Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year, Same Obstruction: Will Bishop Block Tax Reform?

Be prepared to hear the words "Grand Bargain" over and over again this year as responsible people look to address the problems with our tax structure and make sure our state services such as education, public safety and health care are adequately funded. Slowly but surely, "business", in the form of a group called the "Business Leaders for Michigan" (a statewide version of the Detroit Renaissance that is starting to rival the MI Chamber of Commerce in media prominence) is waking up to the fact that you can't trash the place and expect people to still want to shop at your store. While they don't agree on all the details, the consensus seems to be that compromises must be made by everyone involved - from a review of tax credits and exemptions, to the still nebulous "reform" of spending on state employee salary and benefits, to lowering the sales tax and expanding it to the growing services sector - a sensible plan will have all parties involved willing to "give a little to get a little" to put our state's finances on solid ground, right?

In the face of $1.8 billion gaping hole in the next state budget, which essentially doubles down on the cuts we just made and that no one can really fathom doing again, even legislative Republicans are making noises that indicate they are willing to back off their stance on "no new revenue". The Freep has some interesting quotes:
Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that without tax reform, the next budget will be "making do with what we have."

But Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, said he's not giving up on helping schools with new taxes. He represents six districts hard-hit by budget cuts.

"Schools cannot take a $500 per-pupil cut," he said.

"Without tax reform" being the key words from Jelinek there. House Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer commits teabagger blasphemy in this one:

"As Republicans, we don't oppose all taxation. What we're concerned about is that we have significant reforms in place."

House Republican reform always consists of "let's git the poor people", but it's nice to know that they won't cut all our revenue, because past statements made us wonder about that sometimes. It's Tim Skubick that brings us the real shocker though. It seems that even the head of the MI GOP Ron Weiser has signed on to some of the BLFM plan, which seems to leave only one obstacle standing between this state and the discussion on reform, and - surprise, surprise, surprise - once again that obstacle is Mike Bishop. Rehashing the old story of Anuzis weighing in on the budget battle in '07, this one has a different twist - the party kinda sorta siding with the governor (and Dillon too when it comes down to it), and leaving the cheese to stand alone with his extreme friends on the right.

Weiser notes that he has not endorsed the whole package put forth by the "Business Leaders for Michigan" which is a morphed reincarnation of the old Detroit Renaissance group. But he says some of the concepts are worth doing.

Through his mouth piece, Bishop basically tells Weiser what he told Anuzis: Stay out of my business. Warm letter to follow.

All of this is slowly reaching critical mass as the governor has hooked-up with the BLFM folks and is eager to forge a "Grand Bargain" in which everyone gives a little to get a little, as she puts it.

Her "little" to get is new revenue which Bishop is loathed to support and the specter of having the GOP chair on Granholm's side, even though Weiser has not embraced new money, is a P.R. problem for Mr. Bishop which forces him to explain why he and Weiser are not on the same page... again.

Bishop is embracing the teabagger crowd for his own political gain. That much has been made obvious. But as has been increasingly pointed out lately, that is presenting a problem for the Republican Party as a whole....

They want to harness the potential political energy and power of the "tea party" movement. But they are very wary of ceding their party to that movement. Thus, the often absurd dance of the Republican Party, which in one breath embraces the teabaggers while in the next breath endeavoring hard to keep them at arms length.

If Bishop insists on being unreasonable about this and drags his feet on addressing tax reform, it's going to be up to the Democrats to point out that his views do not coincide with some members of his own party as well as the majority of the citizens of Michigan. It remains to be seen whether or not the Democrats are up to that task, but since the GOP is more than willing to blame the fallout of the cuts on Governor Granholm and other Democrats (break the government and then complain that it's broken), they sure as hell better try and make it crystal clear where the problem really lies - or be prepared to face the consequences of an unmotivated "base" next November.