12-26-2019 Columns

A look back at 2019

The end of the year is quickly approaching and with that provides an opportunity to reflect on 2019. It was a busy year here in Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District. Our farmers faced record rainfalls and extreme weather. I participated in a farm tour to see damage firsthand and led a letter encouraging the USDA to approve a disaster designation, which they did. I also fought to support and protect our Great Lakes, including leading a visit by the Michigan Congressional Delegation to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to learn more about efforts to protect the Great Lakes from Asian Carp. We also advanced efforts to improve care for our veterans. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was signed by President Trump, and the VA Mission Act took effect. We began efforts on Cures 2, aiming to improve access to life-saving cures. We passed legislation to put an end to annoying, pesky robocalls. In September, I celebrated the groundbreaking of the Indeck Niles Energy Center, a $1 billion investment that will help generate clean energy for our region and create new jobs. In 2020, we have a lot more to do, and I hope to see the Congress work together on addressing the issues most important to the families of the Sixth District. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

A year in review

As 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on some of our accomplishments in the Michigan House and highlight some of my priorities for 2020. I also would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts and concerns with me by contacting my office or attending in-district coffee hours. A great achievement this year was a plan I spearheaded to assist farmers whose crops were devastated by last spring’s record-setting rain. The new law provides $15 million for low-interest loans to qualified farmers. This plan will provide financial stability for families in need and ensure that our hardworking farmers will continue to be the backbone of Southwest Michigan. Earlier this year we passed legislation that will fix Michigan’s broken car insurance system by giving drivers more choices in personal injury protection coverage. This plan removes an unfair and mandatory burden on drivers and will lead to guaranteed savings, reduced medical costs, and will fight fraud. In addition, I voted to provide record funding for K-12 schools, introduced a plan to make the state’s PFAS action response team a permanent agency, and sponsored legislation to further protect student athletes from abuse. Priorities for our community I will to continue to fight for in 2020 include: Exempting broadband infrastructure from property taxes, which will allow for broadband expansion to unserved areas; allowing high school students to meet their 21st century skills requirement through CTE courses; continuing to fight for clean drinking water and find innovative solutions for combatting PFAS. It is an honor to serve as your state representative and I look forward to continuing to work hard for all of Southwest Michigan in the coming year. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Business owners: Plan for next phase of life

As a business owner, you’re always thinking of what you need to do now. But you can’t forget about the future – yours and that of your business. So it may be a good idea to consider your personal retirement plan and business succession strategy. Let’s start by looking at a few retirement plan possibilities: Solo 401(k) – This plan, which is also known as an Owner-only 401(k), is available to self-employed individuals and business owners with no full-time employees other than themselves or a spouse. A Solo 401(k) offers many of the same advantages of a traditional 401(k): a range of investment options, tax-deductible contributions and the opportunity for tax-deferred earnings growth. You may even be able to choose a Roth option, which allows you to make after-tax contributions that can grow tax-free. Your Solo 401(k) contributions consist of two parts: salary deferral and profit sharing. In 2020, you can defer up to $19,500 of income, or $26,000 if you’re 50 or older. Your profit-sharing contribution is based on your earnings. The sum of your salary deferral and profit sharing can’t exceed $57,000 (or $63,500 if you’re 50 or older). If your spouse is employed by your business, you each can contribute the maximum amount allowed. SEP IRA – If you have just a few employees or are self-employed with no employees, you may want to think about a SEP IRA. You’ll fund the plan with tax-deductible contributions, and you must cover all eligible employees. (Employees themselves cannot contribute.) You can generally contribute up to 25% of compensation, up to $57,000 annually. And you can fund your SEP IRA with virtually any type of investment. Solo defined benefit plan – Not many businesses still offer pension plans, also known as defined benefit plans, but you can set one up for yourself if you’re self-employed or own your own business. This plan has high contribution limits, which are determined by an actuarial calculation, and your contributions are typically tax-deductible. A financial professional can help you choose the appropriate retirement plan. But you’ll still need to think about succession planning. Of course, you can always sell your business outright at any time you like. Or you could leave your business to your children in your will, but if you give it to them gradually during your lifetime, you can become more confident they’ll be able to manage the business on their own. Another alternative might be to transfer the business with a buy-sell agreement, which allows you to determine when, to whom, and at what price you can sell it. Because you can establish the purchase price as your business’s taxable value, a buy-sell agreement is useful in estate planning. If you want to keep the business in your family, you might want to consider funding the buy-sell agreement with life insurance, so family members can use the death benefit proceeds to buy your ownership stake. In any case, given the complexities and tax issues involved with succession planning, you’ll need to consult with your legal and tax advisors when creating a strategy. But don’t wait too long. You can’t predict the future, but by planning ahead, you can help achieve the outcomes you desire. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Home for the holidays

Being home for the holidays is a wonderful time of the year for many throughout Southwest Michigan, including my family. This time gives us all a chance to slow down and reflect on the year that has been and the many blessings we have been given. Part of the joy of the season is spending time with our families. As parents and grandparents, we cherish the opportunities to reconnect with our children and grandchildren and to share special moments and traditions with them. For many, reading together is one such tradition. I am pleased to offer free resources for our young people that are designed to help them learn about our beautiful state. For the youngsters in grades two through four, the “Getting to Know Michigan” coloring book is a wonderful, informative resource. It gives kids interesting tidbits about Michigan’s history, folklore and state symbols in a fun, coloring book format. For the older kids, I offer a student’s guide to the legislative process. It covers all sorts of questions, like how people legislate laws to govern themselves, how an idea becomes a bill, what happens in the legislative process, and so forth. In addition to lawmaking, it addresses other topics, like what additional responsibilities the Legislature has. These publications are a good way to keep kids engaged during the break and are a nice supplement to what they learn in school. Both publications are available for free on my website, along with many more. You can download them at https://www.statesenatorkimlasata.com/publications/. I hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy this time of year with family and friends and to rest and prepare for a new year of possibility. From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Recommendations for a Healthy New Year

The holidays may still not be over, but now is the time to start thinking about how you can keep your resolutions this year and make 2020 your healthiest year ever. Make an appointment for a check-up, vaccination, or screening: Regular dental and medical exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. This includes keeping up-to-date on all vaccinations and cancer screenings. It’s not too late for flu shots, so if you haven’t gotten one yet, take the time to get vaccinated against the flu. Wash your hands often with soap and water to prevent the spread of infection and illness: Hand washing involves five simple and effective steps – wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. Sicknesses like norovirus (the “stomach flu”), salmonella, E.coli, and some respiratory viruses are spread by germs traveling into your mouth via your hands. Make healthy food choices and get active: A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars. Get active! Start small – try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further from your destination. Consider mall walking if the weather is cold or icy. Be smoke-free: If you are ready to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (also Spanish line) for free resources, including free quit coaching, nicotine medications, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to other resources where you live. Get enough sleep: If not getting enough sleep is a regular part of your routine, you may be at an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke, poor mental health/depression, and even early death. Adults need seven or more hours per night. Try to keep bed time and waking times consistent, even on weekends. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and electronic devices before bed time.

Busy day for two Coloma Watervliet Area Chamber of Commerce members

On Thursday, Dec. 19, surrounded by Chamber members, family, friends, and municipal leaders, two businesses were ready for a day of celebration with a ribbon cutting and Grand Opening for each of them.