Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'll See Your Angry Mob And Raise You An Angry Skubick

Due to the threat made by the Senate Republicans to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship, some colleges are now charging students that money up front for the fall semester just in case they can't get it later from the state. And, for a refreshing change, the people who made this action necessary are given credit where credit is due.

Putans is among thousands of state students who qualified for up to $4,000 from the Michigan Promise scholarship -- targeted to be eliminated by the state Senate to help cover the state's $1 billion budget hole.

Lawmakers have until October to wrangle over budget, but at least three large state universities are telling students they need to cover the amount of the scholarships until the Legislature decides whether the program survives.

Say it once again, spell it if you have to. Senate. That's S-E-N-A-T-E. They are the ones who want to eliminate this funding for college students and their families, causing some of them to have to come up with some major coin to get into classes that are going to start very soon.

Everyone got that? Sen-ate. Senate Republicans, if you want to be precise.

And when it comes to the latest "wrangling" over the budget, and maybe a chance to stop this from happening, those same Senate Republicans are washing their hands of the whole affair. They consider their job done, they made the cuts, too bad for you, someone else will have to step up and take responsibility for making sure that Michigan's students get the education they need to compete in this economy. Rumors abound about some "revenue enhancements" and tax credit reductions being proposed by the governor to address the budget deficit, and late last week, Gongwer asked for reaction from legislative leaders. In a statement that I'm going to call "The Miracle on the Grand" (Or, "The I'm Running For Governor Now", which is probably more accurate), Andy Dillon made it clear he won't have a repeat of the Republican fiasco of '07 that caused the shutdown.

On Thursday, Senate Republican spokesperson Matt Marsden said the caucus is open to discussing tax changes, but not general tax increases, and that the House would have to act first on any such measure.

In a response statement Friday, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said: "They made the same demand in 2007 and also dictated what was acceptable which led to the disastrous Michigan Business Tax surcharge that is hurting businesses across the state. Any budget solution is going to have to be worked in a bipartisan way and both chambers - including the State Senate - are going to have to shoulder responsibility, not just seek ways to avoid them."

But Mr. Marsden dismissed the comment as "more typical Dillon rhetoric." He said unlike the House, the Senate has passed budget bills that are balanced and that available revenues could support.

"We're out there with what our proposal is, like it or not," he said.

Me-ow. Case closed, college kids. But then Marsden proceeded to dig the hole deeper, like he usually does.

Further, Mr. Marsden criticized Mr. Dillon's reference to the 2007 budget shutdown.

"Senator Bishop has spent the last month and a half candidly talking to the press about the errors of 2007 and wanting to avoid a repeat," he said.

Hmmmm. What was Bishop's latest quote to the press about solving the budget crisis? Seems to me he said something just recently about this. Wait, I think I have it here somewhere... oh yeah, here it is again.

"If she's going to rely on a proposal that includes tax increases she needs to let the public know that so that we can speak out, and if we turn into an 'angry mob,' so be it.

Yes. I see it now. Marsden is right. Mike Bishop is certainly taking steps to avoid the "errors of '07", and making this process a lot easier for everyone involved by toning down the rhetoric, isn't he? But wait - what if that "angry mob" is composed of the college kids who just lost their scholarships? Uh oh. Bet Mike didn't think about that possibility.

Here's the problem with all of that though. The "angry mob" shtick is rapidly running out of its 15 minutes of fame. Pretty soon, the media and the public will be bored with the fringe screamers who are co-opting this latest media storm to complain about their pet issues, they will move on to something else as more and more people turn away (and tune out) from the nonsense. Republicans have probably ruined "protesting" for us, just like they ruin everything that they touch. Figures.

Lansing will still be stuck with the state media though, and it's starting to sound like they are none too thrilled about having to go through another budget battle. Angry mobs eventually dissipate, but we will have Tim Skubick to keep us engaged as to what is going on in Biddle City. And he's not happy with any of you right now. For funsies, let's just see what he says about Mike Bishop in his latest post:

Senator Bishop, it’s time to stop negotiating out of both sides of your mouth. For public consumption you demand that the budget be balanced with cuts and no new taxes, yet quietly behind the scenes you’ve given the green light to your minions to negotiate a possible revenue raising deal with the governor. Which is it? For once, stand up and be counted.

To be fair, Skubick goes off on Speaker Dillon and Governor Granholm as well. Along with the freshmen who came to Lansing to change the world, and then found they couldn't - a perfect example of how the media will build you up with great expectations, and then tear you down again. You're all on the list now. And, listening to Rick Albin talk about this last night, it sounds like he isn't particularly enchanted with the thought of more late nights in Lansing this fall, either. Call it a hunch.

For long-lasting impressions and control of the spin, I'll take the guys with the microphones over the angry mobs any day. They might not always get it right or go into complete detail, but they are going to set the tone for what comes next - and that has big implications for those of you down there who are looking at your future career aspirations.

Better get this solved with some rational compromising, the sooner the better. Something tells me that due to what happened in '07, people are paying closer attention and taking notes this time around. One brief shutdown is forgivable. Two is a pattern. And the media probably won't let anyone forget that.