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Just getting started: Ballot language, diverting school funds, and GOP officials with records

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This week, Jack Lessenberry and Zoe Clark talk about headlines that marked the end of the beginning for some major Michigan issues. Ballot language for the roads funding bill, school money to fill the budget gap, and GOP officials with criminal records are all stories that look like they’re just getting started. 

Tough sell

Though the road funding vote has been in the headlines for months, voters are just now learning the actual wording of the ballot.

The Board of State Canvessers this week approved official language for the May vote which includes a 100-word summary of the measure.

Lessenberry said the “complex” proposal will be a tough sell for the governor.

“We know from history that when voters can’t understand something, they tend to vote no,” Lessenberry said.

Long step, longer process

Lawmakers have approved moving money from Michigan’s school aid fund to help plug a $500 million hole in the state’s budget.

Democrats are decrying the action, but Republican leaders are saying schools weren’t expecting the money at the beginning of the budget year anyway.

Lessenberry said diverting school funds may not be the best first step to filling the budget gap.

“We have a long history in this state of raiding school money for other purposes, some of them not so good,” he said.

Coming clean

Michigan Republicans raised some eyebrows this week after choosing Darwin Jiles, a 29-year-old with a criminal background, as its new ethnic vice chair.

Jiles isn’t the only internally-elected GOP official with a record. Antrim County Chair Randy Bishop and former state committee members Doug Sedenquist and William Rauwerdink all have criminal pasts.

Lessenberry said while the state’s Democrats don't all have spotless pasts, stories like this tend to be more problematic for the GOP.

“Republicans have always presented themselves as the party of moral rectitude, where the Democrats were these venial people who might take your money,” he said. “Republicans were supposed to be above all that.”

-Rebecca Kruth, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
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