We seem to be in free fall. That’s what occurs to me when I look at preliminary projections for how much money the state is going to have this year to do the things that need doing.
We have a problem, and we need to think about it and figure it out together. Notice I have not used the words “budget” or “fiscal” or “revenue estimates.” Terms like those are designed to make the mind wander back to thinking about how long Lindsay Lohan is likely to be in rehab. Michigan’s economy itself needs to be in rehab, and we need to get it there. First, however, we need to figure out how to get what we need to pay the bills this year.
You can make the argument that we need to cut expenses. Well, the state has been doing that pretty intently for the last four years. When your household money is tight, you don‘t make frivolous purchases. However, you don’t decide that to save money, you aren’t going to feed the baby for a year.
Michigan has been in trouble before, in large part because of the cyclical nature of the auto industry.
But it is different now. The tide has gone way down. The state will still be affected by the ebb and flow of auto sales. But high tide will be far less high, and lots of us will still be high and dry.
But beyond that, the state is in its current state because of largely self-inflicted wounds. The non-profit, non-partisan, highly respected Citizens Research Council of Michigan, says that in the last few years: “The state reduced tax rates, failed to offset negative effects on state revenues created by federal tax changes, and cut other state taxes by excluding previously taxed items.” Politicians did those things because they knew they would be politically popular.
Yes, they knew a storm was brewing. But they didn’t want to take responsibility for the hard work of getting ready for it.
Term limits meant the politicians making those choices would be gone anyway. Well, we are still here. What happens now? We have a choice. We find a way to pay for what we need, or we can ruin the schools, turn convicts loose, and starve the state to the point of not being competitive. The governor needs to do something like a fireside chat. Nobody watches the state of the state speech except for journalists and policy wonks who can’t get a date.
Jennifer Granholm needs to appear on camera and simply explain how she proposes to solve this crisis.
And we need to watch. This is our state. We can’t all move to North Carolina, and those of us still here need t make the best of it.
Detroit‘s got a pretty good motto. Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus." We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.
Maybe the state of Michigan could borrow it for a while.