Monday, August 02, 2010

Republicans Are Preparing Deep Budget Cuts: Would Andy Dillon Vote to Eliminate Revenue Sharing?

Yes, you read that right. Eliminate.

No more money for your local cops and firefighters. Cities and townships that have already made drastic cuts to public safety, who have had to turn to their citizens with millage requests and tax increases just to stay at the minimum level of protection, will be dealt a knock-out blow if the "cuts only" crowd has their way.

They won't tell you about it now, of course. You might not vote for them tomorrow if they did.

The FY 2010-11 budget, the budget that is $1.5 billion or so in the hole, the budget they were going to get done by spring July 1st after vacation ???, the budget that is the legislature's constitutional duty to pass but has been pushed aside so candidates can deceive you with fiscal fantasies about our future, has received little attention in a media that is understandably wrapped up in the horse race - but one small story emerged last week with a detail that probably should be examined just a little bit closer.

When Republicans say they are going to "cut government spending", keep in mind that YOU are "spending".

Local governments and Medicaid may face some of the toughest cuts in an emergency budget proposal being prepared by state Senate Republicans.


Bishop says even if the state does not get additional money from the federal government, Medicaid will not be exempt from further cuts. He says all areas of state government will feel the sting. That includes local governments, which rely on payments from the state to help pay for police and fire.

"Every function of state government will be addressed and has been addressed, and revenue sharing will be a part of that," he adds.

Bishop will not deny that local government revenue sharing could be eliminated altogether. Governor Granholm says those kinds of deep cuts are too damaging, and her plan will include new revenue to help fill budget gaps.

Has anyone alerted city leaders about this? Doubtful. It might have come up on the campaign trail, and we couldn't have that. Candidates may have had to explain in detail how more tax cuts for the wealthy would pay for the cops and firefighters they are proposing to eliminate. That wouldn't be any fun.

Every voter should stop and think about this. Republicans, across the board, are proposing to "cut taxes and cut spending" - and we are looking at the elimination of revenue sharing right now, never mind what they would cut in the future after they eliminate taxes for business. And, on top of this drastic public safety cut, the health care safety net is pretty much looking at destruction as well.

We've already cut more than $4 billion since 2001 to programs serving our most vulnerable citizens. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said that without the promised $560 million in federal aid, Michigan might be forced to cut up to 30 percent in payments to physicians and other health care providers who treat 1.8 million Medicaid beneficiaries, including 955,000 children. This would be devastating for many families who need access to affordable, quality health care.

Physicians participating in the Medicaid program dropped from 88 percent to 64 percent between 1999 and 2005 - and that was before the 8 percent cut in the current budget.

Translation: There won't be any doctors left to treat the roughly one in five Michigan residents that are currently being served by Medicaid. Those people will start showing up in hospital emergency rooms instead - which will raise the cost of your health insurance, and that will push more people and business off of private plans and on to Medicaid... and the spiral continues. You will pay for these cuts to "spending", one way or another.

These examples are the biggest cuts being floated by the Republicans at this time. Community mental health programs are on the chopping block, other forms of assistance to low-income families that serve mainly children and aid to state colleges and universities - all are back on the table as well.

Given the way that Andy Dillon rolled over for Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans on drastic cuts last year, the issue of whether he would pass another all-cuts budget using minority Republican votes becomes a very pertinent question. It's doubtful that anyone will ask him that in the next 24 hours, but, if he happens to win the nomination, you can guarantee that it will come up again. What has he had to say about this so far? (Crain's, sub only)

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, said in a statement that the FMAP situation “has forced everyone back to the drawing board...”

Translation: * crickets *

There is a chance that the US Senate is going to pass a watered-down version of aid to the states today. Harry Reid has offset the spending in the bill by cutting food assistance money (yeah, I know, that's stupid too), reduced the amount of Medicaid aid and included a 2011 phase-out so we can do this all over again next year, but once again, even though concessions are made, congressional Republicans are opposing the package. Crain's reports that this version would cut Michigan's take from $560 million to $300 million, leaving us a $260 million hole that Mike Bishop would gladly fill with the bodies of the sick and the poor and your ever-increasing insurance premiums.

Would Andy Dillon do the same? Even if we get the federal money, we still are looking at a massive deficit. Will Dillon pass another all-cuts budget, one month before the election mind you, the consequences of which will ultimately be blamed on the Democrats and Governor Granholm? Republicans must be giddy at the prospect. House Democrats do their dirty work on "spending cuts" - and then they get to use it against the D's in the election. How convenient. The rewards of obstructionism are certainly great when no one takes the time to stand up and point out what is going on here, or presents an alternate plan that would maintain at least a minimum quality of life.

Inquiring minds want to know what Dillon is going to do. Too bad we aren't going to find out until after it's too late.