Jan 22, 2007
Republicans still refuse to pay their fair share and invest in Michigan
Why do Republicans want a free ride, and why do they not want to pay for anything? I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody told me the Republican Party stood for offering a hand up not a hand out. But when it comes time for them to pay their fair share to help make this country the great nation and state it is their hands are firmly jammed in their pockets, and they refuse to invest a dime in our state and nation.
I have read so much on the pending $3 billon budget shortfall facing Michigan that I was reluctant throw in my 2 cents worth. But I’m currently in the middle of reading Dave Dempsey’s excellent biography of former Gov. William G. Milliken called “Michigan's Passionate Moderate,” and it seems we needs the leadership of this passionate man again. It seems moderate Republicans are still battling the conservative wing of the Republican Party today just like Milliken was when he was first elected to the Senate in 1961. After more than 40 years, conservatives apparently still want us to stay in the “nifty ‘50s.” Was there ever a time when Republicans were not about me, me, me?
Taxes are an investment in our community, and it seems like a small price to pay for living here. For us here in Livingston County, we utilize that wise taxpayer investment every morning when we get in our car and get on U.S. 23 and I-96 to drive to points north and south and east and west to get to our jobs. If, God forbid, we should have an accident on the way the police and fire will respond that are paid for by out tax investment. If we are injured the ambulance that takes us to the hospital is paid for by our tax investment. On the weekends the parks we play in are paid for and maintained by our tax investment. This tax investment touches our lives every single day, yet some of us don’t want to pay our fair share.
Michigan taxes have been cut for years in both good and bad times. There are less state government employees now than in 1973, and our population has increased by almost two million people over the past 30 years. State revenue has steadily declined since 1999. That has to stop.
At the same time that Michigan was cutting taxes, severe contractions in the state’s manufacturing base have led to both massive layoffs and reductions in industries and businesses that depend on manufacturing workers for revenue. As people lose their jobs, they pay less income tax and spend less – decreasing the state’s tax revenue. These people also often turn to the state for help in ensuring they have health care and food for themselves and their families. This combination of tax cuts and jobs loss has resulted is historically low levels of state revenue.
Gov. Granholm is attracting new companies to Michigan that will help diversify our economy instead of relying strictly on the automotive industry. Responsible companies are attracted to an area not because of low taxes, but because of good quality of life, such as good schools, good roads, low crime and cultural opportunities. We cannot cut our way out of this slow economy. Taxes are lower than they were during the booming 1990s and, Michigan’s tax burden is below the national average.
A couple of studies were commissioned last summer that proved that, including one from the former Speaker of the House. In August the respected W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research concluded that “a weak auto industry - not high taxes - are at the heart of Michigan's struggling economy, and that “Michigan has lagged behind the rest of the nation since 2000 almost entirely because of the decline of Michigan's automakers.”
The Governor has cut more from the state budget than any other Michigan governor in history. She has already cut more than $3 billion in state government spending to resolve more than $4 billion in overall budget deficits. Today, Michigan’s budget faces another shortfall of more than $3 billion.
She has called on some of the best and brightest in the state to help find some solutions to the structural problems, including respected and knowledgeable Republicans, but she’s being hammered by some misguided newspaper editorial boards for exercising leadership and bipartisanship.
The Governor’s bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel, led by Milliken and former Democratic Governor James J. Blanchard, will review the state's current financial crisis and offer recommendations on how best to avoid similar crises in the years ahead. Former Gov. John Engler would have been on the panel, but he chose to cut and run from the state’s problems when Gov. Granholm was elected in 2002. However, we do have the next best thing in Don Gilmer, Engler’s State Budget Director, and Doug Roberts, former state treasurer under Engler, on the panel.
The panel also includes some other respected Republicans, such as Paul Hillegonds, senior vice president of DTE Energy and a former Republican member of the state House of Representatives from 1979 to 1996, including a stint as the Speaker; Dan DeGrow, superintendent of St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency and former Republican state Senate majority leader; and John "Joe" Schwarz, former state Senator, chair of the state Senate Appropriations Committee and former U.S. Congressman.
The Governor understands that resolving these budget problems
is crucial in determining how we can grow and transform our economy. She has made tough choices to cut more than any governor before her, and she’ll make those tough choices again. However, there is little left to cut.
These are some of the things we can cut: Cut all funding for the state’s universities and community colleges and eliminate all mental health services to save $3 billion. Eliminate all health care programs for seniors, children and the poor, and we can release all 51,000 prisoners locked up in Michigan’s prisons. We can eliminate funding for local police and fire protection, end all public assistance programs including daycare and disability assistance, end worker training programs, close the state police, the courts and all Secretary of State offices, end environmental protection and land management programs, eliminate food safety monitoring, gas inspections and all arts and cultural programs to save almost $3 billion.
I would rather not. I would rather pay a little more to live here than live in a backward state.