Why was task force even formed?

When in doubt, form a study committee.

Politicians love to study issues especially if they are explosive and could anger the public. By forming a study group they diffuse the issue for the moment and if a citizen asks for their position on the issue, they can say, “I won’t know until the study is done.”

It’s all very neat and tidy and they’ve come up with all sorts of fancy-smancy labels that include task force, review commission, and work group to lure you into thinking something is being done on this and that question.

Gov. Rick Snyder is concerned about the looming $14 billion debt in the pension system for former local government employees. When the GOP House leadership last December made a run at resolving this, the retired cops, firefighters and other pensioners came unglued. They were afraid the House would swipe their bennies and in quick order they mobilized and actually stop the conservatives in their tracks.

Perhaps sensing this was not going to evaporate in the new year, the governor had other items to push and he was not eager to jump back into this mess. Hence he did the obvious: Formed a 20 member task force to study the problem.

Now one would assume that one of the objectives was to find some method to raise the money to reduce the deficit and reassure all those worried local civil servants that they would continue to get a check, but when the report was leaked, you could search high and low and there were zero, nada, zippo solutions.

In fact three task force members, in the grand tradition of study groups, called for another task force to continue the work where the first task force left off.

You can’t make this stuff up.

But Sen. Rebekah Warren offers this observation to justify that request.

“We really felt like there was a big conversation missing. Therefore we asked the governor to reconvene another group to look at that side of the puzzle,” namely where do you find the shekels to keep the health care and pensions funded.

She reports while the task force did a good job of chronically how the debt was created and everyone agreed there was not a silver bullet to solve this problem because “one size does not fit all,” that’s where the chit chat stopped.

“We did not get there … We did not have the time to brainstorm on innovative approaches” to dissolving the mountain of debt Warren said.

Another omission from the report was the lack of more data to gauge the extent of the debt. There was solid information from the state treasurer’s office but especially in the health care part of the equation, more reliable data was required but was never gathered.

GOP task force member Sen. Jim Stamas was not nearly as critical of these omissions. He believes the work that was done “will be positive as to where we move forward.”

He wants to avoid plunging cities into bankruptcy by setting up monitoring systems that will detect the debt problem before it mushrooms out of control.

If there is any good news in all this it is that many municipalities are doing a bang-up job of meeting their pension obligations and the report suggests that the state keep its big nose out of those place so as not to undo a good thing. And to keep expectations in perspective the report warns this debt was not created over night and won’t be solved overnight either.

But back to the original expectation that solutions would be recommended. Sen. Warren reports she was told “that was not the charge the governor gave the task force.”

Which leaves one to wonder, why form the darn thing in the first place?


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