We have "cut government!" here in Michigan. Although we have roughly the same population that we did in the year 2000, the state government available to serve our citizens is nothing like it used to be.
Michigan's eight-year recession has slashed one in six state workers and one in five state government dollars. Since 2000, the state has shed the equivalent of three auto assembly plants worth of workers -- a busload of employees taking their personal belongings and their last paychecks home every two weeks.
Must-read story. Some facts to consider:
• The Department of Natural Resources has 38 percent fewer employees than in 2000. There are only 83 DNR fire officers, who are the first responders to fires on public lands, patrolling the state north of Clare, despite a state-commissioned report that pegged the optimal number at 120. "It's lucky we didn't have two major fires at the same time this season, or we would have had major problems," DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said.
• The Department of Human Services has lost more than 3,600 employees since 2000, from clerical staff to caseworkers, while the need for services has soared. Just in the past year, the number of DHS clients has jumped more than 20 percent, to 2.2 million.
• Corrections lost 2,300 workers since 2000, primarily through prison closings.
• One in four Department of Agriculture employees is gone since the beginning of the decade. The migrant labor housing inspection program has been cut in half. All the department's regional offices are closing this fall. The economic development staff has been slashed.
And once again, the Mackinac Center is caught in yet another example of fiscal dishonesty. Gary Wolfram, a Hillsdale College professor, wrote a wildly disingenuous policy paper for the free market crowd that this DNews analysis blows out of the water. While the Mac Center frequently claims that government spending has increased in this decade, when you take into account a little thing called inflation, you find out that spending has decreased. Considerably.
"There are lots of ways to grow without adding employees," Wolfram told The News. "It (state government) is clearly larger. It's spending billions more."
Total spending from state resources is up 7 percent -- $1.8 billion more in the 2008-09 budget year than in 2001. That's the equivalent of an additional $618,000 being spent every day since the recession began.
But those figures don't take into account inflation. While the state's total spending over the eight years increased 7 percent (reaching $27.5 billion in '08-'09), inflation during the same period was triple that (21.7 percent).
When adjusted for inflation, total spending has decreased 14 percent. Spending from the general fund, the Legislature's main source of discretionary money, is down 21 percent. By comparison, Ohio's general fund was down less than 2 percent, and Indiana's increased 5 percent.
The Mackers also complain about the number of state employees - but then you find out that they are lumping university and some hospital personnel in their figures, not exactly the people you turn to when you need something from the state government.
There was one state employee for every 161 Michigan residents in 2001; by the end of 2008, it was one state employee for every 197 residents.
And if that wasn't enough, we have a Senate Republican making the one statement that was sure to get the blood pressure rising at this particular point in time. Alan Sanborn says that we have to... get this... cut school aid more.
Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, concurred: "The money is simply not there. With shrinking government revenues, it only makes sense that government would shrink."
Sanborn suggests the state may have to cut school aid more. School aid dropped less than 3 percent in the school aid budget signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, while aid to cities in the form of revenue sharing dropped more than 12 percent.
Head. explode. Someone get Bishop on the bat phone and tell him his latest hissy fit has just been undercut by one of his own people. He's busy sending letters to superintendents claiming the governor is "misrepresenting" the budget situation, while another Republican is suggesting "more cuts" are coming to schools. Who is playing politics now?
Just wanted to get these facts in pixels to refer to later. You'll be hearing the "cut government!" cry quite a bit over the next year; now you know the truth behind the rhetoric.