Here’s something I strongly recommend you do today. Contact your state representative and your state senator and tell them you want them to fix this budget mess, pronto, right now. If you have strong opinions about how it should be fixed, tell them that, too.
Tell them if they don’t get to work and balance the budget in some sort of rational, honest and transparent way, you will vote against them and their party if they ever run for anything ever again. That might get their attention.
The fact is that we – the taxpayers - pay each of our 148 lawmakers a salary of at least $79,500 a year, plus a lot more for office space, staff and benefits. They have a pretty good deal.
The very least they can do is their basic job, which is to figure out how to pay for what state government needs, and parcel out the money to do so. If there isn’t enough money, they need to openly admit it, and decide what to do next. That doesn’t take special genius.
It does take a willingness to get serious. The way in which our legislature allegedly “balanced” the budget last year should have been enough to get them all recalled. They stole from higher education and kicked most of the deficit problem over to this year’s budget.
Worst of all, they sold off future money Michigan was to receive as part of the court settlement against the tobacco companies. The deal they arranged was so bad we lost more than fifty cents of every dollar we should have gotten.
Now, it is time to be grownups. Essentially there are only two choices. We can raise taxes, or you can cut programs.
My personal opinion is that we should have a tax increase. That’s not because I want to pay more taxes. I want a state that provides decent roads and schools and competitive universities.
If you don’t want that, fine, but admit it. We can’t go on having things without being willing to pay for them, which is what we’ve been trying to do for the last ten years. We’ve kept cutting taxes without cutting services. Imagine taking a pay cut and still spending as much as ever. That’s pretty much what those governing our state have done.
Whatever we do, we better do it quickly.
I don’t know how Michigan can hope to attract new residents or businesses until they know what services to expect and what taxes we will to have to pay. Many of our lawmakers seem to think their fingers will fall off if they vote to raise taxes. In reality, nobody is proposing a real income tax increase. Just a restoration of some of the irresponsible tax cuts our pandering politicians made.
What I do know is that squeaky wheels get greased, and politicians pay attention if they think their voters are mad. So go ahead and give our elected leaders a little old-fashioned tough love.