Commentary
1:16 pm
Thu February 17, 2011

The Budget

Well, the governor’s budget has landed, and people are  shocked. They shouldn’t be. This is what we bargained for. This budget is, in part, a legacy of the last thirty years.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, we’ve been told repeatedly that taxes were bad. Not that they were sometimes too high, but that they were bad, period. So we cut them, and cut them again.

However, we didn‘t want to give up any of our precious services, and our politicians were afraid to ask us to sacrifice. We could have avoided huge pain now by sacrificing moderately years ago. Sort of like brushing your teeth so you don‘t get cavities.

But we were addicted to sugar, and didn‘t want to pay for dental insurance. So, it’s now multiple root canal time, and we are going to pay out of pocket. What‘s worse, the state and the nation are out of laughing gas.

Governor Snyder is a businessman, and thinks our best hope for the future is slashing business taxes in an effort to attract jobs and job creators. To his credit, he said so when he was running. The Democrats really failed to articulate an alternative.

We’ve known that there was this enormous deficit, and that the budget had to be balanced. For years, we’ve had a governor and a legislature who tried to ignore the laws of arithmetic. They knew there wasn’t enough money coming in, and that a day like this would come.

However, they also knew they were term-limited, and could avoid responsibility by stalling. So they used up our reserves and pushed the problem down the road. When President Obama gave the states stimulus money to invest in the future, Michigan’s lawmakers just threw it at the deficit.

That is not what they should have done. They should have raised the state income tax on people like me who are still working, perhaps from the present 4.35 percent to 5.5 percent or so.
We would have barely noticed it, and today the state would be much better off. I still think they should do that, instead of much of what Governor Snyder is going to do instead.

But we’ve been told that “taxes are bad,” so often that we believe it. So our roads are crumbling and our schools are falling apart, and we’d evidently rather have that than raise taxes.

However, bills come due. Most of us will pay more taxes now of one kind or another, including those who can’t afford it. The budget ends tax credits for lower-income Michiganders, and taxes both private and public pensions. This governor evidently believes that government shouldn’t try to pick winners or do social engineering in the marketplace, so tax credits for things like battery development, the film industry and brownfield reclamation will end.

He’s also going to slash spending for schools and universities, gambling that this won’t destroy the next generation’s prospects for the future. The legislature will certainly quarrel with some of this, but I haven’t seen anyone offering an alternative.

You get what you pay for, but in the end, you do have to pay. We weren’t willing to pay for years, and now, we largely can’t.

That’s what got Michigan to this budget today.