Compromise has become an ugly word in today's political arena.
In this era of the permanent campaign and instant punditry, there is little benefit for politicians to find common ground. Perhaps former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms was right when he said that the middle of the road was the surest place to get run over.
It took a government shutdown for a bare majority of Michigan legislators to exercise their constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget. A lot has been made on both sides of the debate about courage and backbone on the part of legislators, regardless of how they voted. To me, the remarkable aspect of this debacle is that the state had to be on the brink of a constitutional crisis for us to do the jobs we were elected to do.
I abhor taxes. My voting record in the nearly five years I have served in the Michigan House has been quite clear on that point. For many of my Democratic colleagues to vote against their union friends is equally abhorrent. Yet the people of the state elected both of us to serve them.
As an elected official, the temptation was strong to keep my head low and hope someone else would clean up this mess. The safest thing to do in politics most of the time is to vote no and point at shortcomings of whatever proposal is before you. As a member of the minority party, this would have been an acceptable approach in many people's minds.
The truth is this crisis provided a rare opportunity to fix some of Michigan's long-term problems. The skyrocketing costs of public employee pensions and health care have long been breaking the bank of our public schools. Yet what has been more than clear after years of trying, Republicans alone could not muster the support to make necessary reforms happen.
The resulting compromise fell far short of what I wanted. I remain deeply opposed to the sales tax component of the deal and will do everything in my power to see that portion of it repealed. Frankly, if work had started well before the shutdown was imminent, I believe the result would have been much better. There is plenty of blame to go around. In this era of term limits, Lansing leaders were expected to accomplish the equivalent of getting engaged on their first date.
There is quite a bit of talk about recall against me and some other legislators because of our votes. If that is the price I have to pay for doing what was right in a crisis situation, then so be it. There are a lot more important things in life than being a state representative. I only caution voters to be apprehensive of full-time, paid political operators who care more about their career success than finding solutions for a troubled state.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
From the Free Press