Monday, November 02, 2009

You Let Andy Dillon Down

Didn't know where to start with the Christoff story in the Freep about Dillon and Bishop still being BFF. That part didn't surprise me. Dillon has always excused Bishop's behavior, even after Mike repeatedly has broken "his word" on these so-called "deals". It happened in '07, it happened again this year, and Dillon's anger over it is a farce. While it's nice that Speaker Dillon concedes now that this battle was all about Mike Bishop's future career, and not the things that are critical to the health, education and safety of Michigan's citizens, you have to wonder why he mislead those very same citizens if he was counting on them to do the heavy lifting for him.

Let's start with Dillon's sacrifice for his friend though. It's touching to know we all were thrown under the bus to appease the extreme rightwing teabaggin' fringe that controls the MI GOP, isn't it?
Dillon said Bishop gave in to a $1.3-billion tax increase in 2007, and he was convinced the Senate leader wouldn't go for another one as he pursues the nomination for attorney general from a Republican Party where the anti-tax right wing will call the shots.

"Politically, for him to think he had a future as attorney general, he couldn't allow in the first phase of the budget a tax increase. He needed pressure to build to force a few of his members to break," Dillon said. "That's why I agreed to do what I did."

Awww, how sweet. Well, if that was the case and "pressure" was needed, why did Speaker Dillon continuously reassure us that Democrats would move to stop these cuts from happening? Here is one from as late as September 1st, when Andy told us the budget was "very close" to being done, nothing to see here, move along, the Democrats won't agree to these drastic cuts.

• Promise grants. The Senate has voted to eliminate the $140 million for students eligible to receive up to $4,000 from the state against college costs. Dillon said House Democrats oppose wiping out the grants but they don't oppose a reduction. He said he favors means testing as a way to reduce spending on the scholarships. Others favor a pro-rata reduction.

• Revenue sharing. Senate Republican cuts in funds that local governments use for police and fire protection, garbage pickup, street repair and other services are "too deep," Dillon said. Democrats favor smaller reductions that don't endanger public safety, he added.

• Community Health budget. The Senate has approved reductions in Medicaid coverage for the poor and other health programs that House Democrats find objectionable, the speaker said. He singled out cuts in prenatal services that wind up costing more down the road.

Hard for the public to understand that they need to kick your ass for you and build that pressure when you said that you would take care of things, isn't it? And, were we supposed to do it all in two weeks before the deadline, when it was abruptly announced that the House had changed course? Amazingly enough, that is what Andy claims he was counting on here, indicating that perhaps we shouldn't have believed the things he said about the House fighting to protect Michigan's priorities. Silly us.

Dillon said he counted on public pressure to force Republicans to approve more revenue to restore cuts to schools, Medicaid, revenue sharing and the Michigan Promise college scholarship.

But "the pressure's not building," he said. "The problem that's causing is people assume they can accept these cuts. It's business as usual in the capital, but these cuts are real."

The "pressure's not building"? Are you kidding? Care to rethink that statement? First of all, the only plan for revenue the public saw was from the governor, and Dillon immediately shot that down as "showboating". The House never presented a "plan" of their own; there was no alternative. Now, Dillon is admitting that he is totally oblivious to current reality, the examples of outrage are so numerous that you could fill the entire front page of this blog with stories of how the public is reacting to this budget. Here are a few just to give you some examples. Gongwer, October 16th, reports that House Dem Tim Bledsoe was deluged with correspondance that expressed worries about "budget cuts and tax increases" both. The public is very aware, and they are reaching out.

And the public is paying attention to what lawmakers are doing. Mr. Bledsoe said that before the budget controversy, his office would get perhaps five emails on a Saturday. As the budget controversy has grown, he said as many as 50 emails are coming in on a Saturdays, and many more come in during the workweek.

WILX in Lansing ran a story entitled "Public Outraged Over School Cuts" on Oct. 23rd, complete quotes from a couple of House members who were filled with self-loathing for making these cuts. But, since they can't be held responsible for their actions, and we have a predictable example of how Republicans will use this outrage for their own political purposes anyway, let's just stick with the public sentiment here.

