Cynical Synapse

Tue, 12 May 2009

Legislature Needs to Share the Pain

Filed under: Behavior, Economy, Life, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 9:07 pm

During budget crises, politicians like to cut police and fire as a form of blackmail. They do this either to impress the uninformed citizenry of the seriousness of the problem or as a means to coerce the citizens’ representatives to cough up more money or cut their “sacred cow” programs. Either way, it’s a political move, just like Gov. Granholm’s pruning 100 State Troopers in her executive order. The 10% reduction in troopers on the road will save $1.7 million in payroll and another $3 million in “at post” costs. In any case, the savings takes 2 years to offset the $8 million cost of the last trooper school.

Beyond the actual costs, there are the intangible costs. How dedicated to your job would you be if, 6 months after hiring, your position was put on the chopping block? What’s your morale, knowing the state is facing huge deficits with the next fiscal year? Is it irrational to think members of the 120th (2004) and 121st (2008) trooper schools will be looking for more secure positions elsewhere? What’s the morale in the rest of the State Police when they absorb one-third of state layoffs? Nevermind that Gov. Granholm shook the hands of each of the 83 new Troopers at the 121st Trooper School graduation.

State Employee Appreciation Week

In a visit to, I discovered May 4-8 was State Employee Appreciation Week. In her message thanking state employees, Gov. Granholm said she has a difficult message to deliver to the appropriations committees. Employees had to wait to read the executive order to find they’re losing 6 days’ pay and 300—including the 100 State Troopers—will be laid off. That’s gotta sit about as well as cutting small-budget services and announcing ad campaigns. Is the timing bad or is the Administration just callous?

When looking at total employees, MSP’s share of layoffs is 3.8% compared with 0.4% for other departments, based on state employee head counts. That hardly seems fair. In fact, it’s clear political grandstanding. Actually, I’ve got some better ideas that dont’ require any state worker layoffs.

  1. State Senate and House need to immediately implement the 10% salary cut they deferred until 2011. This alone nearly offsets the $1.7 million annual savings of laying off 100 Troopers.
  2. Eliminate the $12,000 annual “per diem” payment Michigan legislators enjoy on top of their salaries. Total savings: $1,766,000 annually.
  3. Cut legislative staffs and expenses by 10%. Total savings: $8.3 million

If our state legislature shared in the pain, the savings could be $11,285,946. This includes the 10% cut and elimination of the legislature’s $12,000 annual per diem. In total, this exceeds, by nearly 3 times, the “at post” Trooper cost of $4.3 million in Granholm’s executive order. Let your State Representative and State Senator know how you feel about this. There’s no legitimate reason public safety should be held ransom over a mere $300 million or so.

There are other budget-saving ideas I have that are probably not very popular. Let me touch on a few, however. I spend 12 or more hours a week on the road. On occasion, I’ll see a State car with a couple people in it, but usually they’re single occupants. How much would the State save by eliminating the entire fleet? And then there’s MDOT. They’ve got yards with new vehicles yet to be put into service. As for those on the road, my commute takes me through several construction zones. This week alone, I’ve been through three zones, each with two MDOT pickup trucks. Couldn’t those guys ride together? And what value are they adding, since all 6 trucks had someone sitting in them?

Nonetheless, I come back to the fact Michigan’s state legislature is the second highest paid in the country, next to California—a state also in dire economic straits. So I wonder, with their bloated staffs and top pay and benefits, why don’t Michigan’s legislators act more like it’s about the people than it’s about me?

UPDATE—Sat, 16 May 2009

Here’s the message I sent to my State Representative and Senator using the contact forms on their websites:

I urge you and the entire State legislature to return 10% of your pay to the State Treasury as Gov. Granholm does. It’s the least you can do when asking state employees to give up 6 days’ pay while also laying 300 of them off, including 100 State Troopers. The savings would offset the $1.7 million dollars needed to keep the Troopers on the payroll.

I also request you and the entire state legislature forego your $12,000 annual per diem. This move equals an additional savings of $1.7 million annually. Between the pay cut and eliminating per diem, the savings exceed the $3 million “at post” cost of the 100 Troopers.

By taking these steps, you and the legislature can demonstrate solidarity with state employees, concern for the safety of your constituents, and avoid the fiscally irresponsible move of squandering the $8 million spent to run the Trooper School that graduated only 6 months ago. The disparate cuts to the State Police is nothing more than obvious political grandstanding at the expense of the citizens’ welfare.

Although 100 layoffs is small in Michigan’s current economic crisis, every incremental increase just further cripples the state. Another $8.3 million could be realized from you and every state legislator cutting their staffs and office expenses by 10%. With these savings, all of the 300 state employees to be laid off could keep their jobs. We need to save as many jobs as possible.

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