State representatives hear complaints on economy, taxes


April 8, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

DURING A session with state representatives last Saturday at Wakefield VFW Post 9084, Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Houghton, left, confers with Dick Bolen of Wakefield. In the background, VFW and auxiliary members were preparing a hot meal in honor of the 100th birthday of John M. Pachmayer of Ironwood. After his Q & A session with local residents, Markkanen presented Pachmayer with a state proclamation.


Wakefield - State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Houghton, and former state senator Tom Casperson were on hand Saturday to address questions from constituents at Wakefield VFW Post 9084.

Markkanen, who was elected to his post last November, told the Globe that one of the main concerns expressed to him Saturday is the area's weak economy, particularly in the wake of Marenisco's Ojibway Correctional Facility closing at the end of last year.

"I put in an appropriation request for an economic development office in Gogebic County," said Markkanen, who added that one of his main concerns in 2019 will be to influence the next state budget due on Oct. 1.

"Both sides of the aisle are working on it," said Markkanen. "We're trying to take a strong, bipartisan view of the budget."

Markkanen said he is particularly concerned about taxation. "I don't want to see small business paying more tax," he said.

The representative said his new position is going well. "It's an honor to serve the 110th District, obviously," he said, pointing out that it's a lot of territory to cover. "The 110th is the biggest district in Michigan," he said.

Markkanen said one challenge is driving back and forth from Lansing. "It takes away from our constituent time," he said, but added, "I knew that was part of the package."

Rich Rossway, who serves as Markkanen's director of constituent relations, said that a potential rise in the gas tax, along with high vehicle insurance rates, were big concerns at Saturday's event.

"Those are the top two things on our agenda." said Rossway, who claimed his office in Marquette receives "a lot of communication from constituents" on those issues.

"People are paying way too much in Michigan," said Markkanen.

Rossway, who manages Markkanen's schedule, said regular meeting with the public are important to Markkanen and his staff so that they can gauge concerns of all constituents, regardless of party affiliation.

"Our goal is to come to every county monthly," said Rossway.

Markkanen's son, Justin Markkanen, also was at Saturday's event. Although he is now only 18, Justin ran Markkanen's election campaign, the success of which he attributed to "just knocking on a lot of doors."

He added, jovially, "There's no secret to the campaign. It's just a lot of hard work."

Markkanen's son said he enjoys the constituent sessions, adding it's "awesome to interact with the community."

Former state senator Tom Casperson also was at Saturday's event. Casperson now works as a top aide for Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan.

Working specifically as a legislative and constituent services aide, Casperson listened to several constituent concerns, including those of longtime dairy farmer Pat Kitzman of Matchwood, who was complaining about how taxes are calculated on agricultural land.

Chris Hoff, social services designee for Gogebic Medical Care Facility, said she attended the event to promote the importance of retaining the Medicare and Medicaid system.

Another concern she expressed was state paperwork. "We are so highly regulated," she said. "We would like to spend more time with the patients than the paperwork."

Bob Jacquart, of Ironwood, spoke with both state representatives about his interest in the revival of Copper Peak, which is promoted on its website as "the only ski-flying hill outside of Europe," but which has not been used for that purpose since 1994.

Neil Londo, of Wakefield, joined others in the concern regarding existing vehicle insurance costs and the possibility of a higher gas tax.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested increasing the state's gas tax by 45 cents per gallon by Oct. 1, 2020 in hopes of funding more than $2 billion annually to fix roads.


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