Sunday, March 18, 2007

Time to show the consequences of the race to the bottom

She tried to do this the nice way. She tried to get you to take the high road, to get you to see that investment in our future is the way to go, that education and quality of life are the keys to our success.

She had the guts to put the plan on the table and take the shots for it, unlike her colleagues in that Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging we call the Michigan Legislature. While they hid behind closed door meetings and worked on secret plans and worried about their own careers, she was out in the streets trying to sell a vision to those who still refuse to see beyond next week. That took courage.

She tried to show the scope of the problem, that we have lost one third of our revenue for the General Fund in the past six or so years. That we already have resolved billions in cuts, shifts, whatever it took to keep this boat afloat with minimal pain to the citizens of Michigan.

Maybe she did her job a little too well in the past. Maybe we needed to feel that pain. Maybe we needed to suffer the consequences of endless tax cuts coupled with the loss of revenue from a diminishing manufacturing economy.

Unfortunately the great human motivator in this day and age is not altruism, it is fear. Good try, Governor, but it appears that people just. don't. get. it. yet. Especially when they are not shown the alternative.

A Freep poll this morning tells us that people don't support the service tax idea, but these are people that have not been shown the consequences of not raising some revenue. It would be nice to see a poll on the Republican plans for drastic cuts, wouldn't it? Bet they wouldn't like that, either, because on the flip side, they still want higher spending for health care and education by whopping margins.

They are going to get the opposite.

Time to get those cuts on the table. Now.

Peter Luke thinks we should start with education.

Whatever the source, Granholm had better get serious about raising new money or demonstrate to lawmakers in both parties the consequences of doing nothing. The latter would involve doing what the law requires her to do when state budgets are in deficit: Begin cutting, starting by informing local schools that with less than two months of school left, they'd better prepare to give back the $210 per pupil lawmakers gave them before last year's election.

That's OK fine by Nancy Cassis, the GOP poster child for stupid, irresponsible greed.

You might remember Nancy from her comments about all those Michigan cities that should "tighten their belts", as if they were just bleeding money out of the sewer drains or something. Or maybe you remember Nancy from her comments to WILX this week, bemoaning the fact that Granholm was gone for three whole days drumming up new jobs for the state, as if they would have actually gotten something done after months of screwing around if Mommy were there to hold their hand. Or throw their food at, one of the two.

Anyway, Nancy is ready to cut revenue to both cities and education. We don't want to be attractive to the new high tech economy if it means giving up a few pennies, do we? Nah. Better to forget the future and hoard that money now.

Republicans shouldn't mind. At a Senate Finance Committee meeting Thursday convened to pretty much trash the 2-percent tax, Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, echoed emerging conservative GOP talking points that maybe Michigan spends too much on education already, given high teacher pay.

OK. Let's do it. Let's play Nancy's game. Peter, show them what they have won!

A great way to achieve lower teacher pay and avoid an unpopular tax increase is to lay off a bunch of teachers and shut down programs.

Per-pupil funding cuts mandated by law when the school aid budget is in the red would cost public schools in Kalamazoo County $7.4 million this year; Kent County, $21.9 million; Muskegon County, $6.9 million; Saginaw County, $7.4 million; Bay County, $3.4 million; Jackson County, $5.7 million; and Washtenaw County, $10.3 million.

Lawmakers representing those counties who oppose or are afraid of a tax increase are by default supporting those education cuts. Granholm might want to start letting their constituents know that.

Bingo. Democrats are going to take the blame. They could avoid it by forcing the GOP's hand, but no, they would rather wait and fend off charges in the next election that they cut education and police and health care.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, pretty much dismissed Granholm's proposals for long-term funding for new education spending when he told a Detroit radio station that any tax increase could be temporary. Tax cuts worth billions of dollars would stay permanent.

And those tax cuts have worked so well, haven't they? Bet Cassis wants more. Bet she wants you to pay for them.

Maybe Dillon has something up his sleeve, but indications are that he is willing to go along with the GOP plan of more cuts. Wonder if he and the Democrats are ready to bear the responsibility of what that really means.

Granholm will have a new executive order on that this week; we will see what she comes up with.

Time for a reality check. Time to let mayors, educators, police departments and hospital officials know exactly what Lansing has in mind for them. We will see how everyone feels about raising revenue after their schools are closed and their police and fire departments are cut to nothing.

It's a shame that it might take tragic circumstances to get people to understand what is at stake here, but sometimes that seems to be the only way.