Thursday, August 19, 2010

Budget Update: New Plan Protects Critical Services, Leaves Money for Rainy Day Fund

Since this legislature will not tackle the tough job of reforming our tax base, this is the best we can hope for. Governor Granholm's new plan includes cuts, some reforms, and non-tax revenue to fill the combined two-year gap of $786 million (and with a mere half billion in next year's deficit - that's way better than we thought it would be. Thank God for the feds). Let's get this done. Gongwer has the best breakdown on the proposal, but the Governor's release has the best summary:

The governor today detailed her latest recommendations to address the budget shortfalls for the current year and fiscal year 2011 budgets. The governor’s proposal provides fiscal stability while continuing to protect the state’s critical priorities — including job creation efforts, schools, and health care — from additional devastating cuts.

For fiscal year 2010, the governor is recommending shifting funding for the state’s 28 community colleges to the School Aid Fund where the surplus funds can cover the $208.4 million appropriation. The state also will receive an additional $94 million in federal funding due to changes in the way the federal government funds prescription drug coverage for seniors eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Together, these changes address the $302.7 million shortfall in the current year.

For fiscal year 2011, the governor is recommending a combination of additional spending cuts and one-time, non-tax revenue to address the existing shortfall resulting from increased spending pressures, legislative refusal to consider corrections reform and a physician-provider assessment, and lower-than-expected federal funding through the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP).

Among the cuts recommended are a 3 percent administrative reduction for all state agencies, $50 million cuts in the Departments of Community Health, Human Services and Corrections, and restructuring of the state’s long-term debt obligations, reducing spending by $77.3 million. Combined with the cuts proposed in the executive budget recommendation in February, the governor has recommended more than $602 million in general fund spending reductions for the fiscal year.

The governor’s budget recommendations also include three one-time, non-tax revenue proposals to provide needed revenue in the wake of lower-than-expected federal funding. The proposals — a tax amnesty period for Michigan taxpayers, reform of the state’s abandoned property laws, and changes to the liquor regulation and distribution system — will provide $304.8 million for the fiscal year 2011 budget.

Go read the Gongwer story for the details. K-12 is howling mad about using these funds for community colleges - but that's just too bad. Since Republicans are insisting on busting unions and blocking any sort of reform that would shore up funding for schools, both K-12 and college alike, this is it. If we can get out of this with current school funding intact and no revenue sharing cuts to cities, we will be ahead of the game.

This proposal also leaves $100 million for the Rainy Day fund. Sure would be nice if these guys could get out of here leaving a surplus for the next governor and legislature - that way, they can't get blamed for leaving a mess if the Republicans do take over, because you know damn well the people who have obstructed progress all this time will be sure to turn around and complain about the consequences of their own actions. Proof? Here's Bill Nowling, recently of the House Republicans, now working for the Snyder campaign:

Said Nowling: "It's a great opportunity to do something for Michigan. I'm as frustrated as people outside of Lansing that say Lansing can't get anything done. And I've seen it every day from the inside."

We may change elected officials, unfortunately we can't change the people that surround them. The same Lansing special interests and political workers will be around, supposedly guiding the new recruits, but in all likelihood will be pushing the same 'ol, same 'ol agenda. Too bad we can't ask them to leave as well, eh? Starting to think that the entrenched political cabal down there is a big part of the problem.

But so be it. And a note to state workers - take what you can get and run. They are coming after you next. No layoffs in this budget, but it does include a retirement plan, the details of which are still unknown. If you are anywhere close to retirement - go. Now. It might get very, very ugly after this year.