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Chuck Moss

Chuck Moss

Budget Orphan

May 18, 2018

Imagine there’s a bag full of gold and jewels sitting by the side of the road. It’s free to most anyone. But everybody just runs past without a glance, including people who could really use the swag. The bag full of gold is Rick Snyder’s budgetary and fiscal turnaround. The guys running by are Bill Schuette and Brian Calley. Neither one wants to pick up Governor Snyder’s great signal achievement as an issue. Why? You tell me.

I’ve heard speeches and gotten adverts from both major GOP Gov contenders (sorry, Senator Colbeck and the other guy.) Neither the LG nor the AG are piping a peep about the budget reforms. That’s puzzling.  Okay, neither one can really take credit. Lieutenant Governor Calley is running with Snyder’s blessing as his successor, sure. But Calley had nothing to do with the budget stuff, that wasn’t in his portfolio—or areas of responsibility. Governor Nerd, the accountant and businessman, kept finance strictly under his purview. The Attorney General had no input into budget matters, for sure.  But that wouldn’t stop an enterprising politico from adopting the issue and championing it.

Believe me, fixing Michigan’s finances and budget was a yuge undertaking. Under that feckless mountebank, former Governor Jennifer Mulhern Granholm’s administration, Michigan was spinning into the ranks of the pre-bankrupt. Of her four second-term fiscal years, she missed the Constitutional deadline twice and went into shutdown, the other two budgets were only officially ‘balanced’ through David Copperfieldesque smoke, mirrors and one-time fixes.  Our unfunded retiree liabilities were a disaster. There was no central list for the tax credits she’d given out as part of her ‘industrial policy,’ so businesses kept showing up with surprise!! multi-million dollar Free Pass tax forgiveness IOUs.

The One Tough Nerd may have gotten off the dime a bit too leisurely with the miscreants in Flint, but along with his first Budget Director, John Nixon, he sure as hell wasted no time tearing into business turnaround mode. There was pain galore as budgets got chopped, entitlements were disentitled, and benefit eligibilities were tightened. The sad keening from Lansing made a background hum that could be heard from Williamston to the far side of Charlotte. Collective tears raised water levels high enough to eat away 50 feet of prime Lake Michigan beachfront.  But when it was all over, Michigan had a budget we could live with, or not go bankrupt with, which is the same thing. And that’s more than can be said for GM, Detroit, or prospectively our good buddies in Cali and Illi-noise.

So there’s the font from which all blessings flow. Our budget is balanced and finance under control, so we can cut costs on citizens and enterprise, and see growth. Our balance sheet is healthy so we get a better bond rating and can finance stuff more cheaply, leading to less cost, feeding back to the balance sheet. We have options and can actually manage expenses without constant PANIC! Mode. We can even take programs off life support, and offer (some) help to cash strapped locals in fixing infrastructure. And we don’t have to raise taxes unless we really want to, which mostly we don’t.

This is one heckuva record and an achievement. It’s gold and jewels sitting in a duffle. So why don’t the candidates want it? Well, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer certainly doesn’t want it, and Dem challenger Shri Thanedar wants it even less. Whitmer is a left-wing Dem and Thanedar is an out-and-out Socialist with the best ads on TV. Both can’t wait to start slamming the greedy Vultures of Profit with taxes, to redistribute to “the People,” or at least the People in their constituency groups.

But why not the Repubs? I dunno. Schuette looks to be methodically following a plan and this issue isn’t in his wheelhouse; maybe it’s scheduled for insertion three weeks from Thursday. Meantime, Calley’s periodically backfiring campaign seems heavy on feel-good images, nasty counterproductive internet attacks, and camera angles to make him look taller. Neither seems to want to pick up the gold.

Well, I’m not running for anything this year, so it’s not my problem. Still, I’m a bit perplexed that no one wants to grab the issue that’s been Rick Snyder’s ace and probably his legacy. Maybe it’s because the candidates don’t do numbers, maybe because they don’t believe they can explain it to the voters. Maybe they don’t think it’s got the sizzle. But if it was me, I’d be promising to keep the state budget sane and balanced, just like each and every one of you has to do every day. Are you with me?!

Chuck Moss teaches Political Science at Oakland University and serves on the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority. He was elected to represent the 40th District in the Michigan House and was appointed Chairman of the all-important Appropriations Committee, responsible for the entire state budget. Prior to politics, Chuck was political columnist for the DETROIT NEWS, and has hosted talk shows for radio and television.

May 17, 2018 · Filed under Chuck Moss

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John Q. Public // May 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    We already know what the budget is going to look like in two years. Whose horn should we be blowing for that?

    Our budget is balanced, our infrastructure resembles 1945 Hiroshima, our education system sucks.

    If somebody wants to brag about that, go ahead. It won’t win my vote.

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