Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 19: Michigan Budget Held Hostage: The Thin Blue Line

  • Hey Democrats! Remember this?

    I know! Let's do everything the red line wants, and see how we fare in 2010!

    19 days now Mike Bishop has been holding six crucial budgets. 19 days. No excuse for that. There were some laughable editorials over the weekend from the usual right wing suspects who want to ignore the fact that Bishop is shrugging off his constitutional duty as they tell Granholm to get out of the way of this "bipartisan" budget agreement. First of all, she can't "get out of the way" until he actually does his job, and, number two, look at the red line up there. We didn't elect Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans to run the show, something that both the House Democrats and some people in the press seem to have forgotten.

    It does make it easier to understand why the traditional media is failing though. It's obvious they don't have the best interests of the general public or the state in mind when as they ignore the election of 2008, and they ignore the devastation to public schools, cities and health care providers as they push for the "all business" agenda of the Republicans. Maybe it's some vain attempt to get more advertising out of "business", who knows. More layoffs are coming to Booth newspapers and the Detroit media, and they are scrambling for their own survival. Perhaps it's time to start questioning their editorial motives here if they continue to insist that both the electorate and the law be ignored.

    It's also hard to take them seriously when they wail about how any teeny increase in revenue for the state will send everyone fleeing for the borders, I tell you everyone will leave!, as they raise the price of their own product and call it a good business decision. If you want to run the state like a business, then run the state like a business. Revenue adjustments are made all the time in the real world, and to deliver a "good product" called the State of Michigan, we need educated people, health care and public safety.

  • But that brings us to another problem. The Freep takes a swing at the vapors, makes yet another plea this morning for the Legislature to work on "reform", as they bring us the all-too honest end result of Bishop's obstruction with this current budget.

    But really, who cares? Whatever compromise they reach is a temporary fix. And the longer they fight over it, the less time they'll have for the substantive debate that desperately needs to take place over huge reforms in the way the state spends and collects money.

    True. But ask yourself: Is this really the group of people that you want working on "huge reform"? Really? Sorry, but you have one leader that refuses to compromise, and another leader who turns his back on the people who elected his majority. That is not a recipe for rational reform; it is a recipe for disaster. As we have already seen. Twice. Even when they do "finish" this budget, does anyone honestly expect them to bring major structural reform in an election year?

  • Gongwer has an analysis in Dome that gets closer to the truth. This budget is going to be a work in motion as revenues continue to fall.

    The clues indicate that 2009-10 will be more of a transitional budget that will never really be final because as the economy shifts, and needs and spending requirements shift, and revenues shift by contracting or eventually growing, adjustments will be made.

    As it has been for who knows how long; mid-year adjustments are common. But this is especially true of K-12 this time around, as we pointed out last week. Wave bye-bye to quality education in your local school when the pro-rated figure hits this winter, and wait for the lawmakers to say they can't fix it because it's an "election year". Republicans have put themselves and the state in a corner with the "more tax cuts" teabagger rhetoric.

    Publicly they said that no new taxes are needed. Privately, and off the record (because such things are always said off the record), Republicans have said they understand the financial dynamics driving the state. Once the federal stimulus funds are gone, with the 2010-11 budget, unless the economy somehow miraculously revives to 1990s status (or maybe even 2003 status), state revenues will be simply insufficient to maintain basic services. The state is now literally at the stage of having to determine how many prisons to close, which universities to shutter, how many more roads to allow to return to gravel.

    They will refuse to fix the problem now, so they can blame Granholm and the Democrats in the 2010 campaign when those prisons close and universities shutter and your local schools have 40 kids in a classroom and the cops won't come when you call them and you can't get health care from your local hospital. Wait and see. They need things to be bad, because that is all they have to run on. They certainly don't have any new ideas of their own.

  • Speaker Dillon's defeatist attitude shows in this Crain's article about the 3% physician tax that was "designed to avert hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid cuts to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and other safety-net providers". He claims that he has four Senate Republican votes - and it's the Senate Democrats who may be the problem.

    “Some (Senate) Democrats are not on board. I don't know if it will pass,” Dillon said. “The 8 percent (Medicaid) cuts to hospitals and nursing homes will be devastating. ... How the Detroit Medical Center survives with an 8 percent cut, I don't know.”

    Hmmmm. Could have sworn that Mike Bishop has said over and over and over and over that there aren't any Republican votes for revenue, even if that revenue would bring us over a half a billion dollars in matching Medicaid funds, even over the very loud protests of one Roger Khan. No, this will be the fault of the Senate Democrats in Dillon's world, obviously not content to throw just the House Democrats under the bus as he displays even more self-loathing towards his own leadership. He has to reach out across the Capitol and drag down their caucus as well. Not only did Dillon say he was "embarrassed" to be a part of his own budget agreement when he took the day off last Thursday to go campaign, he now wants to disavow what his own House has done.

    Dillon said he wasn't happy the House had to come up with the physician tax at the last minute.

    “I hated to move the doctor tax so quickly, but we have little choice,” said Dillon. The Legislature is working to close a $2.8 billion budget deficit by Oct. 31.

    That's too bad. Maybe someone should have thought of that over July and August, when the Legislature took two months off as they assured everyone that this budget would be completed on time. Complaining about the results now, and trying to blame others when everything fails, is not the kind of leadership that is going to "reform" this state.

    At least, let's hope not. We don't want the election of 2012 to be all about fixing the mistakes the Legislature made way back in 2010. Temporary fixes are the best we can hope for now as we try to find those Democrats who will stand up for the needs of the people. There are some out there, let's get them in the top slots - and then we can shoot for the balanced reform we need.