[nfbmi-talk] story that goes to doc referenced yesterday
joe harcz Comcast
joeharcz at comcast.net
Tue Dec 14 10:18:24 CST 2010
This article goes to the document I referenced yesterday. Among the issues referenced here include the complete elimination of Michigan’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (MRS). It also includes the complete elimination of MCB top to bottom shut down and that includes all library services too.
It is a doomsday document.
Michigan's legislature faces budget decisions
By Jack Lessenberry, Special to the Windsor Star December 7, 2010
Try to imagine a candidate for the Michigan state legislature making this pitch to the voters a couple of months ago:
"Vote for me and I will raise your income taxes. Well, I'd like to raise them only on the really rich, but the state constitution prevents that, so we'll
have to raise them on everybody.
"Possibly we'll also extend the sales tax to services. But we need to raise taxes, because that's the only way you are going to get anything like the quality
of services you've been used to.
"I am going to fight to raise your taxes, because that's the only way we can continue to support higher education at the levels we need to give Michigan
a chance to compete for the jobs of the future.
"I am going to fight to raise taxes, because our roads and bridges and sewer systems are crumbling. And we need to raise taxes so that our children have
a shot at a quality of life as good as the one we've enjoyed."
Not a single candidate in the state said anything like that, no doubt because they figured it was a surefire recipe for defeat. But on the other hand, I
didn't see anybody campaigning on this theme, either: "Vote for me and I will lower your taxes, or at least vow never to raise them, no matter what. And
here's how I'll do that:
"Vote for me and you'll get far less in the way of government services than you ever imagined. Your schools are going to be worse.
"Some of Michigan's colleges and universities may have to close or be privatized. If you do manage to get into a state college, expect to pay a lot more
in terms of tuition. Financial aid? Forget it.
"For everybody else, there's going to be less in the way of police and fire protection. Your local community is going to give you less, too, in terms of
garbage collection and street repair, maybe even public safety. That's because we are eliminating that revenue sharing our cities have all come to depend
upon. Can't afford it.
"After all, we're looking at a $1.6 billion budget deficit, and to balance the books, we've got to make huge cuts to vital services. By the way, learn to
expect a whole lot less in terms of Medicaid. And if you think foster care and other social services are inadequate now, you ain't seen nothing yet."
Funny, but I didn't see anyone running on that platform either, for much the same reason. Giving even anti-tax voters that strong a dose of reality also
might have led to disaster.
But guess what. The election's been over for a month.
Now, the newly elected legislators, the majority of whom are new at their jobs, are getting ready to come to town.
And they will soon face the stark nature of reality in to-day's Michigan. The new team will arrive to face a huge deficit -- $1.6 billion or more -- in
next year's budget.
They have to balance those books by Sept. 30 or face a government shutdown. The last dime in the state's "rainy day fund" was spent long ago. Any "fat"
in the state budget has been trimmed.
Nor will they have billions in federal stimulus money to throw into the deficit hole, as the legislature did last two years.
So governor-elect Rick Snyder and both houses of the legislature will have to get real, fast. What are their choices?
Put most simply, the two options mentioned above, or some combination of modest revenue increases and cuts.
However, even if the new governor comes out for tax increases of any kind, it is far from certain that he can get his fellow Republicans to go along. Starting
in January, the GOP will have heavy majorities in both houses, and many of their members are thought to be far more conservative than the governor. Some
are Tea Party supporters who have vowed, "no taxes, no matter what."
Something will have to give. There's an anonymous document circulating among the powerful and well-connected in Michigan's capital Lansing.
It outlines billions in potential general fund cuts.
Among its suggestions: Eliminate all state support for the University of Michigan, effectively making it a private school. Get rid of all optional Medicaid
services; privatize at least one Michigan prison; end all revenue sharing to cities, counties, townships and villages; get rid of state police road patrols
and end state disability assistance. Everybody denies any knowledge of who wrote the document. But that isn't what matters.
What does matter is while it is unlikely all of the cuts it suggests will be made, some very painful ones certainly will, unless the new government gets
some new revenue streams.
What is certain is that next year will be, as the old Confucian curse says, "interesting times" in Lansing.
It's also certain state government will continue to exist in Michigan a few years from now. It's just not certain whether we'll be able to recognize it.
Jack Lessenberry teaches journalism at Wayne State University and writes about people and issues in Michigan.
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star
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