Monday, October 15, 2007

Voices of Reason: 8 Republicans and the party that will betray them

(Note: Think of this diary as one big blockquote. As I was pulling these quotes and putting them aside, I realized that my voice wasn't going to be necessary here.)

The eight Republican members of the House and Senate who voted for one or the other tax increases enacted this week, all of them in their final legislative terms, nearly all said term limits played little role in their decisions. In the end, they said, voting to either increase the income tax or extend the sales tax to services was the right decision to make for the good of the state.

Virtually everyone interviewed said the same thing: voting for the tax increases was "the right thing to do." - Gongwer 10/5


Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis, who had daily whipped up opposition to tax increases as part of the budget solution, on Tuesday defended recalls as a legitimate tactic against elected officials by voters who he said have a right to express their frustration. - Gongwer 10/2


Sarpolus said the Republicans have not lost their base because most people knew a tax increase of some sort was coming and GOP members just have to be honest and open with their constituents about the problem facing the state. - Gongwer 10/11


Michigan GOP Chairman Saul ANUZIS: I'm Saul Anuzis, Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. Governor Granholm and virtually every Democrat at the Capitol just passed the largest tax increase in Michigan's history. Republicans said no. If you think, as we do, that this massive job killing tax increase is wrong for Michigan, you ought to be on our side. - MIRS 10/11


Several of those interviewed also worried that the state and national Republican Party was getting too extreme and not willing to look at individual situations. - Gongwer 10/5


Jump over the flip to hear the voices of the eight people that Saul Anuzis and the Michigan Republican Party are willing to throw under the bus because they had the courage to "do the right thing". When you think about what the Republicans will do to their own people in an attempt to please the big money, out-of-state, anti-tax extremists, it kind of makes you sick inside.

Ed Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms)

He stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb … one of only two Republicans who voted green on the temporary income tax hike and after the fact Rep. Ed GAFFNEY (R-Grosse Pointe Farms) said he has "no regrets and no second thoughts."

His office has been hit with between 200 and 300 messages and much to his amazement the tally is running about 50 percent for and 50 percent against his vote.

"Usually, the very emotional folks who are against the tax respond," he said. However, on this one, "There is more support than I thought. I'm surprised."

"Sometimes you have to let the politics be damned." - MIRS 10/2


"There comes a time to suck it up and do what's right and say to hell with it,"

Mr. Gaffney said he was heartened by many people in his district who were standing up for him.

Mr. Gaffney said he worried that such an extreme anti-tax attitude would hurt the party in the long run. - Gongwer 10/5


Mr. Gaffney said he is confident of withstanding a recall, saying the voters in his district "sophisticated and intelligent. They know I had to make a tough vote and I did it so that the state would not have to shut down."  He said some people are upset about his action, but that messages he has been receiving are running about "50-50" in support and opposition.

He said he would "fight (the recall) all the way," but that he did not see any way around voting for the tax. - Gongwer 10/11


"I have faith that the people of my district will not recall me if they disagree with what I did" Gaffney said. "I think they're sophisticated enough to know that I was sent here to make tough decisions. I believe the people of my district will understand that.

"I will be leaving by next December anyway," Gaffney continued. "There are other jobs besides this one. And I'll tell you this. I don't regret the way I voted." - MIRS 10/11

Gerald Van Woerkom (R-Muskegon)

"In previous years, we have been able to solve the deficit by cuts alone," Van Woerkom was quoted as saying. "However, this year the hole was too large for a solution to be reached only with cuts. We had to use a balanced approach including cuts, additional revenue and reforms. - Muskegon Chronicle


"I still believe I did what was the right thing," he told the Daily News this morning. "I've known for months we would need income. There was no way we could cut $1.7 billion out of the budget. And, if we could, it would be dead in the House. We needed to compromise."

We have many independent voters," he said. "You have to do a lot of analyzing, walk a fine line. I think compromise works in my district. I don't get so caught up in the politics. Do something that is right for the State of Michigan.

"I'm at peace with it." - Ludington Daily News


VanWoerkom said he's concerned about the recall efforts, but the people in his district don't think he's a tax-and-spend politician. He also thought it was more prudent to increase revenue rather than approve $1.7 billion in cuts.

