Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will Republicans Raise Taxes Under Snyder?

Let's relive recent history, shall we? Republicans have obstructed every single tax reform plan offered up in the past few years, Mike Bishop claiming that we have to "live within our means" as the Senate insisted on cuts only budgets. You saw it last year, you've seen it this year. We are very lucky that Democrats in the federal government came to the rescue and helped us (and every other state in the nation) fill holes that would have caused utter devastation had we actually faced the worst of this storm - for example, take last year's deep cuts and triple them. (Rough math - we were facing a $3 billion dollar hole and ended up cutting around $1 billion. Correct me if I'm wrong.) To top all this off, Republicans are currently riding an anti-tax tiger in the form of the teabaggers, hoping to sweep into power on this manufactured anti-government outrage - even though we have cut more out of government that any state in the nation in the past decade or so, even though we are currently paying less taxes than we did under Engler, even though Michigan is basically a low-tax state. No matter. The facts never matter when faced with fanaticism.

Cut, cut, cut, that is all we have ever heard. So, it comes with a bemused chuckle to hear someone like Senate Republican Roger Kahn suggest that they will have to raise taxes to fill the estimated $1.6 billion hole that they will be faced with on the FY2011-12 budget. Say what?

Yes, you read that right. Tax increases. Ha ha... ha. First, the good news on this year's agreement for the Dept. of Community Health budget, a $14 billion monster that covers Medicaid and other health services, mostly funded by federal money. Lawmakers are restoring some previously cut services, and the proposed cuts to mental health and physicians, etc and so on, will be avoided. This is a good thing.

Money for dental, podiatry and vision care for Medicaid recipients would be restored under a $14-billion budget for the Department of Community Health approved Tuesday by lawmakers and headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm to sign.


With $650 million in federal stimulus money, the Department of Community Health budget avoids numerous cuts, including $50 million in mental health services the Senate had proposed; that reduction is now $1 million. The budget takes $2.4 million from the state general fund, the rest coming from federal aid.

Also, it cancels a 4% cut in Medicaid reimbursement to physicians and hospitals that the Senate had proposed.

Hat tip to Mr. Christoff for correctly pointing out that the Senate had proposed the cuts - even if he didn't use the word "Republican". We can add to that the proposed Republican cuts to education, both K-12 and college, Pure Michigan, revenue sharing, economic development efforts, and road funding as well. Follow the link. And then check out the original Gongwer story to see all the cuts they insisted on making this spring because they refused to raise revenue or restructure our tax base. When it came to addressing our long-term problems, the answer has always been "no". You know this. You lived it.

They insisted on a broken government, a broken government is what they are going to get - and faced with that prospect, suddenly a tax increase doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all. Doh!

Lawmakers warned that the community health budget will create a $500-million budget hole in 2012 when the federal stimulus money is gone. Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, said the next Legislature likely will enact a combination of spending cuts, reforms and tax increases to avoid a deficit.

Republicans? Suggesting we raise taxes? Get out! But it's true. Even Rick Snyder's convoluted and incomplete plan to eliminate the MBT threatens to raise taxes on business, and he is proposing the creation of bigger government as "systems would be established to measure the success of state programs". What does that mean, exactly? Someone offering to do that for free? No? Didn't think so. And for a guy who is running around saying that we need "action now!" in Lansing, when you look at his plans and listen to his answers on the tough questions, you will find that he has been pretty elusive on details, claiming we need more time to study what all these "best practices" he plans to implement would actually entail. No matter. The facts never matter when you are riding that wave to the top; they only matter when the wave comes crashing down on the shore and you have to actually do something that people probably won't like.

Still, where is all that teabagger outrage over this? Why no protests in the streets, why no threatened defections from the voting ranks? Could it be that all the screaming and whining and foot-dragging was just a big 'ol manufactured ruse to obstruct any and all progress as long as the Democrats were in power? Call it a hunch. You've seen it in Lansing, you're seeing it in DC, and chances are Michigan Republicans will turn their finger of blame on Obama should they take power and "have" to either raise taxes or actually take responsibility for making devastating cuts to services. The starting gun for 2012 goes off the second this election ends, and chances are they are working on the talking points already.

It's never their responsibility to lead. Heavens no. Notice that? And always remember the adage, IOKIYAR. After all, these are the people that can yell their head off about deficits as they simultaneously push to make them even deeper with more tax cuts for the wealthy. The facts don't matter. They have no shame. They have no honor. As some joker in my life suggested, "Watch, Snyder will propose a 2% tax on services eventually, and call it his own grand plan". At this point, I highly doubt that will happen, as I expect the Republicans will continue to stack the deck in favor of the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the middle class, and there is something about the 2% plan that is just too... fair. Can't have that, can we? But you never know.

It sure will be interesting to see how the Republicans will explain away any tax increases that they do offer up though. My bet is they vote them through, and find a way to blame it on the Democrats. Any takers?