Friday, September 25, 2009

EPIC: Most Voters Disagree With Bishop-Dillon Cuts Only Budget

New EPIC poll is showing that the majority of voters disapprove of the cuts-only budget agreement that Andy Dillon signed with Mike Bishop - and when the cuts are specifically identified, not surprisingly support drops even further.

800 voters, a bit higher than the usual EPIC sample, tell the real story here. Michigan doesn't want the Republican solution to this budget crisis, and legislators would be wise to stop listening to the teabaggers like Bishop and the Detroit News and start listening to the majority of citizens that have no problem with what Governor Granholm suggested, a blended solution of cuts and - yes - taxes.

When asked what option they preferred for the Governor and Legislature to use in balancing the state budget, only 28 percent replied that “cuts in existing programs and services ALONE should be used to balance the state budget.”

When informed of some of the specific cuts being considered as part of a reported budget deal between House and Senate leaders, the percentage supporting a cuts-only solution dropped to 24 percent. A 59 percent majority believe a combination of budget cuts and at least some increases in taxes and fees should be used to solve the current budget crisis.

When asked about specific possibilities for budget cuts, as in a previous publicly released EPIC-MRA survey, voters continued to oppose cutting education, Medicaid and public safety funding. K-12 funding reductions led the way with 77 percent opposing cuts, followed by cuts to state police (75 percent), Medicaid (75 percent), senior citizen tax exemptions (74 percent), the Michigan Promise scholarship program (68 percent), and community college and job training programs (68 percent).

64 percent of voters support some level of revenue increases to balance the budget. The most popular revenue options cited were the elimination of $600 million in corporate tax exemptions (66 percent), implementing a graduated income tax (61 percent), and expansion of the sales tax to cover non-essential, luxury items (59 percent).

The Bishop-Dillon agreement smacked right into the wall yesterday as legislators could not move major budgets on health care and revenue sharing out of committee, and it appeared that the cuts approved to K-12 wouldn't pass on the House floor. What was supposed to be a marathon session last night actually adjourned at 5:30 in the afternoon as progress came to a stand-still over the realization that the depth of these cuts would severely damage Michigan schools, cities and health care providers.

The possibility that taxes will be raised to avert some of the painful cuts hung over the proceedings, and according to some Republicans, stalled any final agreement on closing a $2.8 billion deficit.

"We're still working on all of it," said House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, shortly before the House adjourned. "The obvious budgets are still difficult."

He cited $163 million in cuts to revenue sharing for local governments and hundreds of millions in reductions in Medicaid health care to the poor and other health programs. Committee talks over revenue sharing broke down and a House-Senate conference panel on the Community Health budget still hasn't scheduled a meeting.

The Senate, after saying they would wait on passing budgets until the House was done, sensed that the agreement was falling apart and quickly passed the budgets for judiciary, veterans affaris and DELEG. Bishop is still holding "the deal" over Dillon's head.

"What we wanted to do was to empty out what we had in the queue and make sure that we show forward progress," Mr. Bishop said. "We want to make sure that everybody knows the deal is still on."

If Dillon and the Democrats go forward with this "deal", they now know that they are acting against the will of the majority of voters. Elections have consequences, and we didn't elect the Republicans to run this show for a reason. Turns out the people actually like having quality schools, health care, and public safety - and anyone who ruins that is going to be treated accordingly.

So, Democratic lawmakers, are you going to listen to the voters who put you in office, or are you going to listen to the teabaggers? If you choose the later, better hope you can get them all to turn out and vote for you in 2010 - although it's doubtful that the "all-cuts" 24% who are going to vote Republican anyway would put you over the top.

Time to do the right thing. Reject the Bishop-Dillon deal and listen to your constituents. We all know that painful cuts are going to be made, but don't completely destroy the state's ability to provide the services that deep down we all want.