BRANDON FOUNTAIN: How Phil Potvin could lose in November

By Brandon Fountain

Guest Columnist

On election day, one of two things are going to happen in the race for the 102nd seat in the Michigan House of Representatives currently held by Cadillac businessman Phil Potvin.

One: Potvin is re-elected to the seat in a cakewalk as he did in 2010, beating out challenger Jodi Gabert by more than 10,000 votes.

Two: Democratic challenger Brendan Maturen of Canadian Lakes unseats Potvin.

How would that happen?

In 2010, Western Concrete owner and millionaire Phil Potvin hit the campaign trail in the district, where banker Darwin Booher had served as its state representative over Mecosta, Osceola and Wexford counties.

In the primary election that August, Potvin (3,861 votes) squeaked out the win over Morris Langworthy (3,526 votes) and Linda Howard (3,332 votes), respectively.

Yet, Potvin failed to win Mecosta or Osceola counties.

Now, as much as folks would like to chock this district up for a Republican win, believing this district is die-hard Republican or full of closet Democrats, is just not true. In 2008, presidential nominee John McCain narrowly claimed Mecosta County by 137 votes, 9,238 to 9,101. In Osceola County, the margin was the widest in the district, with McCain garnering 5,973 votes to Obama’s 4,855 votes. In Wexford County, McCain won by only 665 votes.

So, the Democrats’ votes are out there.

However, to win, Maturen will need more than just the Democrats voting for him, and he’s got enough evidence, readily available to any person, to show Potvin hasn’t accomplished very much for the district he represents.

What about us, Phil?

You don’t have to use too many fingers to count the number of bills sponsored by Phil Potvin that have made it through the legislative process and found their way to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

In fact, it’s one. Uno. Singular sensation.

Potvin’s time in Lansing has mirrored his fellow freshmen Republicans’ time in Lansing, which has absolutely accomplished quite a bit as a party, but with very little conviction for their consituents back home.

While Potvin’s district represents two of the poorer counties in the state – Mecosta and Osceola – you couldn’t tell it had much influence on the millionaire’s voting record.

The governor, House and Senate’s first order of business in 2011 was to eliminate the Michigan Small Business Tax, as it was heralded as a jobs killer.

With the tax axed, and the promise of a brighter, business-friendlier environment, how many businesses have opened their doors with promises of jobs, jobs and more jobs in Osceola or Mecosta counties?

What happened to all those jobs this tax cut was supposed to create?

Our state’s unemployment and jobless rates continue to remain higher than the national average, yet this so-called crowning achievement has done what exactly?

The problem is, you’re not going to find many Saturn plants or companies coming here, because it’s hard to tout a region where the unemployment has been higher than the state average.

It’s ironic, a tax cut costs us more

So, the small businesses no longer had to pay the tax. That worked out just fine cutting $1.8 billion.

And how did Potvin and the boys decide to make up that $1.8 billion? They eliminated of tax credits, deductions and exemptions on individual income taxes and implemented a new tax on some pension incomes.

Whatever happened to the old Republican mantra of not raising taxes?

I guess it doesn’t mean too much for a millionaire who is out of touch with the folks in his district.

If Potvin had realized he represents some of the poorer counties in the state, he would have raised some red flags and spoke out when the state decided to slash the state’s earned income tax credit from 20 percent to 6 percent.

That’s going to hit us in April when our taxes are due.

According to the Michigan League for Human Services, in 2011, more than 8,700 in the 102nd district claimed the credit and it brought more than $3.5 million to the district. Thanks to the Potvin rubber stamp, the MLHS anticipates only $1.053 million to be generated.

That’s more than $2.5 million local businesses will not have spent at their stores, restaurants and other establishments. That doesn’t sound too business-friendly to me.

We keep hearing about “fair” and “equal” from Potvin’s party, but there’s nothing fair about giving tax cuts to businesses, and raising taxes on the individuals who are living on a fixed incomes.

And if the state’s personal property tax repeals passes the state House as it has the Senate, more than $470 million will be lost for local municipalities for revenue sharing.

That money would be replaced by expiring industrial tax credits, the legislation says.

Once again, this legislation aims at making it easier for businesses and to produce jobs.

Hey, Phil, we’re still waiting for jobs from the first tax cut you guys gave to businesses. Where’s our tax cuts?

At least the state’s fine, right?

While the state is right on track to be on sound, financial ground, the same cannot be said about public schools in this district, as state funds for education were taken back by the state because of the business tax repeal.

All we have to do is look at any of our local districts, and any local school board member can tell you the extent at which these cuts has forced their hands to close buildings, lay off employees and cease programs like art and music.

It’s a far cry from strong, financial ground, especially as overall enrollment numbers in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District continue to fall.

And another novel idea to curb funding higher education was the state putting tuition stipulations on universities to reward them later.

Yet, during Gov. Snyder’s last announcement for funding more than a dozen university projects throughout the state, Ferris State University wasn’t on the list.

What have we learned?

While I’m sure every business-based and advocacy group will happily champion Potvin and his cohorts for more time in the state House, back here in our district, the results of Phil Potvin’s time in Lansing has been less spectacular.

This, my friends, is how Phil Potvin loses the election.