Michigan’s legislators and governor are being irresponsible with 2010’s budget. They’re playing “let’s see who blinks first” with a lot of programs, including public safety. Some of the games they’re playing amount to dirty pool. Consider this: the House version of SB 250 cuts $1.1 million from National Guard armory utilities. It also cuts the same amount from Air National Guard bases. On the surface, it may appear to be saving energy. The reality, however, is the likely closing of 10 armories and shuttering of two air bases. The net result: loss of about 675 full-time jobs from the affected communities.
Beyond the immediate economic impact, there is the additional travel time for traditional Guardsmen—the part-time Soldiers and Airmen who usually drill one weekend a month—to get to new armory locations. That’s counter to efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil, seems to me. Never mind the fact none of the armories have excess capacity to house additional units. This could result in degraded unit readiness due to inadequate training space and competing demands for limited resources. Michigan Guardsmen will likely be less ready to serve the state in case of a natural disaster and less ready to fight in the nation’s wars.
Penny-wise and dollar foolish, the Michigan House wants to cut $2.2 million in utility expenses, a move that will impact affected communities by at least $33.8 million in lost salaries. Add to that the money spent in the communities by Guardsmen during weekend drills. In addition, those communities will have another building just sitting there empty.
Not to be outdone by their House colleagues, the Michigan Senate hacked at HB 4447, the school aid bill. Among other things, their actions eviscerated funding for the Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a National Guard run program for disadvantaged kids. From their website:
The MYCA is a no-cost, voluntary residential program for 16-19 year old high school drop-outs and potential drop-outs looking to turn their lives around for the better.
So, let’s see. In addition to cutting 100 State Police officers, local revenue sharing (which local governments use for police and fire), and closing 8 correctional facilities, let’s also cut the cost-effective Youth ChalleNGe program. Michigan’s high school dropout rate is 15%, about 21,000 from the class of 2007. According to the Department of Justice, 88% of high school drop outs without a GED will be incarcerated by age 25. Michigan’s dropouts of 2007 will account for 18,480 prisoners, costing taxpayers upwards of $591.4 million annually.
Conversely, the Michigan Youth Challenge program has an 80% GED pass rate compared to the national average of 40%. According to director John Wemlinger, as many as 90% of the 100 or so cadets in each class earn their GED. Wemlinger added about 98% stay out of trouble with the law after they graduate the Academy. On that basis, ChalleNGe graduates reduce incarceration costs by about $2.8 million for each school year. That savings is more than double what the Senate wants to cut from the budget. Do you think the Senate’s savings of less than $1.3 million makes sense?
I guess the legislature used the same crazy math when they stood by while Gov. Granholm cut 100 State Troopers. Write your state representative and senator. Tell them what you want the second highest paid state legislature to do on these budget issues.