Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dillon Dithers as the Senate Democrats Step Up

Mike Prusi and the Senate Democrats stand up for their priorities, and, unlike Andy Dillon, they do have solid plans and proposals that provide funding for those priorities without a general tax increase.

“For anyone to imply that the only way to fix our budget is through cuts alone or general tax increases alone is baloney,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming). “Our alternatives present a compromise approach that still includes some painful cuts, but uses reforms to protect the things that will make our state competitive in the future. These options should at least be on the table as we hammer out a final budget deal in the coming days.”

Watch my favorite Yooper above. Some of those options are:

  • Ending Michigan’s status as a donor state. Assessing just a 2% fee on physicians, like we do with hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers, allows us to secure a 3 to 1 match from the federal government. This is an idea that even members of the Senate Republican Majority have supported in the past and it could provide more than $300 million dollars. By ignoring reforms adopted by other states, we are allowing Washington to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to states like California, Texas, and Alaska instead of Michigan.

  • Asking multi-millionaires to pay their fair share. Decoupling from the federal government on estate taxes for estates more than $2 million, like a number of other states have done, would allow us to collect at least $130 million to avoid these painful cuts. A majority of other states, including all of our neighbors in the Midwest, already have some type of system to require this.

  • Reducing tax expenditures. By temporarily scaling back the more than $36 billion in tax credits the state hands out every year, we can avoid wiping out important services.

  • Limiting tax loopholes. We currently give millions of dollars in breaks to oil and gas companies, insurance companies, and others, while some are advocating for the complete elimination of programs that help our kids. Those aren’t the right priorities for Michigan.

  • And the sad thing is - Senate Republicans have always indicated this year that they were willing to look at trimming tax credits. If the House Democrats had been working on a plan such as this over the summer, we might not be facing the difficulty that we are now. Instead, we find Andy Dillon grasping at straws, as he throws a totally new idea to the wind, and hopes that a promise of "later" can get him and the House Democrats through.

    House Speaker Andy Dillon said today he'll pursue discounts from state contractors to help pay for college scholarships, health care for the poor and other programs before crafting a tax increase plan to send to the Senate.

    Say what? This idea comes up on September 17th - and is not possible to implement in less than two weeks, of course. And there is always an unspecified tax increase that the Senate Republicans will gladly vote for later, right?

    The House likely will consider a package of tax hikes to fund Promise scholarships for college students, revenue sharing municipalities use for police and fire protection, early childhood education and Medicaid, Dillon said.

    Dillon then went back to his "concessions from vendors" spiel. Meanwhile, Mike Bishop said they would get around to looking at all these things... oh, right around the time that they repeal drug company immunity and pass a smoking ban.
    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he expects to see a revenue package come over from the House after the budget is passed.

    "Legislators will have to decide how they want to vote on that," he said, reiterating that there are no votes in his caucus right now for tax increases.

    Asked whether tax hikes will ultimately win approval to pay for college scholarships, revenue sharing and other programs, Bishop said: "It's too hard to say."

    It should be well known by now what the answer to "tax hikes" would be. As news broke that Governor Granholm met with the Senate Democrats today to fight off the Senate Republican cuts, Bishop's tone on the matter changed radically to one of defensive posturing as he used Dillon's signature as a weapon, even though he still throws in his "we're really flexible, honest" caveat at the end.

    Bishop said he was just seeing Prusi's proposals for the first time -- though Democrats say the ideas were known about before.

    "The speaker of the House, the Democratic speaker of the House, also agreed to these targets and signed a document," Bishop said on the Senate floor. "This is a bipartisan, bicameral target."

    He said Senate Democrats should not "throw stones at the only proposal on the table" or "complain about the cards we're dealt because we have no way to change that." He added, however, that Republicans are not against reviewing revenue proposals.

    Matt Marsden took an even bigger shot at the Democrats last night in an extreme case of the projectionist pot calling the kettle black. This laughable and yet vaguely disturbing tirade comes to us from MIRS:

    "Sen. Prusi and his caucus can stand opposed to what is a bipartisan, bicameral plan to move Michigan forward without balancing the budget on the backs of taxpayers. He can choose to be an obstructionist. But instead of just opposing everything, it's more productive in society to put forth solutions instead of screaming about what you won't accept."

    Marsden said if the caucus chooses to withhold immediate effect on the budgets, the Democrats would "show why they're in the minority and I suspect while they'll continue to be there."

    Yes, those are the kind of guys that Dillon and George Cushingberry cut this deal with, ones who will instantly and gladly turn on all Democrats, as Dillon scrambles to come up with these last minute ideas that you know will ultimately be shot down. There is no "later", and anyone who has been paying attention since Mike Bishop took over leadership of the Senate should know that. Say, just how is that drug company immunity repeal coming along, anyway?

    If Dillon wants to make deals with Mike Bishop, then he can own these cuts. If the House wants to stick with Dillon, they can own them as well. Tuck it away and act accordingly when your House member comes to you later and claims that they "will fight for you". Just thank God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whoever it is you pray to that we have people like Governor Granholm and the Fightin' Senate Democratic caucus who are going to stand up for this state now.