Speaker of the House Andy Dillon's plan to reform state employee health care drew an avalanche of criticism last week, but very few offers of anything better. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry thinks it may be time for our lawmakers to grow up.
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Last week I talked about Speaker of the House Andy Dillon's suggestion that Michigan enact a single, uniform, statewide health plan for all government employees in that state.
What has surprised me since was the reaction, both to the plan and my suggestion that it might be worth thinking about.
Dillon's plan may not be the answer to our prayers, but is worth considering, if only because it is a serious attempt to do something about the state's runaway long-term costs.
For all I know, there may be better ways of organizing state employee health care than Andy Dillon's plan, and I would be happy to consider alternatives. But they haven't been forthcoming.
Instead, the plan has been cautiously supported by some lawmakers, mostly Republicans who want to cut costs, and Democrats like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who themselves have to meet a payroll and worry about balancing a budget.
But spokesmen for the Michigan Education Association have been overwhelmingly and nastily negative in attacking the plan.
That's fine. But have they offered any alternative? Not that I can see.
They want what they want because they want it. They want teachers to get the excellent health care benefits they have always had. I can sympathize with that. I wish everyone had Cadillac benefits and universal unlimited health care.
But the world is not as it was. Michigan is not as rich as it was, in large part due to the shrinking of the auto industry. State government doesn't have as much money coming in. Lansing is looking at vast deficits as far as the eye can see, and by law the budget has to be balanced every year.
The governor and the legislature are going to have a difficult time with that in the next couple years. Difficult, but they probably will be able to balance the books, thanks to remaining money from the federal stimulus package. But in two years, that will be all gone.
What do we do then? Andy Dillon is the only politician who has tried to address at least part of the state's long-term problem. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been essentially negative about the Dillon plan, saying it doesn't do anything to help with the deficit this year.
Well, no, it doesn't. He is thinking about our state's future. We really are heading for the edge of a cliff. Within a couple of years, we could be living in a state that can't afford to fund its universities.
We may be looking at more government shutdowns, unless we do something to revamp the way the state gets and spends money. Dillon's approach may be flawed -- though it looks sensible to me.
But regardless, we need to start thinking long-term. There is an old Doonesbury comic strip that sums it up perfectly.
This came out at a point when the 1960s had been over for some time, though not all the characters had figured that out. Finally, one of them says, "The world needs grownups."
Michigan really needs grownups now, adults willing to plan for our state's long-term future. I don't know about you, but that sounds better to me than driving over a cliff.