With tough decisions, GOP lawmakers put Michigan on path for better future

Why won’t politicians tackle tough issues? Why won’t the Legislature look long-term? Why does government take the easy route?

Looking only at current public discourse, it's easy to understand why those questions are asked. But now is a different time in Michigan’s Capitol.

Over the past three years, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature have governed with an urgency for today and a vision toward tomorrow.

* Before 2011, Michigan faced annual budget deficits of $1.5 billion and repeated government shutdowns. It would have been easy for the governor and Legislature to continue to perpetuate accounting gimmicks to avoid pain without curing the problems. Through very tough, but necessary, decisions, we pressed the reset button to structurally balance the budget.

* Before 2011, the state’s tax codes were riddled with special deals. It would have been easy to continue this arrangement. It was difficult to streamline Michigan’s taxes because everyone wants “loopholes” closed – except the “loopholes” that benefit them. With a concern for jump-starting our economy and a vision for the future, we redid the tax code with special credits and exemptions reduced.

* Prior to 2011, Michigan saw a rapidly increasing debt burden that exceeded $60 billion in unfunded liabilities. Everyone talks about reducing debt, but it's not easy to make decisions to sacrifice today so that tomorrow’s debt burden can be relieved. It would have been easy for the current legislature and governor to pay the minimums due and pass on to others the problem others had passed on to us. Through reforms and budget sacrifices to find money to pay down debt, we have reduced about one-third of the debt in two years, to the tune of about $20 billion. That equates to $10,000 less in debt that each child in Michigan will be forced to carry.

* Prior to 2011, school leaders called for big changes in education. It would have been easy to provide more money to be politically popular while ignoring longstanding problems. However, this Legislature and governor asked for the needs of school leaders and went to work adopting reforms: including teacher tenure reform, reforms to school employee health-care benefits and pensions, and stopping raises and cost increases for taxpayers without successful contract negotiations. Despite inaccurate partisan claims, state funding has increased to our K-12 system while federal support has been cut, as detailed here. More important, reforms have been adopted to help schools become more effective and efficient.

Perhaps the best example of a long-term focus has been Gov. Snyder and the Republican House and Senate focusing on early childhood education. The largest rates of increase in the current budget were to help more children advance through early childhood development.

When kids succeed in school, they will succeed in a career. When they succeed in a career, they will succeed in life and won’t seek criminal activity. When there is less crime and more success, our taxpayers will have to spend less to fight less ills in our society. Early childhood development is an excellent investment, however, it is one that won’t pay off for years to come. The governor and the members of the legislature who achieved these increases will be gone for many years before the 4-year-olds who are helped next year graduate from high school.

These difficult decisions have resulted in one representative’s recall, several others losing re-election, as well as personal attacks and attempts to destroy the reputations of those who cast these votes.

While it’s easy to paint everyone in elected office with the same brush, and it is popular to opine that they only care about popularity, the facts are clear. Michigan is on a much better path today because those currently serving in Lansing are willing to address the problems before us today and consider the well-being of Michigan’s kids tomorrow.

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Thu, 07/11/2013 - 9:13am
All the above comments are correct. Michigan is on a better path with a balanced budget, better tax codes, and fewer unfunded budget items. BUT ....... the Republicans really need to divorce themselves from the dictates of the religious right, which is really neither religious nor right.
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 1:56pm
Rich, If you think the current situation of the State is better why are you so quick to ask those who have facilitate this change to divorce themselves from what may be the principles they used to achieve those changes? What if it is a principle of the 'religious right' to place their house in fiscal order before they spend other peoples money? What principles do you feel the politicians when they are making decisions for the people of this State?
Eunice Burns
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 11:09am
You seem to be ignoring the many of us who are not rich; who live on social security or other non-living wage jobs. You have forgotten us!!!!! But the rich get richer! Why do you continue these same policies? And do not give me that bull about trickling down.
Eunice Burns
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 11:14am
Additional comment-- The added emphasis on pre-school education is great! Now how about elementary and high school and college?!!! Education is a great tool for the future of our state and nation!
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 1:10pm
The 2% increase in public education support Bolger crows about is more than offset by the rate of inflation. The net result is that there has been NO increase in state funding for our children. Bolger also omits that much of the fiscal problems in the state originated with the Republican state senate - controlled by the GOP for 40 years. The GOP did everything it could to stall initiatives to help the state, all in an effort to blame Granholm and the Democrats. But significantly, Bolger is simply a Tax and Spend CONSERVATIVE. Yeah, thanks, the budget's balanced on the back of the poor and middle class. Big Shot Billionaires and their interests are now making record profits, without investing that money in Michigan. Increasing taxes on the middle class and the poor was not a tough decision. After all, how many lobbyists do they have? As for cynicism, Bolger isn't one to complain. He is after all still under a grand jury investigation for election irregularities,
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 2:03pm
As with so many things in life, you can say "look at the great things we have done". The problem is that many programs will run on "perpetual motion" for a period of time, and when the wheels come off, the creators of these great things have left the stage. A good example is "Right to Work". It is the law, but nothing appears to have changed. However, over time, I predict that people's wages will fall, and the middle class will continue to shrink. The driving force behind it? They'll be retired, living off their pensions, clueless to the damage they did.
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 2:08pm
Rep. Bolger talks much of the successes, it is disappointing that he doesn't describe how we should be measuring success so others can better understand how to create similar successes. It would be benefical to all of us if Rep. Bolger (anyone making such decisions) would share the principles they are applying when they are looking at problems so we can learn how we might better address such issues. With the financial changes Rep. Bolger and others have achieved I believe it is time to begin holding those in government accountable for how effectively they spend the taxpayer's money. How will we know that the people we trust with the earlier education are giving those kids a true benefit for the money spent? For are they the same people who are/have been administering the K-12 education system that the vast majority of people feel is not meeting expectations. Success build trust, but trust is lost when those we trust are only looking at what they have achieved in the past.
Mike R
Thu, 07/11/2013 - 4:20pm
I am so astonished at this politically-spun, hypocritical self-congratulation that I scarcely know where to begin. Perhaps the only thing necessary to say is that Speaker Bolger is an immoral, conniving, political hack embarrassment to the State of Michigan (and a likely criminal) who is only taken seriously because he's such a danger.
Fri, 07/12/2013 - 12:37am
Mike, I am surprised by your astonishment at political hypocracy. I would offer it is more the rule than the exception, it seems to be what voters want and continue to encourage by their voting. It is fortunate we have term limits so the elected officials down have time to turn hypocracy into a fine are like we see in Washington.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 07/14/2013 - 11:47am
It is obviously easier to pass laws and "get things done" when both houses and Gov. are all Republicans. Whether all that has been done is good for Michigan remains to be seen. Certainly more emphasis on early childhood education will be good. The state taking over more and more cities and districts, closing down others, and moving towards privatizing education and punishing public education will yield harmful effects for years to come. I don't know Jase Bolger and have to assume that he believes in what he says. Unfortunately, the poor, underemployed and minorities will continue to suffer while the industrial-education reformers will profit.
Dean Smith
Sun, 07/14/2013 - 4:11pm
The governor has a lot of appropriate ideas for the time but just passing laws hardly move and assume that the problem will be solved . It just does't work that way. One size doesn't fit every situation especially when it comes to education. The comment made that preschool will assist in the reduction of crime is a misnomer. This exposes the thinking of many who have no idea of the ways of learning and what is needed. Let's be real when making statements like that .