Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus said he first ran for office in 1982 when he was worried his children would have to go outside the state of Michigan to find jobs. Now, as he seeks higher office, he said he no longer worries about that.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily yesterday, Posthumus commented on the numerous tax cuts he and Gov. John Engler have pushed through the Legislature since 1990, when Engler was elected governor and Posthumus was chosen to replace him as the state Senate’s majority leader. He credited the cuts with creating jobs and bringing Michigan’s economy back from the brink. Elected lieutenant governor in 1998, Posthumus, a Republican from Kent County’s Alto, would again like to replace Engler, this time as governor. Engler is barred from seeking a fourth term due to term limits.
“I led the battle in the Senate to cut taxes so that people could invest in Michigan,” he said. “Now we’re creating jobs here.”
A good portion of Posthumus’ agenda centers around job growth in Michigan, which he said he believes occurs when taxes are low.
“I will not raise taxes. I have a leadership history of cutting taxes and I will continue to do that,” he said.
He has taken on a high profile role during his term as lieutenant governor, chairing several policy advising panels, including the governor’s Commission on Financing Higher Education.
Posthumus also lamented the fact that this year the Legislature was not able to give higher education institutions an increase in appropriations, but he said he credits the 55 percent increase they have received from the state in the last 10 years as helping to keep tuition lower than it would have been.
He favors language in the appropriations process which penalizes universities for raising tuition more than they should with cuts in their funding.
“Everybody else has to control their budget. So do the universities.”
Touching on the subject of those who are uninsured for health care, Posthumus’ solutions are to first, increase the number of Michiganders employed, and second, to provide incentives to small business to offer their employees health insurance.
“A lot of the uninsured are employees of very, very small businesses.”
Posthumus got his first experience in politics managing Engler’s first campaign for the state House of Representative and has followed him up the political ladder ever since. But Posthumus isn’t afraid to acknowledge that, being conservatives, they agree on most policy questions, though his approach to governing is slightly different.
“My priorities are going to be different from Governor Engler’s in part because Michigan is different. In the 1990s, this state was in deep economic trouble.” Now, he said, the state is weathering the national economic recession relatively well.
“I believe in building a consensus,” he added. “I’m a unifier. I set a vision of where we need to go and then bring people together to accomplish it.”
Although many of the other candidates favor a restructuring of state departments, such as merging the departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources or splitting the Department of Community Health into separate departments concerning public health and mental, Posthumus is holding off on any promises to restructure.
“You shouldn’t lay out a bureaucratic structure and fix your vision and policies around it,” he said. “A leader should lay out a vision of where he or she is going to take Michigan, lay out the policies they are going to put in place and, based on that, then develop a structure around that.”
“I’m not wedded to any present structure, nor am I wedded to any change,” he added.
He also promises to direct extra resources to early childhood development and reading initiatives and to help impoverished communities improve their sewer infrastructure, which he outlines in his “Marshall Plan for Water.”
His opponent for the Republican nomination is state Sen. John Schwarz of Battle Creek. Seeking the Democratic nomination are former Gov. James Blanchard, U.S. Rep. David Bonior of Mt. Clemens, state Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and state Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township. The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held Aug. 6, and the general election will be held Nov. 5.