Is the State setting us up to fail?

The VIEW from here

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

As many readers probably already know, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a hard-hitting budget for the state in 2011.

This proposed budget would cut spending for public schools, universities and local governments while ending many personal tax exemptions.

The $45 billion proposal includes $1.2 billion in permanent spending cuts to help deal with a $1.4 billion shortfall in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

It adds $1.7 billion to revenues by eliminating tax breaks for lowincome workers, phasing out most senior tax breaks and getting rid of many other income tax deductions, such as one for donating to public universities. Personal deductions would be phased out for individuals making at least $75,000 or couples making at least $150,000.

The bottom line is: things are going to get rough.

But lurking behind the Republican governor’s plan to fix Michigan’s fiscal woes is a secondary agenda, one that is starting to seem a dark and foreboding. The governor and his Republican controlled House and Senate are paving the way to declare school districts, cities and townships insolvent if they are unable to keep up after this budget is passed (and it likely will be passed).

Already approved by the State House and awaiting Senate approval is a measure that would let Snyder declare a fiscal emergency over any of these public entities, allowing his to dissolved elected boards and to replace them with state appointed leaders. It also allows the state to terminate any contracts that public body has entered into — including collective bargaining agreements.

If a school district, for instance, goes bankrupt, Synder could dissolve the Board of Education you elected and placed in office, he could end the bargaining agreements with the teachers unions and other staff, and order the school district to merge with another.

There would be no vote of the people. It would just happen and you and I would have nothing to say about it.

Funny, about a year ago there were talks between Davison and Davison Township about consolidating services, possibly even consolidating the two municipalities. At that time some officials were saying the two communities might not have a choice in the future because of talk many had heard coming out of Lansing.

Much of that talk was coming from then-State Rep. Andy Dillon who said bold moves might be necessary to fix Michigan’s budget — moves as bold as dissolving local government or school districts and forcing consolidations. Dillon has seen this as a way to save money in the state, but at the expense of local rule.

When Snyder took office in January, his first cabinet appointment was to make Dillon treasurer. So the guy who was advocating forced consolidations and depriving Michigan residents of local control of their towns and schools is the guy putting the budget together?

Suddenly things seem a little clearer.

I urge readers to stay on top of this issue: read about it, watch news programs about it, but don’t let it slide off your radar because there is too much at stake.

There is a need for action at the state level to correct our budget shortfall, this is not in debate. But I’m not sure this is the right way to go about it. In fact, this way strikes me as extreme and — quite possibly — underhanded.

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