Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Will House Democrats Fight for Michigan's Future?

UPDATE: Follow Mitch Rivard on Twitter for the latest voting updates.
UPDATE 2, 6:54PM: House has passed two of six revenue bills. House Republicans yapping on and on about this is disturbing Tiger pitching, putting game in jeopardy. Read more from the AP here and here.
UPDATE 3, 8:33PM: House has adjourned after long struggle to pass bill on physician services.

A little more detail has been leaking out on the revenue vote that is supposed to be held today. The DNews has the same info that everyone else is reporting:

Reports have said the votes might include a 15 percent Michigan Business Tax credit reduction that would equal $116.1 million; a tax on noncigarette tobacco products to raise $41 million; a freeze on some personal income tax exemptions worth $55 million; and deferring a scheduled increase to the earned income tax exemption to save $120 million. No information was available on a proposed 3 percent tax on non-Medicaid physician services.

A reported $400 million in revenue on the table will save the Promise Scholarships and make sure "senior citizens aren't kicked out on the streets". Recall that Andy Dillon said this just recently:

Where lives could be in jeopardy, where the future of the state is put in jeopardy, we will do a supplemental budget and we will identify how we pay for it," he said.

Very sad that putting people's lives in "jeopardy" is even a debatable question for people who are supposedly there to look out for the best interests of the state, but there you go. Jack Lessenberry summed up the real problem here very well yesterday:

This was a case of both parties being unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. They know what the problems are. They know what the potential solutions are.

But they don’t have the guts to make the necessary decisions.

We are going to find out - today, if they are courageous enough to take this stand. The Freep, after waffling all over the place on editorials during this budget crisis, really nailed it the day after they passed the continuation budget:

First, as dire as economic circumstances are for most Michiganders, some narrowly targeted taxes do need to be put in place. Then, Lansing's leaders need to get serious about solid reform measures, in both tax and spending policies, to bring the long-term budget outlook into balance.

The first message needs to resonate most strongly with Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, whose path to a balanced budget was all cuts. So far, he has been absolutely unwilling to compromise in any fashion to produce new revenues.

But his cuts do too much damage to K-12 and higher education, to local services such as police and firefighters, and to the health care system.

Bishop has said and done lot of crazy things over this, but he also has indicated he will look at what the House passes and sends over. Dillon has claimed that he will round up four or five Senate Republicans to help out. Can they pull it off? Your guess is as good as mine. This is what is at stake, and deep down, they all know it:

But to embrace all of Bishop's cuts, as they currently stand, would set services back so much that Michigan would be years recovering. Students who lose ground because of crowded classrooms will not magically catch back up if funding is restored in a few years. The complicated web of health care -- doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other services -- may fray and become increasingly difficult to rebuild. The same is true of city services, especially when well-trained Michigan police officers leave for other states or maintenance backlogs grow to the point that buildings, parks and roads suffer even more expensive damage.

Republicans as well as Democrats need to understand that some new revenues have to be raised in the short term and that the tax system needs an overhaul for the long term. Democrats as well as Republicans need to understand that not every service can survive in the short term, and that much of what remains needs major reform to survive for the long term.

House Democrats have something to prove here. They have broken many promises over the budget this year; this is a chance to redeem themselves and do what they said they would do - stand up for Michigan's priorities.

If not, they need to stop saying that they are going to do it. It's not fair to the citizens of Michigan to hear over and over that they will be taken care of, and then have legislators back out of their promises.

Time to stand up. Today. Tomorrow may be too late.