Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dillon Working on a "Cuts Only" Budget

The Legislature is refusing to address our antiquated tax system and is threatening more cuts to K-12. So much for investing in Michigan's future and making this a nice place to live.

Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate oppose Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to raise money to fill a gaping budget hole by extending the sales tax to services, the leaders said this afternoon while participating in a panel discussion.

The legislative leaders known as the "quadrant" -- House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, House Republican Leader Kevin Elsenheimer of Kewadin and Senate Democratic Leader Michael Prusi of Ishpeming -- also agreed it will be difficult to pass a budget that does not include cuts to the K-12 budget, despite Granholm's vow to veto any budget that includes additional school funding cuts.

"I think we need tax reform (but) I'm not looking to (extending sales tax to services) as a solution to the budget," Dillon said during a panel discussion hosted during the annual meeting of the Michigan Society of Association Executives in Lansing.

Speaker Dillon promised "tax reform" in January of 2009, but has yet to produce a plan. He also took this opportunity to criticize the governor for cutting the 20j school funding.

Dillon said he disagreed with Granholm's decision to veto $52 million in funding for the state's wealthier school districts.

"I think she could have avoided it," Dillon said.

No, not really. Not when the Legislature passed a K-12 budget that contained $100 million in "unspecified" funding, and then never came to an agreement as to how they would fill that hole. For those with short memories, Senate Republicans passed a plan that would have made our deficits worse by cutting the MBT surcharge, the House Dems did not move that package, and you could honestly say that, to this day, they still haven't finished last year's budget.

No matter. We've got another "non-plan" from Speaker Dillon that will probably end up being more cuts to the schools by the time the House gets done wasting another year of our time. Hey, aren't they due for another vacation right about now anyway?

Following the meeting, Dillon said he is working on a cuts-only budget and has identified $424 million in savings to school districts -- an amount that would head off a school funding cut. He wouldn't elaborate on where the cuts would come from.

Of course he wouldn't. This does pose an interesting question though: If Speaker Dillon has $1.6 billion in cuts up his sleeve, then why in the world did he make his members take those - and these are his words - "bad votes" last year to raise revenue, only to have the Senate laugh in his face? Really makes you stop and think about why he would put his people through all that, doesn't it?

For the record, to all those who threaten that "everyone will leave Michigan!" if we dare adequately fund our schools, health care, and public safety with new revenue, be advised that 30 states have raised taxes in response to this recession, with seven more considering raising taxes this year (counting Michigan as one of the seven). Just so you know. Before you pack your bags and all.

Of the 30 that have already passed increases: 11 states went for personal income tax increases or reductions of exemptions, 12 states passed sales tax increases, either by a higher rate or expanding to cover more services, 11 states increased business taxes, again by raising rates or limiting deductions and credits, 15 states raised alcohol and/or tobacco taxes, 12 states raised motor vehicle fees or fuel taxes, and 15 states raised "other" fees to meet budget deficits.

Nice to know that someone gives a damn about quality of life in this country.