The 94th District State House seat is currently held by Republican Tim Kelly, who is being challenged by Democratic Kevin Seamon; while incumbent Vanessa Guerra, who currently holds the 95th District seat is facing off against Republican challenger Dorothy Tanner.
Kelly is seeking a third and final term to the office in his district that covers much of Saginaw County. A former Saginaw County commissioner, he was first elected to the Michigan House in 2012 and currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee and as chairman of the sub-committee on school aid.
Guerra is currently serving her first term representing Michigan’s 95th House district, which includes the cities of Saginaw, Zilwuakee and Bridgeport, Buena Vista, Carrollton, James, Kochville, Spaulding & Zilwaukee Townships. She currently serves on the House committees of Communications & Technology, is vice chair of the Criminal Justice committee, and serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Insofar as numerous polling sources indicate that neither Kelly nor Guerra are facing serious challenges from their respective opponents, The Review brought both Guerra and Kelly together to discuss what we feel are pivotal issues facing citizens not only within their respective districts, but throughout the state of Michigan.
Review: What are the personal qualities and your position on key issues such as the economy, our environment, and health care, that you feel need to be addressed in order to move Michigan forward?
Vanessa Guerra: Previous legislators created massive tax shifts which have increased taxes on the middle class, seniors and working families by $1.6 billion per year. At the same time, corporate taxes were cut by nearly $2 billion.
If we are going to move Michigan’s economy forward, we need to focus on building a tax structure that works for everyone. In addition to reducing the amount of taxes our seniors and middle class families pay, we need to expand our investment in public education thus creating a workforce that is ready to meet the needs of a 21st century economy. Specifically, we must focus on reducing classroom sizes, increasing funding for early literacy programs in EVERY community in the state and developing support systems for parents and teachers living in our communities of greatest need.
Access to mental health care in Michigan has become one of my main concerns since entering office. As the Minority Vice Chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to tour many Michigan correctional facilities and see first-hand the need for access to local preventative mental health services. Increased access to mental health training for officers and 24-hour care centers for individuals will provide a benefit to all of Michigan’s citizens.
Tim Kelly: After serving almost four years as a state legislator, I believe I have proven myself to be an effective leader and negotiator with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
During the last four years, I have witnessed Michigan's continued economic comeback. The stimulus to this growth is directly tied to policies that we as Republicans have pushed and promoted like Right to Work, deregulation, and ending job-killing business taxes like the SBT. If re-elected I will continue to support such efforts.
Review: What specific legislation have you authored that you are most proud of and what current legislation are you advancing that will impact & improve our state & region?
Kelly: As chair of the School Aid budget in the House, I have helped to produce two record-breaking K-12 budgets in a row that have been adopted with wide bipartisan support. For the sixth year in a row, Michigan’s Republican-led legislature has produced budgets months ahead of schedule to allow local school districts to plan accordingly.
School funding is at its highest level in our state's history. We are spending $14.2 billion on K-12 education. Claims to the contrary are not only wrong, they are willful lies.
Other legislation that I have sponsored attempts to end welfare fraud and abuse, modernize public transportation, reduce/eliminate unfunded liabilities and promote better government.
Guerra: I am proud of bipartisan legislation that I co-authored with my colleague Representative Tom Barrett regarding domestic violence. This past summer Governor Snyder signed our legislation into law which allows victims of domestic abuse to legally separate their cell phone plan from a plan they share with an abuser.
An abusive situation is hard enough to escape from without the added reality that the abuser controls their victim’s ability to communicate with family, friends and the police through their cell phone. This legislation takes that power away from the abuser and gives it to the victim.
Another package of legislation I was a part of and signed this week by the Governor is legislation which creates higher standards for law enforcement and reserve officers across the state of Michigan. This package of legislation aims to reduce instances of confrontation between officers and members of the community through added training and resources.
Review: Do you support the expansion of Charter Schools in Michigan and why?
Guerra: I do not support the expansion of for-profit charter schools who do not meet nor have to comply with the same standards, regulations and transparency requirements our public schools have to meet in order to comply with state law.
It seems we have a double-standard when it comes to educating our students and recent history has not shown that charter schools are capable of meeting that standard. Michigan has a constitutional obligation to provide an education to our young people, however above that, we have an ethical obligation to provide a QUALITY education to our students as well. An obligation that is not being met by many of our charter schools across the state.
Kelly: Yes, I support universal school choice including public charter schools. Michigan should adopt an anywhere, any place, any time, any pace way of schooling, with money following the child as his or her family sees fit.
Review: Despite the fact that a half billion dollars has been delivered or committed to alleviate the Flint Water Crisis, with the goal of replacing lead pipes to an estimated 11.300 homes within a 12-month time frame, to date service lines to only 33 homes have been replaced; and according to a report from the Bridge Center, Michael McDaniel, who was appointed to lead the Flint Action & Sustainability Team in February to replace damaged pipes, has not been paid for his work. Moreover, for Flint to bring a lawsuit against Michigan, it must now be granted approval by Governor Snyder’s state appointed board. What is your reaction to this state of affairs and what pro-active solutions do you see for resolving the Flint Water Crisis?
Kelly: The Flint Water Crisis remains an unfortunate calamity exacerbated by hyperbolic partisan politics, a national media that refuses to acknowledge the facts, and a disjointed and cumbersome response from local, state and national entities largely responsible the mess. The crisis has exposed a terrific lack of critical infrastructure upgrades and modernization that will affect multiple municipalities across our state.
Guerra: The state’s lethargic response to the Flint water crisis has been among the most frustrating experiences during my time in the legislature. The state’s inaction to take full responsibility in a timely manner has left thousands of Flint residents without access to clean water and puts them at risk of contracting serious illnesses.
In many cases the money that we have allocated has not gone towards replacing these pipes which I believe should be a top priority. We must also be cognizant of the fact that the Flint water crisis will not be resolved by years’ end. In fact, the legislature will need to address the consequences of the state’s inaction for years to come. Replacing the pipes is just the first step in a series of actions necessary to aid Flint in recovering from this crisis. We must also reinstate the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission that previously existed prior to 2010.
Finally, we must repeal the Emergency Manager Law of 2010. The water crisis is a direct result of an unelected and unaccountable emergency manager who made decisions based on cost savings rather than public safety.