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Governor Snyder's budget is sound. The people who will vote on it are not.

Feb 9, 2017

Back in a more sincerely religious era, people used to say “Man proposes; God disposes.”

But when it comes to state budgets, it’s more a case of “the governor proposes; the legislature disposes.”

The governor proposed his budget for the next fiscal year yesterday, and as of now, members of his own party in the Legislature don’t seem to like it very much.

Now budgets are not the sexiest things in the world. Nobody goes to a singles bar and says to some attractive person, “you won’t believe what’s in the governor’s budget.” But in reality, there’s nothing sexier than money.

I have often been critical of Governor Snyder’s policies, but I have to say this is a remarkably grownup budget. His spending priorities are sound. It assumes a slightly lower rate of growth. The governor, who has now been steeped in the realities of Michigan for six years, wants to increase funding for at-risk students, and spend slightly more on high school than elementary school students.

He wants more state troopers. He would put a little more money in the state’s rainy day fund, knowing that sooner or later, a recession will happen. The fund, which now is just short of a billion, was essentially empty when Snyder took office.

The budget isn’t perfect.

My own Wayne State University, which I’ve heard Republicans refer to as the school for African Americans and Democrats, would get a significantly smaller increase than more well-heeled schools like the U of M or especially the Republican Party’s favorite school, Grand Valley State.

Yet otherwise, this budget is sensible. In an astonishing touch of compassion, the governor would even boost the clothing allowance for low-income children.

The problem is, however, that the governor is not sending this budget to a group of responsible adults, but to the Republicans in the Legislature.

The problem is, however, that the governor is not sending this budget to a group of responsible adults, but to the Republicans in the Legislature.

Too many of them are monomanically fixed on one thing which would be a disaster for the state: An income tax cut.

Governor Snyder sensibly did not propose one, because he knows we can’t afford it.

But his legislative colleagues want to roll the current rate of 4.25% back immediately to 3.9%. Then, in a fit of utter insanity, they want to cut it by one-tenth of one percent every year until it is entirely gone.

Nobody really believes that would be possible.

But it sounds good, and makes about as much sense as my quitting my job to try and catch on with the Detroit Tigers.

Republican lawmakers like House Appropriations Chair Laura Cox are saying this will put “more money in the pockets of working families.” What a tax cut like that would do is give such families maybe $10 or $20 a week.

It would also blow a giant hole in the state general fund. That would mean schools and some highly necessary infrastructure projects would almost certainly be shortchanged.

Multi-millionaires, on the other hand, would get a huge tax cut, which is what this is really all about. I have been a reporter in third world countries, and I very quickly learned I didn’t want to live in one. We need enough sensible legislators in both parties to join with the governor to stop this tax fantasy insanity. Unless you think our roads aren’t quite bad enough.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.