"It's time to stop playing games with each other."

Lansing resident Carole Bryde isn't alone in that sentiment. The reaction from folks here in mid-Michigan has been just about unanimous.

They're ticked off about what they see as a political game of chicken between state Democrats and Republicans -- one that could affect their children's futures.

Notice how both parties are taking the blame from the public, something that is echoed everywhere. Senator Glenn Anderson indicates he has been swamped with concerned parents and educators contacting his office, but since the House Dems have already totally undermined their counterparts in the Senate, it's doubtful that Dillon is listening to anything from the other side of the Capitol.

Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, said he's getting an avalanche of e-mail from Livonia parents. He said the superintendent in Livonia fired off e-mails to a list of activists in the district who are in turn sending e-mails to Lansing lawmakers.

"The district is spreading the word, which is what they should be doing," said Anderson, who opposes the cuts. "We're hearing from an inordinate number of people, more than we've seen in a long time. It's dwarfing our other correspondence right now."

What are residents saying? Anderson describes the tenor of reaction this way: "We talk about education being a priority of the state, how we need to get more kids in college, but we're not following up on our rhetoric."

One last example of public outrage, this one complete with more pandering from the House Dems. How Dillon can claim that the "pressure's not building" when his own caucus has introduced legislation to alleviate that very pressure is really beyond comphrehension. After the 20j cut that came about due to the "unspecified $100 million" in funding in the K-12 budget, House Dem Marc Corriveau was moved by public pressure to make a half-hearted attempt to placate the mob. But, just like the Promise Scholarship and the all the other things that the House Dems vowed they would "fight for" - the House still refuses to put any teeth behind their actions by identifying how they would pay for these things.

Democratic State Representative Marc Corriveau sponsored the House bill. He says it's time to act, "Two-thousand, seven hundred signatures delivered to me today from people in my community asking me to protect education, which was a promise I made when I came up here. So I wasn't going to wait for a veto vote, my goal was to get a bill introduced and to do it right away."

Without the money behind it, the legislation is simply a waste of time. Corriveau claims that if the Senate Republicans want the House to override the veto, they should be willing to put up the funding. Well, we have already seen the Senate answer to that, and it was to extract more concessions from the Republican pet targets; budget-busting business tax cuts placed directly on the back of the poor, and another attempt to cut the film industry. Just to drive home the point that they are in charge here, Senate Republicans then threw away hundreds millions of dollars in federal funding for health care. You honestly think that they will give any ground now?

It's no wonder that the Detroit Free Press is moved to use terms like "Bishop cleaned Dillon's clock". Republicans have learned that they can get away with saying "no" to Michigan's needs, and there is nothing the House will do about it - unless it is tied to Dillon's so-far unannounced career ambitions. Since Dillon also indicates that he will tie tax reform (that was promised to us last January for THIS year) to his state employee health care plan, and the fight was really all about next year anway, it's starting to look like he did indeed burn down the village just to "save it" later. Not really clear what was meant when he said "first phase" of the budget earlier, but if this was Dillon's plan all along, then he definitely mislead the public with his statements about protecting Michigan in the budget that was just passed.

But don't worry, when next year fails too, and Dillon gives away the rest of the store to protect Bishop's career (which won't be decided until next August, way after schools and cities start their next budget), it will probably be your fault when Dillon chooses to ignore, mislead and then ultimately betray the electorate that gave the Democrats that large margin in the House. Apparently you need to "boo" louder, no matter what Dillon does next. OK. Consider it a lesson learned.

Moral of the story: Don't let Andy down again. He and Mike are counting on you to put that "pressure" on, because God knows they will never take responsibility for themselves. After all, they have their future careers to think about here. But, for the sake of the state, let's make sure those careers are back in the private business world somewhere. Between Bishop breaking his word to Dillon, and Dillon breaking his word to the rest of us, it's pretty obvious that neither one can be trusted when it comes to handling the public's affairs.