Hubbard, Kivela state case
MANISTIQUE – The race is on for the 109th District state representative seat, and contenders Jack Hubbard, Republican, and John Kivela, Democrat, were in Manistique on Friday to voice their sides. The two attended the Schoolcraft County Candidate Forum to discuss everything from the biggest issues facing the state to their plan to stimulate job growth in the district.
According to Hubbard, the biggest issue facing Michigan today is simply jobs.
“We can solve a lot of the problems in the state of Michigan by putting everybody to work,” he said. “That is the big issue, because, with the jobs, you’re not only creating income for the individuals, but you’re creating revenue for the state of Michigan.”
He noted that people consume more when they are employed – they make more purchases and pay sales tax, benefiting the entire state.
“I am willing to stand up to federal and state bureaucrats and their regulations – I have a history of that,” he said. “You have to look no further than Grand Marais Harbor to understand that I am more than willing to stand up and fight for what’s right for my constituents, whether it’s at the state level or at the federal level.”
Hubbard, who serves as the Burt Township supervisor, said that he also fought to secure nearly 400 acres around the Grand Marais airport – land the federal government had tried to take away.
“A lot of times they’re regulations aren’t really regulations – it’s just stuff they make up when they’re in their office,” he said.
As for his plan to stimulate job growth in the area, Hubbard said state and federal government regulations need to be cut back in order to allow small business and entrepreneurs to grow.
“I feel the state needs to be friendly to small businesses and to entrepreneurs because that’s where our jobs are going to come from,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are watching the state turn around and are very interested in starting new small business and that’s going to be a big key in it.”
During the audience question portion of the forum, Hubbard was asked to address the gas tax – which has not been raised in recent years, but is used to repair deteriorating roads and bridges throughout Michigan.
“I would hate to see us raise any kind of taxes right now at all. I don’t favor raises taxes for that,” he said. “We should look at this thing a little bit differently.”
Hubbard noted that once jobs are created and the economy picks up, Michigan residents will travel more and additional gas revenue will come in. He also noted that Michigan does not take full advantage of federal road dollars, as they are unable to come up with the matching funds needed to ultimately make the repairs.
When asked about education in the district and ways to better fund it, Hubbard said he would take an active role to update the funding system.
“The governor has said that he wanted to revisit the way that schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, are funded next year,” he said. “I think that it’s really out of balance the way that school systems are funded,” he said. “It’s not funded properly and I think that that whole thing needs to be reworked.”
According to Hubbard, come downstate schools get nearly $18,000 per pupil, while Upper Peninsula schools are allotted less than $8,000 per pupil. He also noted recent claims that the state cut $1 billion from education last year are untrue, and that approximately three-quarters of that came from federal stimulus funding which was only available for the previous year.
“We all knew that we weren’t going to have that money every single year,” he said. “And rather use that money to replace infrastructure, and use it the way it was intended, the previous administration used it to plug all the holes in kindergarten through 12th grade. We’ve got to quit plugging the holes, and we’ve got to fix things.”
Another problem with education is the focus on college, Hubbard said. Despite numerous vocational jobs open in the state, he explained there is no training to qualify people to fill them.
“It’s said that, if you’re a weldor in the state of Michigan, you can have a job in 20 minutes,” he said.
In order to bring more employment to the U.P., another audience question, Hubbard said he would like to focus on using natural resources, mining, and farming, and freeing businesses from unnecessary regulations.
“We need common sense regulation,” he said. “We need less government and more get to work.”
During his chance at the podium, Kivela, current mayor of Marquette, said the number one issue facing Michigan is jobs; the second – education. He explained U.P. schools are disadvantaged in that they do not receive ample funding.
“They’re not funded at nearly the same rate, there are some kids in this state that, through the course of their 13 years, receive $60,000 more than other kids, and the other kids are usually in the Upper Peninsula,” he said. “That needs to be solved.”
He noted that $1 billion had been taken out of K-12 education in the last two years, and this practice needs to stop.
Differing from his opponent, Kivela explained his focus as state representative would be much broader.
“I know a lot of his (Hubbard) plans seem to primarily focus on land and mineral use, which I don’t disagree with – that has always played a role in economic development in the Upper Peninsula, and it will continue to – but we need to go farther than that,” he said. “We need technologybased industries, we need light manufacturing, we need data centers … we need those high-tech jobs.”
Kivela said the in creating job growth for the area, he would focus on getting more of the needed programs to the U.P. He noted that Gov. Rick Snyder recently changed how economic development programs were funded in the state – essentially taking away from the U.P.
“He put the key econ-development programs in the five largest cities downstate, and that doesn’t work for us up here,” he said. “So we challenged his office and they told us to come up with a plan, and we did.”
Traveling to Lansing and meeting on the issue, Kivela said he and his group eventually defined the U.P. as a “micropolition”.
“We drew a big circle through the center of the U.P., which includes Manistique, Newberry, Munising, Escanaba, Marquette, and we’re focusing on that as though it were a metropolitan,” he said. “We identified what we’re lacking to get jobs here, and number one is infrastructure.”
In order to bring infrastructure to the area, Kivela said he would concentrate on bringing an energy surplus to the area, possibly connecting and buying more electricity from the Lower Peninsula to draw employers to the district.
“There is not going to be a big facility or another mine coming up here to locate without reliable energy,” he said.
Kivela explained the area already has the quality of life appeal – it just needs the infrastructure widen that appeal.
As far as the gas tax and deteriorating roads and bridges, Kivela said he supports the unpopular opinion of slightly raising the gas tax. He explained states surrounding Michigan have slightly high gas taxes, and this is the reason why they also have better road systems.
“There is no question that we need to fund our roads better,” he said. “It’s just not adequate. We have bridges that aren’t safe right now, and we have roads that are crumbling.”
To better fund education, Kivela said he would help the state recognize where the money needs to go.
“There is a beautiful welding shop in this building that is sitting empty right now,” he said. “The number one job, available right now in the Upper Peninsula, is weldor – how have we missed this?”
He added that as the economy picks up, the state should replace funding previously stripped from education.
In order to bring employment to the U.P., Kivela said infrastructure is important, and that the current practice of destroying rail lines needs to stop, as that is the future of transportation of goods. He also noted the area needs to draw in data, not call, centers like those commissioned by Google. Building the infrastructure and creating the power needed will help draw employers of this capacity to the area, Kivela added.
“Government doesn’t create jobs; government has to create an environment in which businesses can be successful,” he said. “Businesses employ people – we have to give them the tools that they need to be successful.”