Two months and counting…
Michigan's new fiscal year begins October 1, and there is still no budget in place. The Governor claims we'll be shy about $1.8 billion, but the leading Republican in the House, Craig DeRoche, puts the deficit at $825 million. The difference is significant, as are the party's solutions to balancing it. At least they agree we'll come up short.
Governor Granholm wants to confront the looming deficit by spending more on education, creating a new two percent tax on services and mixing in some budget cuts and reforms. She will negotiate on cuts and reforms but won't compromise on the tax increase idea, or "revenue" as it is now called by politicians afraid to say "tax increase."
Her Democratic colleagues in the House didn't exactly run for cover, but they hardly supported their party leader. The House leadership favors a tax increase, but they don't know what brand, and they don't want to vote on one unless the Republicans in the Senate guarantee their support.
Senate Republicans will consider a tax increase…I mean new revenue, but only after everyone votes on their proposed budget cuts. Among the ideas Senate Republicans are pushing: cancel a scheduled pay raise for state workers and seek wage concessions; reduce 2008 spending to 2007 levels with no new programs; and reform teacher retirement deals and health care programs for state workers.
Generally speaking there are two camps: Democrats see tax increases as a major component of balancing the budget, while Republicans prefer reducing the cost of government to reflect current revenues. For those of you who complain of "partisan bickering," please do something productive like start up the Moderate Party. Slogan: "Our Principles are Flexible!"
This is politics. Along with debating core principles there will be some posturing and maneuvering. Lt. Governor John Cherry predicts there won't be a budget agreement in place by October 1, which will add an air of desperation to the process. In the end there will be a political compromise, meaning everybody walks away unhappy. Voters will have the final say, but not until next November.
Too bad we didn't get to hear the bickering and debate before the last election.
Term limits kick in next year for two local State representatives: Howard Walker whose 104th district covers Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties, and David Palsrock of the 101st that includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties. Both have been Republican strongholds, but could be tight races next year.
Last year Palsrock narrowly defeated Northport attorney Daniel Scripps by a 52-48 margin. Scripps beat Palsrock in Leelanau County, lost by only 18 votes in Manistee County-Palsrock's backyard-and by only 20 votes in Benzie. Palsrock won in Mason County by 1,654 votes. If not for Mason County, Scripps would have won by ten votes.
Scripps raised thousands from labor unions and trial lawyers, and appears ready to run again. Next year Republicans won't have an incumbent, and so far it doesn't look like any potential candidate has stepped forward.
In the 104th, two Republicans have filed to replace Walker: Traverse City school board member David Barr and Grand Traverse County Commissioner Wayne Schmidt. Both are long time friends of State Senator Jason Allen, who will be in an uncomfortable position if either candidate seeks his endorsement. Of course, it's still early and party leaders would welcome newcomers to take on attorney Roman Grucz, a pro-life Democrat. Last year he ran a strong campaign but lost to the incumbent Walker, 58-42.
Say what you will about term limits, but at least they make politics less predictable.
Ron Jolly has been on radio and/or TV in northern Michigan for 23 years. He is the author of The Northern Michigan Almanac (U of M Press/Petoskey Publishing, 2005).BN