Sunday, September 20, 2009

Luke: Dillon Using "Leverage of Budget Pain" to Force Discussion on Taxes

If this is true, it should chill you to the bone.

Peter Luke suggests this morning that Andy Dillon is going along with the Senate Republican cuts on purpose as a way to leverage a discussion of tax reform. In other words - if we hurt a bunch of people now, destroy their schools, health care providers and take away their public safety officials, the people would be willing to accept new taxes later.

It's a shakedown that would make schoolyard bullies and the cowardly, petty thugs of this world proud: They will burn down your house, and then if you don't give them some money, well by golly they'll let your next house burn down, too.

Luke points out the curious timing of this whole thing as further proof; the Senate made the cuts in June, the House didn't respond, Granholm's early August plan to at least mitigate some of this devastating pain is instantly shot down, the House waits another six weeks - and at this point, it's too late to do anything else.

Given the magnitude of the state's budget trouble, the absence of new revenue leaves only the option of severe budget cuts Republicans already had voted for and were sticking by. That Dillon waited until mid-September, just two weeks before the start of the new budget year, to accept them leaves no time to do much of anything else.

Dillon appears to have two goals.

The first seeks to produce a budget on time to avoid a government shutdown. The second attempts to leverage the pain of budget reduction to force a fall discussion that leads to an overhaul of Michigan's tax system.

"What this is doing is really getting us through Sept. 30, which I think is important, and we need to do it in a way that doesn't lose credibility with the public so that when we come back and say there's a lot of heavy lifting (on taxes) that needs to be done, the public isn't furious with it," Dillon said last week.

What Dillon implies here is that lawmakers can't find the backbone to make the tough decisions beforehand - they have to wait until people get hurt before legislators will stand up and do the right thing for citizens. After grandma gets throw out on the street, or your child has all their educational programs cut at school or has to drop out of college, or you can't get a cop to answer your emergency call, perhaps now you will gladly give up the money so these things don't happen again. Our elected officials will be off the hook at that point, because you will be begging for relief.

"We need tax reform, and I don't think anyone would object to that notion," Dillon said. "On Oct. 1, you're going to see a lot of energy to start taking it up. I think you're going to see a coalition built beyond just business. You're going to see local units of governments, schools, higher ed."

The phrase that is running through my mind this morning is "legislative terrorism" - and it is the province of true cowards. The hope here is that Luke is wrong about this, but Dillon's own words would lead you to believe that Peter is right on target.


Consider it a lesson learned. When it comes to Lansing, sometimes you just can't be cynical enough.