Greenville Daily News: OUR VIEW: Catching up with Sen. Gary Peters

In a country seemingly caught in post-election turmoil, we were heartened by a visit to The Daily News on Thursday from U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, who toured a Greenville manufacturing facility earlier that day.

Peters, a Democrat from Oakland County, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014. He serves on the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee; the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee; the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee; and the Joint Economic Committee.

Peters was engaging and positive as he shared his thoughts with our editorial board about Tuesday’s major election victory for Republicans and stunning defeat for Democrats; how manufacturing is making a comeback in Michigan; and the importance of opportunities for high-schoolers to earn college credit.

Tuesday’s election

Peters said this week’s election was the most contentious he could remember and he acknowledged the divided state of the nation, but he is hopeful for moving forward.

“Obviously it was a very close election,” he said. “It was very passionate election of people with very strong views.”

Peters said two factors are critical for a healthy political process: Fair and open debates and elections and then working together to govern.

“My hope is that we come together and have a healing process to bring the country together because the democracy we live in can be fragile,” he said. “I am hopeful we’re going to find common ground. There’s areas where we don’t agree, but there’s so many things we do agree on. We’re not Democrats or Republicans first, we’re all Americans first and we have to find ways to find that common ground and not vilify political opponents. We need to be practical, common sense problem solvers first before anything else.

“The American people are rightly frustrated with gridlock, he added. “It’s going to take some inspired leadership.”

Peters said he is committed to working with the new Republican administrative to move forward. One of his goals is a comprehensive infrastructure program for the nation’s roads, bridges and water and sewer systems.

He thinks this might be right up Donald Trump’s alley.

“You can’t be a great country if you don’t have strong infrastructure,” he said. “Donald Trump is a developer, he’s a builder. This would be in his wheelhouse. I think it would be natural for him to take this on.”

Peters said the next four years will be a test for everyone, but he noted voters will have a chance to make their thoughts known as soon as two years from now.

“There’s always a mechanism to hold folks accountable,” he said. “There’s no appointments for life.”

Small businesses and manufacturing

Peters toured Greenville Tool & Die to highlight his goal of strengthening manufacturing in Michigan. Last June, he introduced the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Improvement Act, which would expand and improve the program to better serve small to medium-sized manufacturing companies. The bill was included as a provision in the larger American Innovation and Competitiveness Act that recently passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Peters believes Democrats and Republicans can work together to move the country forward. He pointed to his success working alongside Republican Sen. Jim Lankford and Republican Congressman Bill Huizenga to promote a bipartisan bill, the Federal Repair Cost Savings Act, which was signed into law last year. The law requires federal agencies to encourage the use of remanufactured parts in federal vehicle repairs. Peters noted the federal government spends about $1 billion per year to maintain a fleet of approximately 588,000 vehicles. His hope is that the law will not only reduce wasteful spending, but will also support Michigan’s remanufacturing industry.

Peters also co-sponsored legislation to cut excise taxes for craft brewers, a fast-growing industry in Michigan, including many local breweries such as the 57 Brew Pub, Hopyards of Kent and Psycho Brew, all in Greenville, the Cedar Springs Brewing Company, Cellar Brewing Company in Sparta and the Rockford Brewing Company.

Early college enrollment

Several Montcalm Community College officials attended Thursday’s Greenville Tool & Die tour, which gave Peters a chance to hear about MCC’s early college and enrollment programs. Peters is working on legislation to expand concurrent enrollment, which would allow high schools to host college classes in their buildings, meaning students wouldn’t have to drive to and from multiple classes. 

“Those programs can provide up to 40 to 45 college credits,” he noted. “That’s your freshman year already completed. Students that complete 40 credits are more likely to go on and more likely to graduate.”

By:  The Greenville Daily News
Source: The Greenville Daily News