Mar 24, 2007
Many of us are reeling on this damp but warm Saturday trying to digest the Senate Republicans dirty and irresponsible sneak attack on Michigan residents with the passing of Senate Bill 220 in the dead of night on Thursday.
I have to agree with Dohn Hoyle, executive director of the Arc Michigan, a Lansing-based group that supports programs for the developmentally disabled, quoted in a Associated Press story today: "It's mean-spirited and gutless,” he said. I agree.
After keeping this plan secret for a month to avoid such criticisms and to keep their sneak attack under wraps using such extraordinary measures as refusing to allow Senate Republican and staffers even to write it down, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sprang it on the public Thursday evening when most people had already left Lansing. The 38-page document was rushed through committee and then right to the Senate floor to be passed an hour later with no one even having the time to read it let alone understand the ramifications of the irresponsible cuts.
Generally when a bill is introduced, the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency and the Legislative Service Bureau do an analysis of the bill that includes such things as the pros and cons, the fiscal impact and who supports the bill and who opposes it. The SFA then does another analysis of the bill after it leaves committee. Of course, none of that happened. The Senate GOP played a shell game and introduced a blank, shell bill on Feb. 21, and then it filled in the blanks an hour before the bill was passed.
This happened around 8 p.m. Thursday night, and the damage this bill will do to the state is still unclear because there are only a few news stories out there while people figure out how badly it will hurt and who it will hurt. Since this is for the budget we are currently in, the Senate Republicans know there is little time to change things, and many government agencies and school boards are just happy to know how much they will have to cut, how many people they will have to fire and how many schools they will have to close.
Those hardest hit, of course, are the most vulnerable of our citizens; the poor, the elderly and the sick, Perhaps Bishop is gambling they don’t vote, hold much power or give campaign contributions.
Bishop said the cuts are "painful" but argued that the GOP plan would adequately fund public safety, education and health care and help turn around Michigan.
"Once you get used to a certain level of government, it's hard to trim it back," Bishop said. "But we also know that we have an obligation to the state, to the citizens that we represent, to downsize government."
Maybe he hasn’t lived in the state very long or paid much attention to history. Government in Michigan has been downsized to the point we are hurting out chances of coming out of his economic mess. If we refuse to invest in our own state why would a business or company want to invest in Michigan?
Taxes have been cut 30 times since 1993, and we are more than competitive with other states in base tax rates. We have less state employees now than we had in 1973 despite having 2 million more people. Under former Republican Gov. Bill Milliken we had 52,673 state employees. In 2000 under former Republican Gov. John Engler there were 61,493 state employees. In 2006 there were only 52,255 employees.
Revenue sharing to local governments - the communities we live in – were stiffed by $40 million. This is money already budgeted because the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and this will leave them little time to adjust their spending to reflect the lost dollars. Livingston County will see a loss of $402,000, and the City of Howell will see a loss of more than $37,000.
"It's a failure of the Legislature to step up to plate and really correct a problem they have failed to fix," said Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett. "They're cutting our money that rightfully belongs to us."
Barnett said the cuts would affect communities differently, with some possibly having to lay off police officers and firefighters.
So much for Bishop’s ridiculous claim that his Top Secret plan would adequately fund public safety. In fact, since September 11, 2001 when all we can talk about is being safe, protecting our borders and keeping us safe from terrorists we have 1,600 less police officers on the street because of the 15 straight years of tax cuts. We can certainly add to that number.
If we win this race to the bottom we lose, and there will be nothing to attract and retain business to Michigan. There is no way we can have less taxes, lower wages and less services than the Philippines, Mexico or China. Hell, why would we want to?