"I think I would have been in greater trouble with my district if we cut $1.7 billion out of the budget than creating a revenue increase," he said. - MIRS 10/11


Mr. Van Woerkom said he thought he would have voted for the income tax increase even if he were in his first term. "But the pressure would have been more," he said. As it was, "they tried to sweet talk me" into voting against the increase, but "after last year we all thought how can we cut the budget any more?" - Gongwer 10/5

Valde Garcia (R-Howell)

Mr. Garcia said Republicans had to share some blame for the state's budget situation for not being more willing years ago when it would have been easier to cut the budget.

"Bottom line this needed to be done." - Gongwer 10/5


"It really bothers me," Garcia said. "If anyone gets recalled that will stop forever anyone making a vote on principle. No one will be able to vote their conscience because they will always be afraid they'll be recalled."

"If you look at the cuts the Republicans passed, they were not real cuts. They were unrealistic," he said.

For example, if the state had gone ahead with Republican cuts, state employees would see their pay raises cut in half, 125 sheriffs deputies across the state would be laid off and three to four prisons would have to be closed, he said.

Garcia said it's frustrating that people talk about wanting bipartisan solutions and want the parties to reach a solution, but then go after them when they do.

"Now that I voted in favor of a tax hike, people want my head," he said. - MIRS 10/3


"I don't enjoy the heat. I'm still a Republican. I'm still a fiscal conservative," he said, "but I honestly believed that we needed to raise taxes." - Detroit Free Press


"I believe I did what was right for the state and made my vote knowing I was taking that chance (of being recalled)," Garcia said. "My responsibility is to govern responsibly, not to act on my personal behalf."

"There's no way we could cut $1.7 billion from the budget," Garcia said, in response to those who say cuts alone could have balanced the budget. - Ann Arbor News

Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland)

"I'm mad that that happened and I intend to fight," the Republican state senator from Holland told the Tribune in an interview Friday afternoon. "But, at the end of the day, I hope people recognize that in the totality of my work that I've had the best interest of my district in mind, and the best interest of the state in mind."

"I didn't see a way out of this situation, given where we were at, for us to get through it with no tax increase," he explained.

"The frustrating thing is, now that it's done and some people cast what ended up being fairly courageous votes, now all of a sudden there's recalls flying," he said Friday. "And people knew that was a reality. We all knew that was likely to happen. We didn't know who, but we knew it was going to happen. And so when people encourage the Legislature to have some guts and do the right thing and be courageous, and that's the reward, I think you just compound the problem in the future." - Grand Haven Tribune


Mr. Kuipers said those in the general public who called either for all cuts or for shutting government down "have never been in a position to push a red button or a green button." - Gongwer 10/5


Kuipers isn't concerned about being recalled because "my constituents know how hard I work on their behalf and I think I've represented them pretty well."

"Leon wasn't a particularly effective legislator and I think he's trying to make himself relevant now," he added. - MIRS 10/11

Patty Birkholz (R-Saugatuck)

"I feel badly that they're not willing to look at the whole picture instead of one piece of the picture. When they look at what we've done for Michigan going forward they should be pleased," said Birkholz. - WWMT TV


Republican legislators "knew it would come to this," Birkholz said about the tax increase.

Birkholz, whose district includes Allegan and Barry counties, said her mail "is running about 55 percent in support of the vote, which I think is interesting because you usually don't hear from the people who like what you do."

She said she also was worried about the impact a shutdown would have on the state's bond rating and on local government units, particularly schools. She said some school districts in her area could have gone into receivership had the state shut down for several weeks and delayed payments to schools. - Kalamazoo Gazette


(Tom George, on Birkholz) Although Birkholz represents a conservative, anti-tax stronghold, she also has served as a county and township treasurer and knew the devastating impact that large cuts in the state budget would have on local government services, George said. - Kalamazoo Gazette

Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks)

"I've had Republicans from both (the Senate and House) thank me, and these are people who voted 'no' on the tax bills, said Jelinek, whose district includes Cass and Van Buren counties.

