Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't want to raise taxes? Let's see the alternative

The Detroit News had an interesting bit of information yesterday about the upcoming showdown on the budget-

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has proposed $1.8 billion in cuts and reforms, which would allow the budget to be balanced without a tax hike.

He has? Where? Why aren't the Republicans out touting this miraculous idea? Why hasn't the Senate rammed a vote through and called their job done, as they did before?

Because even the Detroit News thinks it's a bad idea. And that is saying something.

While that ultimately may not be the most practical solution, there must be a point between his position and the governor's that will work for Michigan.

The Detroit News just conceded a tax increase. Did you get that? The News. Tax increase.

Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.

The News goes on the insist that we look at "reforms" first, which is turning into code for "throw the working people and the poor under the bus", especially if those people are huge voting blocs of Democratic supporters.

Among the reforms Bishop is offering is the much-talked-about revamping of school teacher health care benefits, which would save $225 million a year.

There seems to be agreement that benefits need to be looked at- but suddenly what was the cause of all of our ills in the eyes of the Republicans and the Detroit News only adds up to $225 million.

For the sake of argument, let's play along. Around $1.6 billion to go.

Bishop also proposes other necessary measures, including the deferral of a $110 million pay hike for state employees.

So we have now pissed off the two biggest Dem blocs - the MEA and the UAW. Sound like a good idea, Democrats? Doubtful. And we are down to around $1.5 billion in cuts left.

...contracting out $100 million in services for the Corrections Department...

That's code for "giving Republican donors huge state contracts". Too much to go into here. While in some areas privatization might be an idea to look at, in reality we only need to point to the problems that CMS (prison health care) and the failed private "punk prison" in Baldwin have caused us to give this idea pause. Would contracting out services actually save us money? Questionable.

Let's be generous and round down- $1.3 to go.

...suspending the prevailing wage provision on public works projects to save $150 million...

More working folks are made to pay. $1.1. Still being generous.

...reforms in Medicaid and welfare to bring eligibility and services in line with surrounding states, for a savings of $90 million.

Ah, yes, and then we are down to the ultimate be-all, end-all of Republican policy, "get the poor". We will ignore the exploding costs and growing need in that area that over-ran the budget in '07. We will also ignore that tossing people off of Medicaid and other services really amounts to a back door tax increase as those costs are shifted to you anyway in the form of higher insurance bills and in other ways.

The News got us down to approximately $1 billion to go- less than halfway there.

Let's see the rest. Let's see the consequences.

All the cuts we talked of before-, to the schools, to the cities, to public safety, those realities that had everyone up in arms a short while ago, calling the governor a big meanie for even mentioning them- all still on the table.

Even the Republicans can't swallow that, and increasingly they are the ones talking about an increase.

"Nobody likes to raise taxes. Nobody really looks forward to paying taxes," said Rep. Richard Ball, a Republican from Laingsburg. "But without revenue, there's no services. And all of us count on a number of services from the state."

So, Republicans basically agree. They want the Democrats to sacrifice all their supporters first, but they will vote. You would hope the Democrats might take issue with most of that, trading the bulk of their donors to appease only one small part of the Republican base, but so far they haven't said much.

And who represents that one small part? Everyone is afraid of the big man, pig man, ha, ha, charade you are, Leon Drolet.

But some legislators who support the tax hike could end up in the crosshairs of former state lawmaker Leon Drolet, a Republican who served in the House for six years and is now a Macomb County commissioner and leader of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He travels with a half-ton, hardened foam pig named Mr. Perks to rally opposition.

"I will have the resources to put some heads on the wall," Drolet said. "We will end the careers of some of those people who vote for a tax increase."

Drolet said more than 400 individuals have sent his group financial contributions. He figures it would take more than $50,000 to set up a recall election in a House district and more than $100,000 for a Senate seat.

Wow. A whole 400 people and a foam pig are now controlling the destiny of millions.

What to neutralize Mr. Drolet, lawmakers? Show the alternative.

Let's see the rest of Mr. Bishop's proposal. Once again, all the cards need to be on the table.

Democrats have done a horrible job of framing this argument so far- from the silence of the MDP, to the abandonment of the governor, to the running in fear from a giant pig, to even entertaining the thought of sacrificing their biggest supporters- it needs to stop.

Time to stand up for your state, for your people.

It's simple. You have only two choices.

Raise taxes and face the consequences. On one hand, you have saved your schools, taken care of your people, provided public safety for your community, preserved quality of life which promotes investment and growth, but you might have to face a battle with the giant pig.

Or, you can make more cuts, devastating the lives of thousands, destroying our ability to promote Michigan as an attractive place to live, selling out our future for your safety today, and still face the possibility of losing your career when the impact of those cuts becomes apparent.

Whatever you choose, please do it soon. The longer you delay, the stronger the illusion of the power of the pig man grows.

Show the alternative to the public now, and you win this argument.

UPDATE: A little birdie slipped me the list of Pub cuts from MIRS, and oh my God, I was not wrong about "get the poor". Or the working people. Or any of it.

It's everything Dick DeVos ever dreamed of. We will see if it comes out to the general public; I don't know how much of that I can use here.

But I do know one thing- Democrats delaying on this vote has now given the Senate Pubs time to react and draw up a "plan". It's an unacceptable plan, to be sure, but still it's something they can wave around to the pig-man supporters and rally that small but vocal base.

That's a bad thing. A real bad thing. It gains traction in the media, and you are screwed. Check that- we are screwed.

Thanks, Andy.