Cynical Synapse

Thu, 07 May 2009

Michigan’s Budget Bubble

Filed under: Bailout, Economy, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:15 pm

On Tuesday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm presented her executive order to the legislative appropriations committees. Unless they oppose the order within 10 days, it will slash about $302 million from the state budget. Granholm and the legislature hope the remaing billion dollar deficit will be covered by Federal stimulus money. Excuse me? Use the stimulus money to put people to work, not balance the state budget! Besides, the stimulus is a one-time, special deal. What about next year?

Used to be I was in favor of term limits as a means of limiting the influence of special interest groups and preventing politicians from living off the gravy train. Unfortunately, I think Michigan’s experience has been politicians that don’t get it and a short-term focus. What’s the incentive for long-term solutions since legislators are capped at 2 or 3 (depending on Senate or House) terms? We see that at the Federal level even without term limits: problems and solutions are couched in terms of 2 years (election cycles), whether that model fits or not.

As for Michigan’s budget situation, using stimulus money to “pave it over” simply defers the problem to next fiscal year. The Governor and the legislature have both failed the citizens with this approach. I’d rather have moderate pain over the next few years than minor pain today and severe pain tomorrow. That’s another negative result of term limits—no one has to make the hard choices; they can always be deferred. Except for number 5, which seems to have evaporated, my top 10 cuts seems just as applicable today as it did 1-1/2 years ago. In fact, it seems MDOT has gotten even more out of control with the number of vehicles and equipment they have. The other day I saw 2 MDOT pickup trucks at a job site. I’ll bet the MDOT employees came from the same office; haven’t they heard of the novel concept of car pooling?

The only good news I see out of all of this is the plan (cuts and stimulus money) shouldn’t result in a government shutdown like we saw two years ago. This despite an apparent collaboratvie effort on the current situation. Don’t lose sight, however, of the fact Michigan’s legislature is the second highest paid in the country, second only to California. And, keep focused on the fact the really hard choices have been deferred to next fiscal year. Considering Michigan’s economic situation, that hardly seems prudent. Does anybody really expect next year to be better than this year?

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