Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Privatize the Mackinac Bridge? Snyder Says It's "On the Table"

Selling off our state's assets so we can give big business more tax cuts? It's all on the table. There is a reason why Rick Snyder won't tell you how he will balance the budget - you probably wouldn't vote for him if you knew the truth.

Seems Mr. Snyder is already counting this election in the bag, and has summoned up the usual Lansing suspects to fill him in on how this budget stuff all works. And since he refuses to raise revenue - it just might be time to have a big 'ol Michigan sale. First, we take care of those pesky state employees...

In the discussion about reducing the deficit the idea of cutting the benefits of state workers was on the table. The head of the Senate budget office says that needs to be debated.

"We have high levels, relatively, high levels of government compensation that I and many others have benefited from, but is that sustainable under the economic realities of the state?" said Gary Olson, Senate Fiscal Agency.

Another item on the table was privatization of the lottery, the Mackinac Bridge and the freeway system. In the roundtable session Snyder did not tip his hand on what he would do, but it was clear to participants that he did not want to raise taxes. So that means, if elected, he will propose a budget with $1.6 billion in cuts or 20% of the overall state budget. Mr. Olson concedes drafting such a plan is the easy part.

Hat tip to Skubick for breaking this story at WLNS, and he repeats it again today on his blog.

The answer is you could find the buyers, but the ultimate question is, would you want to unload these historical assets in order to make a quick buck?

The chief bean counter for the Michigan Senate suggests leaving the "For Sale" sign in the garage until more data is available. Gary Olson reports other states have gone this route. Indiana recently auctioned off its freeway system. Olson says it may be a "one time" money maker but long term, the state could actually lose revenue.

The tolls have doubled in Indiana in the past few years. Literally twice as much now to travel on through to Chicago since they sold them off. Privatization of services is just another example of a back-door tax increase - you will pay, and most of the time you end up paying more than you would have had they simply just raised taxes. The asset is then lost to the state. The Michigan lottery brings in over $700 million to the schools, how would you replace that funding in the future?

And weren't we done with these "one-time" solutions for budget problems? Must be OKIYAR.