Rep. Chris Kolb said serving his hometown of Ann Arbor in the
state House of Representatives has been a blast and he looks
forward to advocating for student issues during the next two
years.

Kolb, a Democrat, has represented the district since 2000. With
78 percent of voters backing him in this August’s primaries,
he is ready to continue doing so for the next two years, which
would be his last due to term limits. His opponent, Republican
candidate Eric Sheagren, received 15 percent of the vote in the
August multi-party primary. The 25-year-old self-employed
landscaper said he is running so that Kolb is not uncontested in
this year’s election.

As the representative from the House’s 53rd district,
which includes most of the University’s campus, Kolb has
passed numerous bills in the House on topics that directly affect
students.

Among these issues is higher education in the state.

“The state’s corrections budget is now surpassing
our higher education budget by a little bit. That’s a
statement on where the priorities have been,” Kolb said of
the Republican-controlled House’s funding priorities.

Kolb, a member of the House Appropriations committee which makes
budget decisions, voted for a proposal sponsored by Gov. Jennifer
Granholm which encourages public universities to cap tuition
increases at the rate of inflation in exchange for receiving back
some of the money cut from their budgets in 2003. The University
expects to receive $20 million dollars from the state this year
under the plan.

Sheagren said he also supports tuition caps at the rate of
inflation.

“I think universities are greedy if they’re trying
to get more than that. They’re huge corporations and they get
tax breaks,” he said. “I don’t think any of the
universities are hurting right now.”

He added that he would work to improve financial aid.

“I would work to protect … support grants to help
students go to the college of their choice. I’m for helping
scholarships and grants.”

Kolb emphasized his support of Granholm’s initiative to
double the amount of college graduates in the state within the next
10 years. He added that it is important to make sure colleges
don’t just focus on accepting students, but that they monitor
the education those students receive during their college
careers.

Another issue Kolb has been working on is improving mass transit
for students in Ann Arbor, but he says he has not been able to
overcome all hurdles in doing so.

The Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority was created
last year to coordinate the operation of a regional public
transportation system in the southeast Michigan region, according
to DARTA’s website.

Since the start of the program, Kolb has supported an additional
bill that would extend its services to counties such as Washtenaw.
Even though the measure has passed in the House, it was received by
the Senate last year and has been stalled since then.
Representatives opposed to the measure feel that the transit
connection is not needed between Detroit and Washtenaw county, and
that extending it would be an unnecessary expenditure.

“Empty mass transit vehicles indicate inefficiencies
inherent in the system,” Rep. Matt Milosch (R-Lambertville)
said when voting against the bill. “Establishing DARTA would
simply allow tax dollars to be thrown at a plan that has yet to
deliver any indication of efficiency.”

But Kolb said there is a demand for the service among residents
in Ann Arbor, especially students who need to travel to the Detroit
Metro Airport.

Being the only openly gay member of the state Legislature, Kolb
also expressed opposition to the Proposal 2 ballot initiative that
would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Sheagren said he would fight for the proposal to “defend
the institution of marriage.” Sheagren also expressed concern
that Michiganders relied too much on Lansing and that he would
focus on empowering the citizens of Ann Arbor.

“I just want people to take responsibility for their own
actions and be able to give to the organizations they feel are
worthy, and keep their tax dollars to do that,” Sheagren
said.

Kolb said Republicans have failed in an economy that is not
currently growing — Michigan’s 6.7 percent unemployment
rate is the nation’s second-highest.

 

Race for A2 seat:  GOP vs. Dem. incumbent

Rep. Chris Kolb says higher education funding should be a state
budget priority

Kolb also supports expanding the recently created Detroit
regional mass transit system to Washtenaw County

GOP challenger Eric Sheagren pledges to improve financial aid,
and says universities do not need large tuition hikes

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