Tuesday, October 27, 2009

State Board of Education Recommends Tax Reform for School Funding, But They Forgot It's All About Mike Bishop

The "bipartisan" State Board of Education weighed-in on the school funding debate yesterday, unanimously passing a resolution 8-0 that calls on the legislature and the governor to please, for the love of God, do something about this crisis and get some money to the schools. They heard from school officials, legislators, the public, and three "economic experts" from across the political spectrum that indicated a move to taxing services is the way to go in the long run.

The experts, who have different political backgrounds, agreed Michigan should lower its 6 percent sales tax but tax services that are exempt now — such as entertainment and landscaping, for example. Business-to-business services such as accounting and engineering would not be taxed.

"There was really agreement or consensus about the need for long-term restructuring of the tax system," said Board President Kathleen Straus, stressing that schools also must cut costs by consolidating transportation and other operations among districts.

The three - Patrick Anderson, Lou Glazer, and Phil Power - all agree that our tax structure needs to be changed to reflect the reality of an economy that is moving towards a service base rather than a manufacturing base. How many times have we heard that in the past few years? Many. Time to do something about it, right? Well, halle-frickin-lujah, the House Democrats are stepping up to the plate here in the form of Mark Meadows, who introduced bills last week that will do just that. Meadows proposal would reduce the sales tax to 5%, extend to it most services, and repeal the surcharge on the MBT. Keep this up guys, and you might get yourselves off the wimp list. The Freep applauds this morning, and we should too.

Three-quarters of the revenue generated by the lower, more broadly based sales tax would be earmarked for state aid to public schools. Another 20% would go to local governments in the form of revenue sharing for public safety.

This significant reallocation of sales tax revenues -- schools and revenue sharing currently get about 73% and 15% of sales tax revenue -- would create a $690-million shortfall in general fund revenues, a shortfall Meadows readily acknowledges will have to be addressed in other changes to Michigan's tax structure.

But the revamped sales tax would shore up and stabilize funding for schools and revenue sharing that local governments rely on to support police and fire protection. These are the core services Michigan taxpayers have repeatedly identified as their two top spending priorities, and Meadows' efforts to create a sound foundation for both deserve the support of fiscally responsible leaders in both parties.

It's not quite soup, but it's a good start - and exactly what all the adults in the room are encouraging that we do. But they forget about the one thing that will stand in the way of any rational thought or action that will help Michigan's schools and communities - Mike Bishop's ego. Mike Bishop's ego will not allow this to happen. No, this battle is all about Bishop, and Bishop's never-ending personal war against the governor, so he will continue to cling to the lie of the "balanced budget", and use the teabaggers who showed up yesterday to protest "government" in general, and call on his back-up bully posse in the form of Brooks Patterson. He will do anything to avoid helping the schools,

Governor took the fight to Rochester yesterday, right to the belly of the beast. Never mind that she is touring the entire state to talk to educators, the little boys were offended that she dared broach their "turf". And quicker than you can say Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Mike Bishop started whining like a baby and made this whole issue all about him. From Gongwer:

"Her whole point was to throw me under the bus in my community, and I wasn't going to let her get away with it," he said.

Me! My community! I wasn't going to let her! Then he proceeded to lie about how he ended up attending the meeting...

Mr. Bishop said he had to push the governor's office to invite him to the meeting. "I muscled my way in," he said, adding he only extracted an invitation from the governor's office on Friday.

I! I muscled my way in! Oooo, conjure up a picture of big, tough Mike pushing his way into a meeting with a bunch of suits and women wearing heels, shoving his way through this professional crowd...

But Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd disputed Mr. Bishop, saying the governor's office reached out to Mr. Bishop and invited him. She said it is standard procedure to notify a legislator when the governor is in his or her district.

"This was not in response to a call from his office," she said. "In this instance, a proactive call was made to invite him to the event, and clearly he accepted it."

How tough is Mike? He's so tough that he needed back-up in the form of Brooks Patterson, no stranger to the "I" statements himself.

"When she decided to go into Bishop's backyard, I took offense to that," he said. "That was an in-your-face tactic."

Yes it was. And it took the two of you to handle it, because Bishop hides behind other people all the time. So back to Bishop, this time in the Oakland Press. Six "I's" in two sentences is really a dead giveaway, isn't it?

Bishop said he was glad Granholm came to Rochester Community Schools’ administration building for the meeting.

“Because I told her what I thought of her and I told her what I thought about the plan,” Bishop said after the meeting. “I think it’s horrible and I think using kids as a tool to get a tax increase is about as dirty as it gets.”

I! I told her what I thought of her! I did it! But what about the schools, Senator Bishop?

Mr. Bishop, in a phone interview with Gongwer News Service after the meeting, said the school officials voiced upset with how the budget was handled and expressed a desire for long-term reform of the school funding system.

"They just feel like there's no stability left," he said.

And then he was right back to his personal war with the governor. He ignores the school officials pleas for help, and makes this all about Bishop again.

But Mr. Bishop described the meeting as mostly unproductive. He characterized Ms. Granholm's efforts as a "dog and pony show to put me on the spot in front of educators," but said the school officials didn't take the bait.

"She was really looking to the group to rubber-stamp her proposal," he said. "Not a single one of them said, 'Do what the governor said.' I think what they're all looking for is a real solution, not a patched-together solution."

Me! I think! Everyone hates the governor! But what was the Republican solution to the school funding crisis? Hurt the poor, kill the film industry, and cut business taxes, which would leave us with another deficit down the road. In other words, the Republicans don't have a solution, something that is conveniently ignored by Senator Bishop.

Interestingly enough, last week Valde Garcia told MIRS that he didn't think the governor’s proration cut was "political", and Ron Jelinek has introduced a shell bill in the Senate that will "provide a template or place holder for a potential supplemental multidepartment appropriation for Fiscal Year 2009-2010". What that may mean, who knows at this point - but it appears to indicate that some Senate Republicans are aware of fiscal reality and the need for additional revenues.

The question now is: Can they get past Mike Bishop's ego and do the right thing here? It's going to be up to the House Democrats to push for both the short-term and long-term solutions, and point out that the Senate is obstructing progress - and they better be vociferous about it, too. Bishop's ego is louder than anything else coming out of Lansing right now, and it will take many voices to set things straight.