Friday, April 27, 2007

Bishop and the Republicans are running for bipartisan cover

Watch the shift. It's happening now.

Bishop is using his friendship with Dillon to put Granholm and responsible Democrats on the outside of this process so Republicans can continue to stonewall on this year's budget deficit, and the media is starting to pick up on it and oblige this talking point.

Why? Because it's partially true. Without an answer from the House Dems as to what they would do to solve this year's crisis, it will work.

From the Freep, and again this is Christoff-

Senate Republicans have opposed tax hikes for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, although they hinted they would consider new or higher taxes for 2007-08 along with more cost-cutting. Many House Democrats also have shunned a tax increase unless significant numbers of Republicans agree to one.

Bishop uses this to his advantage.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, dismissed Granholm's label as unproductive name-calling. Bishop, in a statement, said the House and Senate have cooperated to erase part of the budget deficit.

"The governor seems intent on derailing the bipartisan progress via her obsession with a massive tax increase on Michigan families," Bishop said. "Republicans and Democrats have both demonstrated in legislation that the current-year deficit can be balanced with cuts."

The House has rejected those cuts, but that doesn't stop Bishop from repeating this fallacy over and over.

In the AP story, he also pits the entire Legislature against Granholm-

“I think she’s at a point now where she feels like she can’t live up to her promises,” Bishop said. “That’s not the responsibility of the Legislature to try and cover her on what she said politically.”

And you just knew the Detroit News would jump at this opportunity. From Howes-

You'd be irritated, too, if you'd been re-elected governor in a landslide last November.

And your party, in control of the state House for the first time in a decade, dissed your plan for a 2-percent tax on services in about as much time it took you to propose it.

And your speaker, a private equity shark-turned-Democrat, didn't buy it either. Then he and the guys heading the tax policy committee recast a replacement to the Single Business Tax that Republicans, automakers, key chambers of commerce and other business leaders greeted with the kind of respect and qualified consideration that made you look, well, like an outsider.

Howes then proceeds to go to the Republican be-all, end-all answer to all our problems, gutting teacher health and retirement benefits. If we could just get rid of those, everything would be swell.

Point is, he is reinforcing the new Republican theme, and that is to divide the Democrats.

Every sane person from here to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula has said that this cannot be addressed with cuts alone, and so far the only action anyone has agreed on is more accounting shifts and payment delays that solve nothing. This is giving the Republicans cover as they continue to fault Granholm.

Bishop has found an opening, and he is exploiting it.

"I remain committed to working with Speaker Dillon in a cooperative manner to solve the problems before us today."

He won't work with the Governor. That much has been made clear. He is using her as a wedge and an excuse for the Senate's lack of action.

Question now is- how will the House Democrats respond to this immediate crisis? Will they continue to back Bishop's play and ultimately share the blame for devastating cuts to schools and health care?

Some schools will be pushed over the edge.

State schools chief Mike Flanagan said the cuts could push more than 100 of Michigan's 554 districts into the red. He said if he were a local superintendent, he'd eliminate non-essential services such as transportation.

"It's devastating," he said, adding that districts have less than two months in the 9½-month school year.

Cuts up end costing you, as schools will try to recoup losses in other ways. Whether it be larger class sizes or fee increases or loss of transportation, you and your kids will pay.

Pinckney High School Principal Jim Darga said his district likely would have to adjust next year's budget to absorb this year's cuts. Pinckney already has eliminated several teaching and staff positions, and increased high school pay-to-play fees from $150 to $170 per sport.

Same goes for health care. One thing that hasn't been trumpeted in the media yet are the cuts to Medicaid, which ultimately you will pay for in the form of higher hospital costs/insurance fees, not to mention the loss of jobs.

Hospitals were spared in last year's budget, but have seen more than $686 million in cuts since 1996, according to The Partnership for Michigan's Health, a coalition of organizations representing the state's doctors and hospitals. Further cuts would spell disaster on several fronts, and could mean more hospital closures, fewer doctors accepting Medicaid payments and less access to care for the poor and uninsured.

"We do not issue this warning lightly. If lawmakers cut health care again, they will be voting to eliminate good jobs and deny health care to residents across Michigan," said Spencer Johnson, president of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

And let's not forget your local police and fire departments. Mayors are threatening loss of essential protection if their revenues are cut again.

Members of the Michigan Association of Mayors said lawmakers' tax-cutting and tightfistedness in the face of shrinking state revenues have hurt cities and endangered the police and fire protection they provide. Most urged lawmakers to consider tax increases, rather than additional cuts.


Largely as a result of those (previous) cuts, there are 1,600 fewer police officers and 2,400 fewer firefighters in Michigan today than there were in 2001, the Municipal League says.

True to form, the Senate Republicans refuse to face reality and point the finger at Granholm for that, too.

Matt Marsden, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Republicans suspect the mayors' statements are part of an orchestrated effort by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to ratchet up the pressure for tax hikes.

"We can only spend as much money as the state has," Marsden said. "We've got major problems we need to address, and we all have to tighten our belts. That includes cities."

House Democrats need to address this, and put the ball back in the Senate. Now.

If not, they are going to share in the blame.

This is a no-win situation. The public will be upset with cuts, the public will be upset with taxes. Better to get the revenue and proclaim yourselves the savior of cities and schools, rather than face devastating charges that you did nothing and let you local constitituents down.

First they came for the Governor...