GREAT LAKES BEACON

Getting to Know: Patrick Colbeck

Name: Patrick Colbeck

Occupation: State senator/former aerospace engineer

Location: Canton Township

Major Policy Issues: Healthcare, eliminating income tax, and economic development

July Financial Report: $23,038 cash on-hand

Editor’s Note: Neither Dr. Jim Hines nor Attorney General Bill Schuette, the other Republicans who have filed to run for governor in 2018, responded to multiple requests for an interview by deadline.

His story:

A self-proclaimed innovative, out-of-the-box-style thinker, Sen. Patrick Colbeck has set his eyes on the gubernatorial prize next year, setting himself apart from fellow Republican contenders as a true newcomer to politics. His win in the state Senate in 2011 was his first entry into the political world, and it made him one of the few sitting state senators who had not previously been in state government in some capacity.

“I will paint in bold colors,” Colbeck (R-Canton Township) said of what makes him different from his opponents. “I think the rest are just politics as usual, and I think a lot of people in the last election – no matter what side of the political aisle you’re on – there’s a lot of frustration with the politics as usual crowd.”

Colbeck said he was drawn into the political scene as “a call of faith,” and that’s what has kept him in it yet.

“We’ve got a lot of things accomplished, but we’ve got a lot more that we would like to get done based on the simple premise that the government’s supposed to work for us, not the other way around,” Colbeck said. “Whenever we provide solutions and appropriations, it’s meant for the best interests of all of our citizens, not for a select few with the ears of the power-brokers up in Lansing, which gets very frustrating.”

He continued, “Tax increases should be the last option pursued, not the first option. Up here, people are all to ready to … dig into peoples’ wallets as the first option. So I’m looking forward to actually being able to implement a lot of these solutions going forward.”

To that end, Colbeck prioritizes healthcare, gradual elimination of the state income tax, and more “broad-based economic development policies that benefit everyday families  … (and) businesses” in Michigan as his top policy issues.

Healthcare, and specifically what he calls “the direct primary care Medicaid pilot,” is arguably Colbeck’s signature policy initiative. Since the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, and especially when the state expanded its Medicaid program into what is now called Healthy Michigan, he has proposed his direct primary care alternative.

“Healthy Michigan is not so healthy. Right now, it’s got a so-called poison pill embedded in it that once the so-called savings … go negative, and once the federal contribution goes below 100 percent, (it) is automatically repealed,” Colbeck said.

The direct primary care Medicaid pilot, “emphasize(s) a direct relationship between a primary care physician and the patient for the primary care, which is about 80 percent of the healthcare transactions we see” he explained. “And when you do that, what you find is that the remaining 20 percent of those transactions regarding catastrophic care, like chronic illnesses and hospitalizations, that goes down. So for a little bit of investment up front with the preventive care, we actually save a lot on the back end on the order of 20 percent or more with what they’ve seen.”

Freeing up money in the Medicaid budget through this method, he said, would allow the implementation of a gradual elimination of the state income tax, as well as the opportunity to get rid of the “pesky little senior pension tax,” Colbeck said, the latter of which he has committed to doing. Both of these initiatives could lead to altering the way auto insurance is priced out, he said, and “you’ve got an opportunity to save a lot of money for everyday citizens … and now we’re starting to get to the point where we’re easing the burden on everyday families.”

He continued, “Right now, I’ve got an impression, and from my seven years in service, that special interests are kind of ruling the roost. It’s about time that we started showing consideration for hardworking families that are in many ways getting the short end of the stick on one of these deals.”

On other issues, he is supportive of repealing the prevailing wage, because he believes it “squeeze(s) people out of the marketplace that could actually provide a competitive product at a more fiscally responsible or competitive price,” he said.

And he is “diametrically opposed” to single-payer healthcare, Colbeck said. Referencing economist Milton Friedman’s theories, Colbeck said all government transactions, especially under single-payer healthcare, would fall into the “third-party transaction model” that doesn’t give much credence to either cost or quality of product.

As to improving charter school accountability, the senator said he isn’t targeting any specific area for accountability, but rather, “I want them all to be treated on a level playing field.”

“I personally want to go back into that model of first-party transaction and get the consumers of education more responsible for how that money is actually directed, so the idea of school choice, I’m very passionate about making sure we have choice,” he said. “I think that more accurately reflects the spirit of that first-party transaction, which is going to get us better quality for a lower cost.”

He’s also leading the way on legislation (SB 544, SB 545, SB 546, SB 547, SB 548 and SB 549), he noted, that incentivizes the creation of student-specific, taxed advantaged accounts that Colbeck said could “defray costs around public education.”

“When I did the analysis on these accounts for the DPS bailout that happened, I calculated we could have had over $3,000 per pupil, per year, added into the kitty for the parents of Detroit Public School students that they could have either provided for services provided by DPS or could have gone to third parties and … used that money for that,” Colbeck said.

“If we extend that opportunity to all students across the state, it opens up the doors to additional funding without raising taxes, without raising fees, and it’s something that … is thinking out of the box,” he said.

And improving access to good, quality education is important in terms of improving the quality of life for residents in urban centers such as Detroit and Flint, Colbeck said, because it “leads to new opportunities, gets them out of the cycle of poverty, gets them into good jobs, and elevates the whole family, the whole neighborhood.”

But also important, he said, is ensuring responsible government and that local government is adequately funded.

“There’s a lot of this back-and-forth of state versus local funding, and all this kind of stuff, and I think to a certain extent, a lot of the locals have some points in regards this state not meeting their financial obligations for local units of government,” he said. “So I think one of the things we need to do is start shrinking the size of state government and making sure the folks who know what’s going on, who can make the most difference to peoples’ everyday lives are local units of government.”

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson