By JACKIE STARK
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE - With roughly six months on the job, 109th district State Representative John Kivela, D-Marquette, said he's still "learning a lot" but is beginning to find his stride.
"There's so many issues," Kivela said. "I tell people all the time, I never realized how little I knew about this job until I got it. It's a lot of work."
Kivela made the comments during a taping of WNMU-TV13's "Media Meet," which aired over the weekend.
Among those issues is education funding, Kivela said, along with curriculum changes that would allow for a more flexible schedule for students wishing to enter the job force without a four-year college degree.
Currently, Michigan schools operate under the Michigan Merit Curriculum, which provides a rigid set of standards every Michigan high-schooler needs to meet in order to graduate, leaving few hours in the day for so-called "special" classes, such as music or shop.
"In the Upper Peninsula, especially, we're missing the boat on a lot of kids that are not necessarily college material or have interests in other fields - fields that provide very good jobs," Kivela said. "It could be electronic, it could be linemen, plumbers, welders ... this merit curriculum that was put in place ... really kind of boxed a lot of these kids out of a lot of these programs."
Kivela said as headlines continue to highlight school closures - and even closures of entire districts - education funding should once again be a top priority,
"We need to stop cutting and we need to start adding because we're seeing the devastating effects to these schools," Kivela said.
Part of those additions, Kivela said, should come in the form of rescinding a recent law that allows Michigan to tax pensions, something not pervasively done.
"I've said many times, I'm a believer in taxing pensions, I truly am," Kivela said. "If it's not getting taxed going in, it should be taxed going out. Having said that, you can't change the rules in the middle of the game, and that's what we've done to a whole block of people."
He said people planned their retirements based on full pensions, and deciding to tax them after the fact was putting a burden on many seniors.
Another big priority should be road funding, Kivela said, adding that finding a funding source that Democrats and Republicans can agree on would likely be difficult.
He said many Michigan Republicans had committed to not raising taxes, and finding more funding to align with Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to spend $12 billion on road infrastructure over the next decade wouldn't be easy some tax increase.
Snyder maintains the investment could save the state from having to spend $25 billion over the next 10 years on roads.
Kivela said he agrees with the governor that Michigan's roads need the legislature's attention.
"We need to have it done, period," Kivela said. "Our roads, not only are they in bad shape now, if we continue to neglect them, that bill is going to be astronomical."
Kivela also spoke briefly about the Natural Resources Commission and its decision to make Michigan wolves a game species, discussing the speed at which the so-called wolf hunt legislation moved through the legislature.
He said a 2014 referendum that could have stopped the wolf hunt likely lit a fire for many Michigan lawmakers.
"To say that it didn't have anything to do with the referendum wouldn't be completely accurate," he said. "I'm sure it did, but, to me, there's no question that needed to be done. It is a serious issue, especially on the west end of the U.P. We just lost another family pet (a few) days ago."
To view the entire interview, visit wnmutv.nmu.edu.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.