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Snyder Announces Initiatives for Michigan Seniors

Updated: 06/02/2014 8:30 PM
Created: 06/02/2014 8:29 PM WDIO.com
By: EMMA FIDEL, Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - New initiatives to improve services for Michigan seniors will include a "one-stop shop" website for aging information, Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday.

The Republican governor, whose re-election bid depends in part on appealing to senior voters, said he wants the four state agencies that serve the growing population to collaborate to increase efficiency.

The website, he said, will improve access to state services and provide guidance for things such as retirement planning by early 2015.

"Ensuring that more older adults have the opportunity to be healthy, independent and productive individuals in age-friendly communities that support their needs will be critical as the state plans for the future," Snyder said in the Detroit suburb of Rochester.

"The simple truth is Michigan has more work to do to prepare for its aging population."

Roughly one in four Michigan residents will be at least 60 years old by 2030, Snyder said. And people age 85 and up comprise the fastest-growing segment of Michigan's population.

In the prepared version of his eighth special message to the Legislature, Snyder asked lawmakers on Monday to approve about $20 million in additional funding for senior services in his 2015 budget, including $1 million to address elder abuse and $5 million for programs such as Meals on Wheels. The Senate and House budgets included similar funding; lawmakers are expected to finalize a budget this month.

State agencies will develop performance incentives for Michigan's 400 nursing homes, which house roughly 40,000 residents, Snyder said. Less than 30 percent of Michigan nursing homes have programs that give residents control of their schedules or activities, he said.

Snyder also announced pilot programs for improving dementia treatment and increasing seniors' participation in school volunteer programs.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, have criticized Snyder for eliminating an exemption on certain retirement income after taking office in 2011.

Public pensions that had been exempt from state taxes and other retirement income that had been partially exempt is now taxed as regular income for those born after 1945 - with the exception of Social Security payments and military pensions. Exemptions can be claimed for up to $20,000 for a single filer and up to $40,000 for joint filers.

Snyder said Democrats' characterization of the 2012 change as a "pension tax" is incorrect and that he tried to "clean up our tax code."

"What we did was is to say, you shouldn't pay tax simply because you have a certain type of retirement income," Snyder said.

Schauer said Monday he would start his term as governor "by getting rid of Snyder's pension tax."

Jacqueline Morrison, Michigan director for the AARP, said the organization opposes the tax but is not actively working on the issue. She said she was "encouraged" by Snyder's proposals, especially efforts to increase job opportunities for seniors.

"Many of the members who are short financially are looking for work, looking for ways to replace that lost revenue," she said.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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