If you go to Michigan state Rep. Dave Agema’s website, you see quotes related to Michigan’s economy. It’s pretty boilerplate Republican speak: “We need to bring more jobs to our area. It is imperative that Michigan is the place business comes and stays!”
Fair enough. That’s something a lot of people would like to see. There is, however, lots of concern about proposed education funding cuts in the state. I mean, an educated workforce certainly seems like a business-attracting asset and the deep slashes in school funding would no doubt have a negative impact in producing said workforce.
This doesn’t seem to be a problem for Agema, who supports the funding cuts, which range from 15-22 percent depending on whether you’re looking at the House or the Senate version of the bill. Oh, and there’s also a stipulation that schools will be hurt even further if they raise tuition to make up the money.
And apparently the bill wasn’t antigay enough for Agema, so he added an amendment that would slap colleges that offer domestic-partner benefits with an additional 5-percent cut.
“Public universities are thumbing their noses at the rule of law because of their special constitutional privilege dictating that we can’t tell them how to spend the money we appropriate to them,” Agema said in a press release. “We can, however, not give them that money in the first place if they disregard the law.”
The law that Agema is referring to is, of course, the antigay marriage amendment passed by Michigan voters in 2004. The amendment stated “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” And while supporters of the amendment swore up and down that it had nothing to do with DP benefits, the Michigan Supreme Court interpreted the language of the amendment to mean that public employers were barred from offering DP benefits.
Many colleges and universities in Michigan were offering DP benefits, as were many schools nationwide. After all, if you want to attract top talent, you need to have a competitive compensation package. Not wanting to be at a disadvantage, schools such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State found a way to keep offering benefits while still following the letter of the law by allowing employees to name an additional qualified adult.
It was a good business decision, frankly, although Agema, someone who claims to be so pro-business, doesn’t see it that way.
“Public universities have disregarded that and placed themselves above the law and above the will of the people on this issue, and I think it’s true justice that now there is a penalty for that,” Agema said.
Agema even tries to sell the DP benefits penalty as a gift to public-school retirees.
“[The amendment] uses the money from the universities that refused to change their policy and places it into the K-12 public schools retirement coffers to help eliminate the shortfall there,” he crowed. “This could be worth up to $60 million to schools.”
Oooh. It’s like winning the antigay lottery.
There are, of course, other ways to raise the millions of dollars schools need. Do I need to mention that any kind of tax increase is off the table and corporate taxes are going to be slashed?
But hey, that’s business-friendly and Agema loves himself some business. “We need less onerous laws and less excessive taxation,” he claims on his website. Unless those laws have to do with punishing gay employees or slapping colleges with a “gay-friendly” tax for offering a competitive compensation package.
“We must make Michigan a place where our children and grandchildren can expect to find good jobs,” he adds.
Unless those children are gay and want to work in, say, higher education or go to a school that values all of its employees. In that case, fuck ’em.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.