Jun 28, 2007

Bishop’s treachery reads like a bad Tom Clancy novel

It has been tough getting my head around the fast-changing budget situation in the Michigan Legislature, especially because it reads like a Tom Clancy novel. The twists and turns and double crosses come fact and furious. Veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry summed up the political games being played pretty well yesterday in his online column.

”But this also tells us that the top priority of our legislators, especially the Republicans, is not our best interests. It is not our children’s future. It is their narrow, selfish political agenda. Which in the case of Mike Bishop, apparently means running for governor.”

This is a story that has a top-secret plan, blackmail, leaking private correspondence and now we have a hostage crisis with a list of demands. The sad part is that the book is still being written, and if Bishop has his way it will have an unhappy ending for Michigan residents and will cause some grave damage to the state.

We have already seen the sharp contrast in the work ethic between the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House, and we saw a perfect example of it earlier in the year when the Senate took a two-week vacation and the House stayed on to address the crisis facing our state. There was some good news today, despite the attempt at sabotage by Bishop, and a deal was finally reached on replacing the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) today. The House was in session tonight until 9:10 p.m. to get it done when it should have been done weeks ago only because Bishop was again reneging on deals and dragging his feet. Apparently the Senate was already on the two-week vacation it had to have.

Just two days ago Gov. Granholm sent a confidential letter to Bishop and other Legislative leaders on Tuesday reminding them about their agreement to
pass a comprehensive budget solution. It also asked them to cancel their two-week summer vacation plans to pass this so school boards and local governments who run their fiscal years on a July 1 to June 30 cycle can properly plan. Bishop, the Newt Gingrich of state government, said he was going on vacation anyway, holding the state government hastate.

Bishop has advocated a part-time legislature and apparently he’s doing it on his own authority. He apparently forgot about the part-time salary part.

After Bishop leaked the confidential letter, in retaliation for asking them to give up their junkets, the Senate proposed a bunch of meaningless” reforms” that do nothing to save any money, but it does go after the Republican’s biggest enemies: public school teachers, unions and the working poor. It even pushed a bill trying to further kill the middle class by trying to make Michigan a so-called “right-to-work state.”

This morning Bishop released a list of outrageous demands that the governor must meet before he will release the hostage, the state government, and this was after meeting previous Bishop demands to cut spending and reform government. After reneging on an agreement in private to raise the state income tax and expand the state sales tax, Bishop released this list of demands with absurd statements like, “State government does not have a taxing problem, it has a spending problem. Higher taxation without significant reform will only result in more bloated state government and a weakened economy.”

He can't possibly mean the state government that has fewer employees now than it did in 1973 despite having more than a million more residents. Back in February the 12-person, bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel - made up of two former governors and state budget directors, legislative leaders and longtime Lansing policy experts from both political parties - issued a common sense report that said a combination of cuts in spending and creating a modern tax structure is the only way to address the budget problems. Apparently Bishop knows better than both a Democratic and Republican former governor.

The really sad part of the demand is this statement; “Senate Republicans have no intention of obliging the governor with a vote on her tax increase proposals.” We’re not even talking about approving them he’s even obstructing a vote. An early tax proposal would have cost the average taxpayer about $1.33 a week, or a cup of coffee, but Republicans were too cheap to invest that much in our state. We are not going to cut our way out of this situation, and why would we want to?

The opening chapter of “Bishop checkmates the Michigan government” began way back in January when the governor introduced an Executive Order outlining some painful cuts in spending to balance the shortfall in the current year’s budget. The governor was the target of criticism from everybody from PTA moms to senior citizens for the necessary cuts she had proposed that met Senate Republican demands. In Funerary, the Senate Republicans rejected the budget plan without one of their own, just like they did with the Singe Business Tax.

When the GOP finally came up with a plan it was so secret that only GOP members of the Appropriations Committee were allowed to see the full proposal and were told not to write any of it down to keep it as confidential as possible to avoid any criticism over the gutless and mean-sprinted cuts they had planned. After a month of the tightest security since the Manhattan Project, the Senate Republicans launched a sneak attack by exploding the secret plan on a 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.

As Bishop’s doublespeak and double-crosses continued into the summer, we even had Republicans accusing Democrats of blackmail for simply pointing out the damage their cuts will have.

That brings us up to the latest ploy that included bad faith negotiations and releasing a confidential letter when just a few months ago when no one could get near his top-secret budget plan that was apparently a mater of national security. It’s just one more political game aimed at destroying the governor and winning the office for himself. The only problem is the damage he will cause to the state in the process.


Pohlitics said...

Nice summary.

Communications guru said...

Thanks. Missed you at the blogger picnic.