Friday, September 28, 2007

Michigan Government Shutdown Countdown

It looks like we are on track for a state government shutdown at midnight Sunday evening. The governor went on TV last night to announce that all "essential" government services will continue. The question arises - then what isn't essential? Can we do without the non-essential "services?"

The legislature continues to debate a tax increase. Do you want an 18% income tax increase from 3.9% to 4.6%? Do you think that will help our state's economy? Do you think that serious government reforms should be part of the deal? Be sure to call your state senator and state rep today to let them know. They are set to reconvene at 1pm to continue the debate. This point in time is critical. We can either have long-term systemic government and budget reform, or just another fleece of the taxpayers.

Local Representatives and their contact information:
72nd District - Glenn Steil Jr., 517-373-0840,
73rd District, Tom Pearce, 517-373-0218,
75th District, Robert Dean, 517-373-2668,
76th District, Sak Michael, 517-373-0822,
77th District, Kevin Green, 517-373-2277,
86th District, Dave Hildenbrand, 517-373-0846,
Not sure who your Representative is? Go Here.

Local Senators and their contact information:
28th District - Mark Jansen - (517) 373-0797
29th District - Bill Hardiman - (517) 373-1801
30th District - Wayne Kuipers - (517) 373-6920
Not sure who your Senator is? Go Here.

The question always comes up. What could be cut so that taxes don't have to be increased? Here is the list of $1.9 billion in potential cuts.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Budget Boondoggle

For those that still think that the state government has "cut to the bone" with no more that can possibly be cut, and that our income tax should be raised from 3.9% to 4.6% (as the Governor is pushing for), check out the below news clip from WXYZ in Detroit.

The short introduction is this: Governor Granholm is having a new State Police headquarters built to replace the one that the state currently leases from MSU for $1 a year. The price tag? $116 million - $42 million more than it would cost the state to build itself. And who is the contract going to for the construction? A friend and campaign contributor of the Governor's. The legislature has the power to stop it, but they haven't. The video is entertaining to watch - especially as the Governor tries to squirm away from the reporter's questions.

Video Part 1
Video Part 2
Video Part 3

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Term Limits: Leave Them Alone

Last week saw a Grand Rapids Press article on legislators debating the extenion of the current state term limits. Members of the state House are limited to three terms of two years and members of the state Senate are limited to two four year terms. A proposal, which may appear on the ballot in January for the newly-moved primary, would extend those term limits to 12 years for Representatives, but not effect the limits on Senators.

Some folks have even blamed the "inexperience" of legislators, due to terms limits, on the current budget morass. They say that lobbyists are running Lansing and that our legislators somehow don't know what they're doing.

Don't buy it. A study by the Cato institute has shown that there are numerous benefits to term limits:

  • Term limits remain popular with state electorates long after their introduction.

  • Term limits stimulate electoral competition in state legislative elections.
  • Term limits enable nontraditional candidates to run for seats in state legislatures. Female, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American candidates find it easier to enter term-limited legislatures than non-term-limited bodies. The record is more mixed for African Americans.

  • Term limits weaken seniority systems in state legislatures.

  • Term limits tend to weaken the leadership of a state legislature.

  • Term limits have not strengthened interest groups, state bureaucracies, or legislative staffs as predicted by critics of term limits.

  • Some evidence suggests that term limits foster public policies compatible with limited government.

There's even evidence that term limits lead to lower taxes in the long run. In other words, term limits foster a citizen-run government, not a government run by the political class. We need to protect that at all cost. The so-called arguments against term limits don't hold water.

The current budget problem is a sign of the health of term limits and a citizen legislature. The very fact that the legislature and governor are fighting so long over the issue is good for the state. It forces a very sincere debate on some very important issues. Instead of focusing on quick fixes and budgetary gimmicks, they are finally looking at real, long-term, systemic changes to make sure that our state operates effectively and efficiently in the future.

Long live term limits!

Friday, September 7, 2007

State Budget Meltdown - Enjoying the Spectacle

Both the Detroit News and the Grand Rapids Press have articles today about the apparent near-meltdown occuring in Lansing over the state government's budget. Apparently, late last night, the State House was flooded by all members of the State Senate, along with the Governor, in an effort to get the members of the House to agree to an increase of the state income tax from 3.9% to 4.4% (a 13% tax increase), as well as an increase in the state sales tax from 6% to 7% (a 17% tax increase). Ultimately the effort failed. According to the Grand Rapids Press, "...Democrats are paralyzed by 'political fear that if they stick their necks out, there will be voter retribution.'"

This is outstanding news. In case you're not aware, a taxpayer advocacy organization called the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance has been threatening to mount recall campaigns against legislators who vote in favor of any tax increase. Leon Drolet, the former State Representative who is leading the campaign, has been much-maligned over his efforts, but we applaud him and his organization. In fact, he is teaming up with the local taxpayer advocacy group Kent County Families for Fiscal Responsibility, who helped to defeat the GRCC millage last month. KCFFR filed the preliminary campaign reporting statements yesterday to begin the effort to recall Senators Bill Hardiman and Mark Jansen, as well as Representatives Robert Dean, Kevin Green, and Dave Hildenbrand, if those individuals decide to for in favor of a tax increase, according to the KCFFR web site.

People are talking about a possible government shutdown in October if the budget battle isn't resolved by that time. We can only hope for such a pleasant October surprise. The more gridlock in Lansing, the better off our state is. There are plenty more cuts that can be made, and it is our hope that those cuts see the light of day before job-killing tax increases are considered. Stay tuned for more Lansing fireworks.