Thursday, January 15, 2009

Senate Republicans Out of the Gate: Increase Deficit, Expand Government, Eliminate Choice

And they're off! Senate Republicans introduced bills in yesterday's session - and the first three out of the box were all we need to know about the direction they are taking.

SB001 - Eliminate the surcharge on the MBT by '10, a problem they created in '07 with their partisan nonsense, a problem they still haven't been able to fix, even though they spent all last year saying they would do so. So easy to just cut that revenue without saying how you would replace it, or what you would cut to mitigate its loss. From MIRS:

As for replacing the roughly $700 million in revenue that the surcharge brings in, Jansen said he's open to the idea. But he said the most important thing is to send a message to the business community about the surcharge.

Former House Tax Policy Chair Steve BIEDA said he'd like to see the surcharge go the way of the dodo, as well, but it has to be done in a "realistic" manner by filling the budget hole.

"Show me the money," he said. "It's kind of like eating your dessert before your vegetables."

Wow, does that sound familiar. Once again, when it comes time to do the heavy lifting or make the hard choices on this sort of action, the Senate Republicans take a pass. They still don't have a clue when it comes to dealing with the consequences of digger the hole deeper, or they don't want to take responsibility for it, one of the two.

SB002 - Create a small business ombudsman's office and compliance advisory panel as an autonomous entity in the department of management and budget. Actually this sounds like a good idea - but it creates "more government" at a time when we are facing a huge deficit for '10. How are we going to pay for it? Members of the advisory panel would not be paid, but can be "reimbursed for expenses". Go read the bill - sounds like a powerful government office that would require a lot of support staff to accomplish its goals.

And behind Door No. 3, here is the bill that shows that the Republicans are still under the control of the extreme rightwing forces in this state. We will take this one verbatim-

SB003 - Sec. 3. In the construction of the statutes of this state, the rules stated in sections 3a to 3w 3x shall be observed, unless such that construction would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature.

Sec. 3x. The word "individual" shall be construed to mean a natural person and to include a fetus.

Get that? It's the first step to eliminating freedom of choice.

Republican priorities are exactly as the title above states: increase the deficit, grow the government, attack abortion rights.

Here is the kicker in all of this: Andy Dillon comes out yesterday, proposing sweeping changes to government. Not sure what has gotten into him, but it appears he really wants to get some things changed and make this all work for the better for our people and our state, even "choking up" at one point in his speech yesterday talking about a family in his neighborhood that lost their home. Details on his plans are sketchy at this point - but he wants to see action before summer, the biggest items being revamping our tax structure and creating a catastrophic health care plan to deal with runaway costs. Monster issues. He wants to tackle property taxes, business taxes, and there are rumblings about a graduated income tax. The News has a pretty good rundown on the items, but this quote in MIRS sums it up:

"Our tax system is too complicated and stifles economic growth," the Speaker said. "Property taxes are too high and can rise even while values are dropping. We must act aggressively to improve our business tax, repeal the surcharge and cut property taxes to help create an environment of job retention and creation.

"However, meaningful tax reform can only come through a ballot initiative, so we can address constitutional provisions that prevent us from legislating comprehensive reform. For this reason, I ask the Senate and the Governor to join us in crafting a job-creating, comprehensive tax reform measure that we can put before the voters."

Big ambition from the Speaker. Don't know how he intends to do all of this, but if he can figure it all out and protect our quality of life - go for it. Let's cheer him on.

Response from the Senate Republicans? Bet you couldn't predict this one, in the Freep...

"Enough with the cutesy stuff like ballot proposals," said Senate GOP spokesman Matt Marsden. "The Legislature was elected to do a job."

Or this, again from MIRS:

"Why doesn't Dillon send his salary in with it," Marsden said. "I mean -- if he wants the voters to do the job he was elected to do."

Yes, the Legislature was elected to "do a job", but I'm pretty sure that job doesn't entail fiscal irresponsibility, focus of divisive issues, and petty, personal attacks on a leader who wants to try and get things done. Now that Marsden has attacked both the governor and the Speaker of the House, does he really have room to talk about the "tone" of this conversation?

Apparently this is all the Senate Republicans have to offer us; no real answers to our problems, and more partisan bickering. It’s starting to look like this will be a long, hard year if that is the prevailing attitude that we will have to deal with as we attempt to move our state forward in these trying times.