4,800 for 2020; certify taxpayers in Michigan cities with an income tax will continue to be able to claim exemptions; and help senior citizens in addition to the personal exemption increase by providing a $100 income tax credit for a single filer age 62 or older – or $200 for joint filers. House Bills 5420-5422 now go to the Senate for consideration. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact meaningful tax relief that will benefit all Michiganders. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com /RepBethGriffin.

American Heart Month Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with an average of 600,000 Americans dying from heart disease every year. Some people are at greater risk than others for a heart attack. It may be due to such uncontrollable factors as having a family history of heart disease or due to other diseases such as diabetes. Most of the risk factors, however, are lifestyle choices that can be changed. Those risk factors include leading a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, being overweight/obese, and excessive alcohol use. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk: Watch your weight; quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke; control your cholesterol and blood pressure; if you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation; get active and eat healthy. Although not everyone has it, the most telltale sign of a heart attack is chest discomfort, which may feel like pressure, squeezing, or fullness. Pain may be felt in other areas, too, including one or both arms, neck, jaw, or stomach. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness, or passing out. If you or someone you’re with has one or more of these signs, don’t wait – call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department online at www.bchdmi.org or the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.

Photo contest winner visits Michigan Capitol Michigan is full of landscapes and summer activities that make our state one of the most picturesque and fun places in the country. In an effort to help highlight our state, I hosted the Pure Michigan Summer Photo Contest last year where residents could submit their favorite photographs taken during the summer. Molly Pate of Berrien Springs was the contest’s first place winner and was recently my honored guest at the Michigan Capitol. The purpose of the photo contest was to give Southwest Michigan residents a chance to showcase their artistic talents and the beauty of our state. We had an incredible response to the contest. Thankfully, we also had an outstanding judging panel that was able to choose 10 incredible finalists, and the people selected an amazing photo by Molly. Her picture, titled “Sunset Sail at South Haven Beach,” magnificently illustrates a summer sunset on Lake Michigan. It was wonderful to welcome Molly Pate and her parents to the Capitol, recognize them during Senate session and hear from Molly about how she captured her inspiring photo. “I laid down at the end of the pier in South Haven to take a shot of the sailboat on the calm water as the sun went down,” Molly said. “As I was taking the picture, a speedboat came across. At first, I thought ‘Oh no.’ However, the waves from the speedboat really make the photo.” Molly’s winning photo will be on display in the Capitol for the entire year. Her picture and the other Top 10 finalist images are available by visiting the photo contest section on my Facebook page, the John Proos Supporters Page. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.

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Call Amy on Tuesday or Wednesday at (269) 463-6397