Friday, May 20, 2011

Please, guvnor, I want some more...

It infuriates me when media outlets refer to Rick Snyder’s budget hijinks as “reform” and cast his blatant money grab as an effort to restore integrity to a structurally flawed budget process. Even Michigan Public Radio used “reform” in one story to describe an element of his evil plan.

Let me be clear: Rick Snyder and his Republican cronies are robbing from the poor to give to the rich. This is not responsible realignment; this is burglary and class warfare.

The results of budget negotiations were announced yesterday. Although some things ended up a tad bit better than the more cynical among us anticipated, I’m not dancing in my dining room or retracting any of the harsh things I’ve said about the Turd Nerd yet.

According to Nathan Triplett, an East Lansing City Councilmember who spent years working as a legislative aide in the state House of Representatives and is paying close attention, the latest budget agreement includes a restoration of $310 million in funding for K-12 schools: $150 million on a per-pupil basis to districts that use "best practices" and $160 million for retirement costs. The per-pupil reduction to schools in Fiscal Year 2012 will now be less than $100.

Final budget targets will also include an additional $30 million for local units of government. Substantial reductions remain but, as Triplett said, it’s nice to see some recognition that we can’t cut our way to prosperity.

Triplett pointed out how ridiculous it is for Republicans to claim credit for giving “extra” money to K-12 education when they were the ones who slashed funding in the first place. Lucky the electorate doesn’t pay attention, huh, guys?

I guess we’re supposed to be like Oliver Twist, grateful to the master for giving us a little more gruel even as he cuts our portions and increases his own.

Other budget developments:

  • Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) wanted to penalize universities that offer health insurance coverage for employees who live with other adults outside of marriage by subtracting five percent of state funding going to those universities but his proposal didn’t remain in the agreement. (This is the kind of odious garbage that passes for reasonable public policy these days.)

  • Legislators agreed to reduce concessions being sought from state employees to $145 million from $180 million.

  • Michigan will add $255 million to the state's rainy-day fund.

  • Lawmakers added $50 million to the Michigan Strategic Fund for economic development, brownfield redevelopment and historic preservation.

Last week, at Snyder's bidding, legislators passed a broad tax restructuring plan that introduced a flat, six percent corporate tax in place of a state business tax.  Get this: the new tax only applies to "C" corporations that issue private or public stock. Most businesses, including limited liability companies, partnerships and sole proprietorships, will no longer pay business taxes.

To pay for that gift to his business overlords, Snyder is taxing pensions, eliminating a bunch of tax credits and raising the state income tax.

I was fired up about the Recall Snyder movement that’s gathering steam in pockets of the state until a wise friend pointed out that 1) cash-strapped municipalities have to shoulder the costs of a recall election; the state doesn’t contribute a penny, and 2) Snyder’s lieutenant, Brian Calley, would sit in the governor’s chair until a new election took place and Calley leans farther to the right than Snyder. That wouldn’t be good. Perhaps focusing our ire and energy on legislative districts is more pragmatic since the GOP has a lock on both chambers in Lansing.

As Anita and I were heading out this morning, we caught Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), the Senate Minority Leader, saying something on the radio about how Snyder defended his decision to pay his budget director, John Nixon, a quarter of a million dollars per year by saying, “You get what you pay for.” Whitmer pointed out that the same axiom applies to our support of education.

It's Rick Snyder and his chums who are getting what we're paying for.  We ought to remember these budget negotiations and keep in mind which politicians are pretending not to hear us when we beg for more.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Detroit News.


  1. Great post! I agree with every word, and it is infecting every state in the country. As I watch the uprisings in other countries I wonder what it will take to get Americans to do the same.