Jelinek agreed that a prolonged shutdown would have been "devastating." Just laying off state employees, "think of what that would do to the economy," he said. "It'd be losing 52,000 jobs."

Jelinek said he was philosophical about the possibility recall.

"It could certainly happen," he said. "But also, I went into this with my eyes open and determined to do the right thing. I can't be bullied into doing something else." - Kalamazoo Gazette


"I'm term-limited, but that didn't play into my decision," Jelinek said. "We were looking at a shutdown. That would be much worse than the sales tax. A shutdown would cause chaos for people." - Detroit News


(Tome George, on Jelinek) George said that Jelinek felt compelled to support both tax increases as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"He felt he had an obligation to help fix the problem and not just stand on the sidelines," George said. "He was right in there, trying to find the right path and he did a very good job. He was very thoughtful, very measured and he knew we couldn't get a solution without a tax increase." - Kalamazoo Gazette

Tom George (R-Kalamazoo)

As for George's own willingness to support an income-tax increase, he had been saying for months that he would support raising taxes if the state adopted some long-term spending reforms. George said this morning, he was happy to see that the budget crisis forced some of those reforms through.

"I've been very passionate about the need for health-care reforms," George said. "And, if I was going to get those, then I need to be there in the end" with a vote for an income-tax increase. George acknowledged that he's likely to get some criticism for his tax vote.

"But I think Kalamazoo County residents are thoughtful, and they know we need to have some kind of solution," George said. - Kalamazoo Gazette


George, Kalamazoo County's senator, says he's getting more positive than negative response, both in terms of calls and e-mails to his office and in the reaction he heard Tuesday while visiting a Senior Expo in Kalamazoo.

All three said Thursday the $1.7 billion state budget gap was much too large to resolve with revenue cuts alone, and raising taxes was inevitable. - Kalamazoo Gazette


"I said I'd vote for a tax increase if the right reforms were enacted," George said. "In my district, I think voters will understand." - Detroit News


Mr. George said enacting an all-cuts solution would have hurt Western Michigan University and major cuts to revenue sharing would have forced Kalamazoo to cut police and fire protection. Those were too important to cut further, Mr. George said. - Gongwer 10/5

Chris Ward (R- Brighton)

"The government was on the verge of shutting down at that moment in time. I felt it was the right thing to do," Ward said.

"I will deal with some of the anger in the short term and hopefully in the long term people will see the wisdom of the overall compromise," he added.

Ward said he viewed the income tax increase as less of a financial blow than expanding the state sales tax to services. He said the 4.35 percent income tax rate is comparable to the 4.6 percent tax rate during former Gov. John Engler's last term.

Ward said he was inspired to break ranks with his party by Democrats who did the same on reforms to teacher retirement and on other issues.

"In the overall give-and-take, I was willing to show some courage. They were showing some courage as well," he said.

"I knew what I was stepping into," he said. "I know I did the right thing. To me, there are more important things in life than being a state representative."

"I'll just put the facts out there and let the voters decide." - Observer & Eccentric Newspapers


"This job is about more than one person and I want to leave this place as good or better than I found it", said Ward, who could lose his post as minority floor leader because he angered his GOP caucus. "People have to compromise. It's up to us to get the job done and keep the state afloat."

"Regardless of the political fallout this was the right thing to do," he said. - Detroit Free Press


Ward is term-limited and has to be concerned about his next career step. But he said he's sure he did the right thing. "I'm more worried about the job I'm elected to do right now than the next one down the road," he said. - Detroit News


Ward said he was aware of the recall threat when he voted.

"I know that I did the right thing in this situation. We were facing a constitutional crisis," he said. "The people elected both Democrats and Republicans and expected us to do the job we were elected to do, which is to balance the budget. There are more important things in life to me than being a state representative. So if that's the ultimate outcome, then so be it." - Ann Arbor News

and one last voice...

People who voted "yes" did so because they felt it was the right thing to do, ultimately. I think there were people who voted "no", who felt like they should have voted "yes", but didn't feel the courage to put their name up, but the people who voted "yes" ultimately decided that it was in the best interests of the state to do that, and I'm grateful to them for making a tough call. - Jennifer Granholm

Yeah, me too.