Naturally, I would never say anything nasty like that. Prusi’s elevation to a leadership role represents both the best and the worst of term limits. What I like is the diversity his choice brings. He is from the most remote part of our state, and has a different background than the law and real estate pedigrees of many of our elected leaders.
He got the Democratic leadership job after six years in the senate and five in the house, which makes him one of the most experienced officeholders in Lansing. But alas, he has virtually no chance to grow on the job, or to try to turn his minority status into that of Senate majority leader in two years.
That’s because, thanks to term limits, he will be gone forever after next year’s election. In the meantime, he has to rally his little band of sixteen senators to do what they can.
Trouble is, they can’t do very much. Undoubtedly, every one of those senators, plus their Republican colleagues, have things they would like to get accomplished. There are projects they would like to see passed to benefit their constituents.
Many would like to see a comprehensive state health care plan, as Governor Jennifer Granholm promised a couple years ago. But there isn’t any money for any of that. There isn’t enough money to do the things they are doing now. This year, nobody is talking about raising taxes. Some lawmakers are hoping for a sudden windfall in the form of a big stimulus check from new President Barack Obama. But the smart ones aren’t holding their breath.
No - it is all about budget cuts. The question is, what to cut and where? Some tend to think we should try to protect education, especially higher education, at all costs.
Our state’s young adults are less educated than the national average, and we are moving into a century when Michigan will need an ever-more-highly educated work force, if we are to have any chance at attracting the jobs of the future.
Everyone knows this, and, incredibly, there is still a great temptation to cut higher education.
Everybody also knows that we spend more on prisons, and keep more people locked up, that any of our surrounding states.
There are cost savings that could be had here, such as releasing non-violent prisoners and putting them on tethers. But too many lawmakers fear seeming soft on crime.
But now we face a financial crisis of a scope not seen since the Great Depression. The fact is that unless the parties cooperate, Democrats are essentially irrelevant in the state senate; Republicans even more so in the house. And if they don’t learn to work together this year in a constructive way, they may well doom the state of Michigan to political irrelevance and financial disaster, as well.