MARQUETTE - Mark Schauer - a Battle Creek Democrat challenging Gov. Rick Snyder for office - urged President Barack Obama in East Lansing Friday to act on the Michigan propane shortage, which has been felt most prominently in the Upper Peninsula.
Schauer, who is touring several U.P. communities over the next few days including Marquette, asked Obama to direct the Commerce Department to limit propane exports to protect the domestic economy from shortage impacts. He also asked Obama to allocate more funding to assist low-income and senior households under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
"The president understands that Michigan families and business are struggling with the ongoing propane shortage," Schauer said. "While I appreciate the administration's attention to this issue, today I personally urged the president to take additional steps to offer our rural communities relief from skyrocketing home heating costs. In the middle of the coldest winter in years, we need Washington to take action now to help keep families warm this winter."
Obama was at Michigan State University Friday signing the Farm Bill.
Schauer said Snyder should look at some other options to address the propane problem, which he called "a critical issue."
"There are families that won't necessarily qualify for LIHEAP, middle class families that are, if they were paying $2 a gallon and they're now are paying $5 or $6 a gallon, that just creates a huge financial burden," Schauer said.
Schauer was scheduled to be in Houghton today for Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival, along with stops in Baraga, L'Anse and Mohawk. On Sunday, he plans to visit family in Marquette and attend a Democratic party fundraiser. Schauer is married to the former Christine Hooper, a 1973 graduate of Negaunee High School and Northern Michigan University.
He also has a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren living in Negaunee.
Schauer grew up in Livingston County and served previously on the Battle Creek City Commission and in the state House and Senate before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, where he served for two years.
Schauer is making his third trip to the U.P. since declaring his gubernatorial candidacy last summer.
He has an additional stop Saturday in Munising and then in Brimley, Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace Monday. He looks forward to introducing himself to U.P. residents.
"I am running for governor because Michigan is, we're experiencing the fourth-worst unemployment rate in the country," Schauer said. "The economy may be working for a few, but we're seeing erosion of the middle class."
Schauer's message is, "What we need to do is invest in education, that's our No. 1 priority."
"What we've seen under our current governor is his priority is a $1.8 billion corporate tax cut, whether companies need it or not, and paid for by cutting funding to our K-12 public schools, cutting universities, which hurts schools like Northern, and raise taxes on retirees and on working families and on low wage earners," Schauer said. "It's taking money out of people's pockets, it's hurt the economy and that's why we continue to struggle here. So we need to change those policies and I think we start by making education our top priority. The key to a good job is a good education."
Schauer said U.P. schools face special challenges with very large school districts and very expensive transportation budgets.
"What I look forward to talking with people in the Upper Peninsula about is what the real impact is in the classroom and in the school district," Schauer said. "What I'm seeing around the state is fewer teachers, kids learning in more crowded classrooms, basic educational programs being eliminated and that's no way to build a strong economy."
Schauer said he's also interested in what it takes to build strong, healthy communities.
"We've seen significant cuts to our cities and villages, counties and that makes it tougher for them to provide basic services," Schauer said.
Schauer said he wants to listen to people talk about their experiences and get their ideas on how as governor he can help create jobs, support job creators in the U.P., help grow the economy faster and start to rebuild the middle class.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com