A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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Sen. Green (L) and Rep. Daley (R)

In Michigan’s 31st District State Senate race, incumbent Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, has an interesting description of what his GOP primary challenger Rep. Kevin Daley, R-Lum, is all about.

"I'd say it was about my primary opponent trying to get to the right of me," Sen. Green said. "I'm about as far right as anybody. I think it was MIRS newsletter, or one of those that ranks legislators, that put me as third most conservative."

Not surprisingly, Rep. Daley has a different opinion.

"To me, it is about three things: right-to-work, Obamacare and road funding," Rep. Daley said.

The 31st Senate District is located in East-Central Michigan bordering the Saginaw Bay and the Thumb. It includes all or part of Bay, Lapeer and Tuscola counties. Based on data from the 2008 and 2010 elections, the district has a 51 percent Republican base.

"He (Sen. Green) voted against right-to-work and he did that after saying he'd vote for it," Rep. Daley said. "There’s even a video of him saying he would. He also voted for the Obamacare exchange. I'm totally against Obamacare and believe we should stay as far away from it as we can.

"On the road funding issue, I supported the package the House put forward," Rep. Daley continued. "That was the package that was the alternative to the big gas tax hike they tried to get later. It would have given us $480 million to help fix the roads. Some of us in the House don't believe we need to get the whole $1.2 billion (Gov. Snyder asked for) all at once. We could come up with part of it in each of the next few years. In fact, it might not be a very good idea to put out the full $1.2 billion all at once. When you do that it probably encourages waste."

Sen. Green doesn't equivocate about his reason for voting "no" on right-to-work.

"I was at a tea party event and they were talking about right-to-work," Sen. Green said. "It sounded all right to me, so I said I'd vote for it. Yes, it's there on the video. I said it. But after that I changed my mind and from then on, in front of tea party groups and others, I said I'd vote against it.

"I decided to vote 'no' because I was representing a pretty Democratic district," Sen. Green continued. "I'm not one who makes political votes very often, but I voted 'no' on that one. However, when I voted 'no' on right-to-work I knew it wouldn't make any difference. I knew they already had enough votes to pass it."

Sen. Green said he voted for the exchange because he wanted the state to operate it instead of the federal government.

"This was the exchange, not Medicaid expansion," Sen. Green said. "I voted for it because I didn't want the federal government coming in to Michigan and cramming it down our throats. If there was going to be one, I wanted the state to be doing it. To me, it was a states' rights issue."

Sen. Green insists he is more conservative than Rep. Daley.

"He (Rep. Daley) has voted for the film credits about every time." Sen. Green said. "In my opinion, the film credits are a waste. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, they haven't created any jobs. I don't think we should be giving a penny toward the film credits.

"My opponent also voted to increase the gas tax — it (the House package) wasn't the big increase but it would have been an increase without a vote of the people," Sen. Green continued. "He also voted for the Detroit bailout."

Rep. Daley said his film credit votes were primarily bills that made positive adjustments to how they operate and approved lower spending levels than they'd received previously. He also reasserted that the House transportation package he supported was the approach to road funding that relied primarily on existing revenues and defended his vote on the Detroit bailout.

"On the film credits, in most cases, I voted for legislation under which the credits would get lesser amounts than they had been getting and made changes, such as requiring more disclosure," Rep. Daley said. "He (Sen. Green) is really grasping for straws when he brings this up. He's just trying to distract attention away from his vote against right-to-work and for Obamacare. Conservatives with courage voted for right-to-work. They didn't vote against it for political reasons.

"Our road funding package was basically revenue neutral," Rep. Daley continued. "It did have an increase in the diesel tax, but even the Mackinac Center for Public Policy considered it basically revenue neutral. My vote on the Detroit settlement was a vote to save taxpayers money. According to a study by The Detroit News, if it hadn't passed it would have cost Michigan taxpayers $169 million. In fact had (Attorney General) Bill Schuette's lawsuit gone forward it could have cost as much as $2 billion or $3 billion."

Capitol Confidential posed two questions to the candidates aimed at bringing out what kind of senator each would be if elected.

Q. Michigan's legislative process now involves devices such as "omnibus" budget bills and work groups. Arguably these innovations streamline the process but reduce transparency and accountability while undermining the power and influence of most individual lawmakers.

Are you concerned about this trend and what, if anything, would you do about it as a lawmaker?

Sen. Green:

I am very concerned about it. I was talking about this recently with my counterpart in the House on the Department of Natural Resources committee. These budgets come back from conference committees and they tell us we have to add things to them. To me, that's not the way a conference committee should work. Yes, I'm quite upset about it. It takes power away from legislators and puts it all in the hands of leadership.

In the beginning (of the change to the omnibus budget bill process) both sides (House and Senate) got to vote on every budget. Then it was agreed to have each do theirs independently. But this last time we didn’t even get a chance to vote on the process, they just continued to do it that way. I didn't like it, but I couldn't get my voice to be heard. It is moving toward the way things are done by the federal government and that's going in the wrong direction. After what happened this year, this is something I plan to keep talking about.

Rep. Daley:

Yeah, it certainly is a concern. Doing it the way they do is probably more efficient but as lawmakers it doesn't give us a lot of input unless we sit on those work groups or appropriations committees. We have a responsibility to represent those who elected us and we should be able to have more input in the process.

Q. The Michigan Economic Development Corp., which is known as the state's corporate welfare arm, gets about $300 million in annual funding while having the reputation of lacking transparency. Even legislators have complained about not receiving information they've requested from the MEDC.

As a lawmaker would you seek out information from the MEDC to test its transparency? If you thought the results were unsatisfactory, would you say so publicly? What other actions, if any, would you take?

Rep. Daley:

Absolutely, if I found out something like that, I'd let people know about it. Besides, I think that $300 million would be better spent on roads than going to (the) MEDC.

Sen. Green:

On multiple occasions since I began serving in the Michigan Senate, I have requested meetings with and information from MEDC officials on a number of issues and constituent cases. While I cannot comment on the experience of other offices, MEDC has been forthcoming and responsive to my requests so far. That said, MEDC is a recipient of a substantial amount of tax dollars and I would support measures to strengthen the transparency and accountability required of it under state law.

In a scorecard of votes compiled for 2013 by Independents for Responsible Government, a tea party group in Clarkston, Sen. Green voted to support the group's core issues 39 percent of the time. Rep. Daley scored 44 percent on votes the group selected.

Editor's note: Michigan Capitol Confidential will be reporting and writing about key primary races leading up to the election on Aug. 5. The series of stories are designed to provide readers with some insight into candidates who have said they support free market issues. The stories are not endorsements and readers are encouraged to give every candidate a serious look before the election. 

Also, the scorecard numbers have been changed to reflect votes for all of 2013, a broader time period than the first quarter of 2014, which previously was reflected in this story.

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See also:

Select Business Subsidies, Endorsements Are Differences In 37th District Senate GOP Primary

'He's Just Making That Up' - No Shortage of Attacks In 3rd Congressional District GOP Primary