Whitmer’s dictatorial move
No governor would ever admit it, but, secretly, they would be overjoyed to have unilateral power to do whatever they thought was right, sans the interference of a legislature to stop them.
Some might call that a dictatorship, which is why they would never utter it in public.
Former Gov. Bill Milliken many moons ago came close, when he was asked if he supported a unicameral — or one-house — legislature. Without pausing, he half-jokingly offered: “Sometimes, I think the proposal goes only halfway,” which was to say, both houses should be abolished.
Now comes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, fed up to here with the alleged inaction of the Republican-controlled Legislature, acting like a modern-day Evita Peron, ordering the sale of $3.5 billion in bonds to fix the roads.
“Since it doesn’t require the Legislature to act, we can get started right away,” she advised the lawmakers and a statewide audience of motorists equally fed up with their lousy roads.
What she was really saying to the Republicans was, I gave you a chance to help me with my plan on this, but you refused. So, now, I’ll do it alone. So there!
Knowing that that was the wrong, in-your-face tone to use, she watered it down nicely by observing, “Let’s just say it was not warmly received.”
Talk about not being warmly received. Her unilateral, “dictatorial” action drew protests from all the county road commissions in outstate Michigan that will not share in the new road largess. And some GOP lawmakers were none-too-impressed, either.
“The proposal that has come forth at this time leaves local road agencies in the dust,” lamented Denise Donohue, who gets paid by those local road commissions to get them more money for their roads.
The governor’s plan does not cover local roads because the state bonds, by law, have to be spent on state and federal roads with an “I,” “M,” or “U.S.” designation. Combined, those are about 8% of all the thoroughfares in the entire state.
Gov. Whitmer advises those left-out-in-the-cold commissions and disgruntled outstate motorists “to call your legislators” if you want money for those projects.
The governor admits that this “fix” is not a comprehensive, statewide solution, and the only way to do that, she advises, is for the GOP leaders to come up with their plan to address all the other roads. If they send something to her desk, and it is good policy, she’ll sign it.
Under the age-old axiom that “governor’s propose and the legislature disposes,” she was asked if she had a responsibility to offer her own long-term program. She dodged the pointed question by saying, “I did last year.”
And, as for a new plan this year, she avoided a direct answer.
The GOP leaders protest that they offered her a myriad of options last year to raise the money to do it, “but she didn’t like them,” reflected Republican state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. He says they offered two steps to get there, and “she’s refused them. That’s on the table, and she needs to respond to that.”
The governor gripes that the Republicans’ plans “were not serious plans.”
Here we go again with the “he said, she said” over who did or did not offer alternative ideas to her original 45-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike proposal.
Does that sound to you like they are on a glide path to crafting a permanent answer to the road mess?
Couple that with the fact that every Michigan House member is seeking reelection this year. You know most are in no mood to raise anybody’s taxes to get the job done, because it could cost them their jobs, since a majority of residents believe there is already a enough money in the state budget to do this work without a tax hike.
Hence, though the November election is 10 months away, you should set your watches for the day after the election, when the lame-duck session commences. At that point, state House members are free to vote for a small gas tax hike or the like without fear of being booted out of office.
In the meantime, the governor and Democrats will take full credit for fixing some roads, underscoring the notion that, sometimes, a dictatorship is good politics, even though they would never concede the point in public.