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MI State of State: Whitmer Promises Seniors Tax Breaks, Better Care

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Friday, January 27, 2023   

In her fifth State of the State address this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized policies designed to put more money in Michiganders' pockets.

The second-term Democrat included several proposals, including a plan to cut the tax on retirement income, that played well with Michigan seniors.

Melissa Seifert, associate state director for government affairs at AARP Michigan, said the governor's speech set a positive tone for the new legislative session. She said her group's priorities include more funding for long-term care and help for the state's caregivers.

"Right now, 68% of Michigan's Medicaid dollars actually go to nursing homes," she said. "We want to see a rebalancing of those dollars, to put back into resources for home and community-based services."

Seifert said AARP is also watching legislation to lower drug prices, expand access to affordable housing and make it easier for people to save for retirement.

Republican lawmakers, in the minority for the first time in years, have said they'll wait for the governor's proposed budget before passing judgment on her programs.

Seifert said lawmakers need to find a solution to the crisis in Michigan's direct-care industry, where she said poor wages and working conditions have led an annual employee turnover rate of up to 80%.

"We want to see Medicaid wages increase for direct-care workers by $4," she said. "And we're also asking for an investment from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide retention bonuses for direct-care workers."

Seifert said she believes home is the best place for seniors to get care, but said that it often leads to long hours and high stress for family members doing the caregiving. She said it's important for the state to develop and provide resources for these families.

"It's estimated that 1.73 million Michiganders are family caregivers," she said. "So, we're looking at a very large chunk of Michigan's population. We want to create Caregiving Resource Centers to provide information and resources for those that need it."

The Michigan Legislature opened on Jan. 12 and will meet periodically through Dec. 28.

Disclosure: AARP Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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