I wonder if anybody noticed that the governor’s Emergency Advisory Panel was to present its report on Groundhog Day?
If I weren’t such a responsible adult, I might ask something like… if the report casts a shadow, does that mean we are in for six more years of budget deficits? But I won’t do that.
What I will ask, and I what I think we all should ask, is whether our lawmakers are ready to be responsible adults. Are they ready to stop the finger-pointing blame games?
Are they ready to sit down and discuss openly and honestly and intelligently what services the state should provide its citizens?
Will they be ready to give us an honest estimate of what that will cost, and figure out how to pay for it?
If that last part takes too much courage, they could give the voters alternatives and let us decide. The governor and the legislature could say: Look. To provide reasonable services, like fixing the roads and maintaining the quality of our world-class universities, the state needs this much extra money a year.
So, our lawmakers could say, we are having a special election April 3, and offering you a choice. Either raise the state income tax to X, or extend the state sales tax to cover Y and Z.
That, by the way, is what happened in 1994, when the voters enacted Proposal A to dramatically change public school financing.
There may be other alternatives. But it would help if all parties -- Republicans and Democrats, governors and legislators and lobbyists -- admit they have been fiscally irresponsible.
Our current crop of lawmakers may not have been able to anticipate how bad things were going to be for the auto industry, which has a direct effect on state revenues.
But they knew a crisis was coming. For many years, everyone in Lansing knew the model for how the state gets its money was structurally flawed. It was virtually guaranteed to supply less money than needed for the things the state had committed to do.
Yet nobody was willing to suggest a way to fix it, because all sorts of irresponsible little demagogues would start bleating, “They want to raise taxes! They want to raise taxes!”
And to compound the problem, the state abolished the Single Business Tax last fall without any plan to replace it. That was a completely irresponsible dereliction of duty.
The silver lining in this mess is that now that they have our attention, the lawmakers have a golden opportunity to fix this.
They need to do so, to attract the kind of jobs Michigan needs. High-tech employers won’t come to a place where they have to worry about whether the science teacher is going to be laid off in March.
Every governor since Bill Milliken has inherited a mess. If Jennifer Granholm wants to leave a legacy, it should be to leave a state four years from now whose finances are in good working order.