They’re different times for state budget

Back in the bad old days when Michigan’s economy was in a nose dive, the news lead out of every state budget was how much was being sliced and diced out of state services in order to keep the state afloat and the budget balanced.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s most recent blueprint for spending $50 billion of your tax dollars was anything but doom and gloom. If anything it was spend and spend on everything from cleaning up our parks to pumping $778 into high school kids attending at risk schools all over the state.

The budget director was asked, “Are there any cuts in this budget?” and Al Pscholka reflected, “a few here and there.”

As you sat through the budget presentation a lot of what this governor wants to do is consistent with what Democrats want to do, i.e. spend more on schools, check, beef up the infrastructure, check, hire more cops, check and help the needy with a hefty boost in their yearly clothing allowance, check.

In fact one Democratic representative reports that Mr. Pscholka told him, “there’s a lot of stuff in here you guys will like and my guys may not.”

So if you are an ultra-conservative Republican who believes government is too big and needs to be on a crash fiscal diet, this GOP governor’s budget is not for you.

The governor has hacked off some from his own party on several fronts. First he has taken money away from cyber schools and redirected 20 percent of it into the public schools.

For years Democrats have argued it is unfair to fund those cyber schools at the same level as regular schools because the former don’t have the buildings to maintain, the janitors to pay and heating bills to cover and this year the governor bought into that philosophy much to the chagrin of those who think otherwise.

The education lobby was not exactly upset with the governor’s overall budget including a hefty $778 per pupil increase for at-risk high school students. Republicans will take a hard look at that. The governor’s reasoning is that the cost of educating high school kids is more expensive than elementary students and poverty is also another factor.

As the gov’s school guy puts it, “not through any fault of their own,” these 680,000 students have challenges. John Walsh explains many come from broken homes, or foster homes and in some cases just getting them to school every day is a challenge and if you do get them in the classroom, they need extra attention. He and his boss agree that if you help these students now, they will become productive citizens later on. Others would add, that’s better than sending many of them to prison where the schooling they get there won’t make them productive.

The governor wants to pump another $50 million into the Flint water crisis. This on top of the $250 million that’s already been spent. You have to wonder at what point will lawmakers say enough is enough? They are not there yet but Flint Rep. Pam Faris, a Democrat, is concerned about what she calls “Flint fatigue.” She is hoping her colleagues will not lose sight of the fact that many are still drinking bottled water and parents want to make sure their kids “are not drinking out of a garden hose.”

The governor has made a big deal out of fixing the state’s aging and sagging infrastructure and formed a commission to lay out a road map on how to do it and more importantly how to pay for it.

Mr. Snyder concedes he will not find the $4 billion a year for the next 20 years that the commission recommended in year one or two. He favors a piecemeal approach and has formed yet another study group to make recommendations on which revenue sources to use to begin the journey. Those suggestions are due in May.

If there is one sticky wicket that finds the governor and Democrats on one side and his party on the other, its the tax rollback debate. Simply put the R’s want to do it and the gov and D’s don’t although the governor would never be so crass as to say that out loud.

Instead what he does say is that he is willing to “talk” about it but any such talk must include a conversation on where the R’s want to cut state services to find the money to pay for the give back to citizens.

So far the R’s have not offered any cuts which means, don’t spend your tax rollback just yet.