Utterly, totally and shamelessly disgraceful. Desperate to get out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, the legislature threw together something Friday night that continues our five-year tradition of avoiding responsibility, borrowing from the future, and putting off solving our problems until tomorrow, when they are sure to be worse.
They looted special funds they weren’t supposed to touch.
They lost money long-term by selling off tobacco settlement proceeds Michigan was supposed to get in the future, and, of course, cut higher education again. When your tuition, or your children’s tuition goes up this fall, thank your legislator.
“They dodged a bullet, and now they face a Gatling gun,” said Craig Ruff of Public Sector Consultants. But Kalamazoo County’s Don Gilmer may have said it best. Gilmer knows a lot about budgets; he was chair of the House Appropriations Committee for years.
He told the Detroit News that all our lawmakers had done was pile more deficit onto next year’s budget. He seemed almost stunned at the stupidity of this so-called solution. “They aren’t going to resolve this thing by further adding to the structural deficit.”
“And it absolutely defies logic that they are disinvesting in higher education at a time when we know that high-tech, knowledge-based jobs are our future.” Gilmer, by the way is not a wild-eyed New Deal spendthrift. He is a Republican and a conservative.
But he knows that you get what you pay for, that two plus two make four, and that chickens come home to roost. Those simple facts were evidently lost on those who approved this budget.
Yet however poorly the legislature performed last week, the most astonishing performance was that of Governor Jennifer Granholm, who after weeks of agonizing over the deficit, was nowhere to be found when the deal to balance the books was complete.
I understand why the governor vanished. What happened must be totally humiliating. What it says to all of us is that she has failed to lead, despite having won re-election by a landslide last fall.
Three months ago, knowing an immense deficit was looming, she timidly proposed, or rather, had her budget director propose, a small sales tax on services. The legislature, even the Democrats, treated that with contempt. Three years ago, her administration issued a report that said Michigan’s future depends on higher education. She enthusiastically agreed -- and has throughout her tenure cut funds for higher ed again and again.
This time, there wasn’t even a peep of protest.
The governor does have a lot of charisma. Nearly as much as another politician born ninety years ago today. His name was John F. Kennedy, and as a senator he won the Pulitzer Prize for a book called Profiles in Courage. We have a lot of politicians in Michigan today obsessed with protecting their profiles.
We desperately need a few with vision, and a little courage,