Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The state budget and our county's reps

The big issue right now is the budget and taxes. As we all know, Chris Ward and Valde Garcia have broke from the party on their votes. Chris on taxes, and Valde on the budget cuts. I've been getting a lot of heat from the right from both in county and non-county residents on this. I've gotten calls and emails asking me almost in a Vince Lombardi voice, "What the hell is going on out there?"

The Argus has an interesting story on this, focusing on the reps involved.

Livingston County lawmakers are emerging as high-profile participants in the scramble to come up with a budget solution before the new fiscal year starts on Monday.
State Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Marion Township, cast the only Republican vote against nearly $600 million in budget cuts on Sunday. And state Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton Township, who similarly broke with his party last week on an income-tax increase vote, has been named to an important joint conference committee tasked with tackling the revenue side of the budget stalemate.

The moves make them the only two Republicans who have publicly broken with their party to either limit the amounts of cuts that are proposed or to admit that increased taxes are necessary to cover at least part of the projected $1.7 billion shortfall.

There was the background.

Chris Ward was named to a conference committee on this. I did talk to Chris's office before his vote. I was told there was no deal at the time, and that he was working on the deal. I know there are some reforms he is after and is trying to get, particulary on school matters which has been one of his top issues. I think he's winning to compromise, but I don't think he's going to roll over and cave.

I do not consider Chris Ward a RINO (Republican in name only). Still don't. I've known him for several years, and as a rep, he's generally been solid on fiscal matters. If I had to simplify Chris's views, it is ideologicaly mainstream conservative, but pragmatic first. The number one issue he ran on is competence. The theme in all his campaign lit was "Chris Ward gets things done." This here is his biggest challenge, and he's taking the steps tacticaly he thinks needs to be done. He's looks for consensus more often than not. In my own opinion, I think he's going after some of the sacred cows of the democrats so we can get some real reform in this state. The MEA right now is scared to death of losing MESSA and it's extremely high overhead and others are scared to death about changes in government pensions. Unless these are taken care off, budgets will skyrocket for years to come.

Chris is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to politics. He's not afraid to take risks when it is necessary, but also is cautious at times when that is called for. We need to keep in mind that this is not a final vote. That is why I'm witholding judgment on Chris for now on this, and why you see this quote below.

Ward, who gave up his duties as minority floor leader when he voted for the tax increase, said he hopes to use the committee seat to advance the issue of equitable funding for school districts and benefit costs for teachers.

He said there is a proposal to bring all school districts to the same per-pupil funding level within 10 years, and another to give school boards more tools to competitively bid health-care benefit contracts.

"I've got some priorities for my state and my district I'm going to be looking for," he said.

Dan Wholihan of the Republican Michigander Web log said he thinks anti-tax sentiment is strong in Livingston County.

He withheld judgment on Ward's moves, because they were part of a tentative deal with Democrats: "I'm waiting to see the final bill before I comment."

But he would prefer an all-cuts solution to the budget.

"I don't think there is support for a tax increase in the county. I personally do not support a tax increase," he said.

As for Garcia's vote, Wholihan said he wasn't surprised.

"He does have a history of going his own way on budgetary matters," Wholihan said.

Personally, I like Valde. He's a real nice guy. On life issues and 2nd Amendment issues, I never have to worry about his vote. He always comes through there. On budget matters, I'm always holding my breath, especially ever since the "tax shift". With that combined with his recent comments, I am not surprised in the least, sad to say. He goes his own way on budgetary matters. Sometimes I agree, sometimes like now, I disagee.

Another story which was news to me until I heard from Dan Meisler was 30 ex-republicans signing a letter supporting a mix of reforms, cuts, and taxes. I found that several (not all) of those who signed that were part of the problem in the first place. Especially Ken Sikkema, who was senate majority leader before Mike Bishop. Joe Schwarz has been pushing taxes for years. When there is Schwarz, there is also Harry Gast. Dan DeGrow has always been a squish (which is why his race for AG against Cox never got off the ground). Sikkema gets to my next point and part of quote.

Generally, Wholihan put most of the blame on the budget mess on Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but also said Republicans haven't been as fiscally responsible as they should have been.

"There's plenty of blame to go around," he said.

Granholm's the constant in all the problems, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Sikkema in the senate (02-06) and the 2002-2004 block of about 10-15 term limited house Republicans, including former speaker Rick Johnson. Those are who I had in mind when I said that there is plenty of blame to go around. Granholm and the democrat (then) minority wanted her "fee" increases in 04 and the tax shift in 06. She got them. The gimmicks and "fee" increases, sin taxes, and higher costs in general brought us to this current clusterbleep. Granholm got all she wanted on budgetary issues so far. It got us here. The former house and former senate leadership got what they wanted. It got us democrat control of the house (after starting with 63 seats) and a narrow majority in the senate. I blame them as much as Granholm. However, they are gone, while Granholm stayed.

One other thing. I'm hearing a lot of talk about recalls, mostly aimed at the republicans who vote for takes like Garcia. If we are going to recall people, let's start at the biggest problem of them all, that being the "Matt Millen of governors" herself, Jennifer Granholm. We have elections for state reps in about a year. Granholm we're stuck with for three years unless we recall her and send her home. She helped screw over the budget every year for five years.

I have one other major concern besides policy issues. That's the brand name image of Republicans here in Livingston County. With the spending problems in both Lansing and Washington, as well as the tax increases, what is going to happen to small government? We can't be democrat-lite in our size of big government. That's a good way for democrats to start winning around here.


Unknown said...

Taking the easy way out is rarely the best way in the long run. I'm one of the conservatives spitting nails over the defection of Ward and Garcia on the issue of tax increases. What they're doing is not bold, it is a refusal to face up to the facts.

The current budget crisis has been a long time coming, caused by Michigan politicians who have repeatedly refused to enact desperately needed cuts and reforms. When dealing with waste and overspending, the longer we go without fixing the problem the worse the crisis gets.

The Democrats, Ward, and Garcia are trying to take the easy way out. Raise taxes, put a bandaid on the problem. Try to keep things going long enough to pass this problem onto someone else in a few years. But the fundamental problems with the economy in Michigan won't go away by ignoring them.

I'm not a big fan of Rudy G., but I would vote for him as Governor of Michigan in a heartbeat. He faced many of the same problems in N.Y.C. when he took over as mayor that Michigan faces today. Declining revenues, rising crime, the middle class moving away, businesses fleeing. Rudy understood that raising taxes under these conditions would cause long term revenues to DECREASE as even more people and more businesses fled the city. Rudy solved the problem by slashing spending and cutting taxes. This reversed the outward flow and INCREASED revenue.

Michigan is in the same boat. Between 10,000 and 20,000 citizens a month are leaving the state, primarily the college educated or highly skilled/highly trained workers. Companies are folding up shop and leaving because most other states have lower taxes and a better business climate.

Garcia and Ward are dooming Michigan to a bleak future by voting for tax increases and refusing to face the facts. Amazingly enough, Republicans in other places have PROVED time and time again cutting taxes increases tax revenue, yet certain Republicans close at hand still refuse to learn this valuable lesson.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Ward and Garcia hear the drumbeat in their districts and are simply starting to lead rather than follow? I'm sick of legislators who can't do anything but follow the party line. We, their constituents, put them in office to represent us - not the lobbyists, not the caucus, not the people yelling recall, etc. I applaud them both for showing a little independence and taking this chance to make all the hardliners think there's traitors amongst us. I hope they keep it up!

Curley Sue said...

A tax increase is a vote to Kill jobs. 7.4% unemployment should be high enough.

This governor wanted this job - she fought for this job- now how about asking her to DO the job?