Foul on ad pinning government shutdowns solely on Mike Bishop

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Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

Accurate
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Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
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False
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Who: Eric Schertzing for Congress
What: 30-second TV ad
The call: Regular Foul

Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing won a four-way Democratic primary to challenge former GOP state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop in the 8th congressional district for the seat that opened with the retirement of Republican Mike Rogers. The district includes Ingham County, which leans Democratic, and Livingston and Oakland counties, which tilt more toward Republicans. Bishop was elected to the state House in 1998 and served one two-year term before serving eight years in the state Senate. He was majority leader from January 2007 through December 2010, a time of fiscal turbulence in Lansing. The 30-second TV ad attacks Bishop for votes that cut spending and for two state government shutdowns.

Relevant text of the ad:

“When his father passed away and his mother fell ill, Eric Schertzing stepped in and worked his family farm. Because of hard work and Social Security, they made it. That's why Eric Schertzing is a fighter for the middle class. But career politician Mike Bishop has the wrong priorities. Bishop supported budgets that slashed classroom funding, college scholarships and even police troopers. And he shut down the government in Lansing twice, putting politics ahead of the middle class. Michigan can't afford Mike Bishop.”

Statements under review:

“Bishop supported budgets that slashed classroom funding, college scholarships and even police troopers.”

In 2009, Michigan was in the depths of a recession with the highest unemployment in the nation. Lawmakers labored to balance a state budget crippled by plunging state revenue and a projected budget deficit of $2.8 billion. In fall of that year, Bishop and other Republicans balked at Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal that they raise taxes to close part of the gap. Bishop joined Republican colleagues in voting for several measures that cut spending. He voted for a K-12 funding bill that cut per pupil aid by $165 a student and Intermediate School District funding by 20 percent. He voted for a higher-education budget that wiped out the $120 million Michigan Promise merit-based scholarship program for some 96,000 college students.

During another budget faceoff, Bishop voted in August 2007 for a bill that cut state police spending by $10 million from the previous year.

“And he shut down the government in Lansing twice, putting politics ahead of the middle class.”

It was the signature event among many for political dysfunction in what state Republicans have taken to calling “the lost decade” - the government shutdown. And it happened twice. In 2007, Granholm and legislative Republicans were at a standoff: She wanted to raise taxes to help fill a deficit projected at $1.75 billion. Republicans did not. Granholm refused to sign any budget extension unless lawmakers voted to add taxes. On Oct. 1 – the day of the new fiscal year and with no funding approved for government operations – the state put in motion plans to close campgrounds, delay construction projects and cease lottery sales as state workers were told to stay home.

The brinksmanship drew national attention. It was over in four hours. The state House and Senate passed a series of bills just before and after midnight, including an income tax increase, expansion of the sales tax and an extension of the budget to allow an extra month to eliminate the deficit. The final vote came about 4 a.m. Beyond the wording of the ad, the Schertzing campaign cites a brief article from September 2007 in the Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan student newspaper, which holds Bishop partly responsible for the shutdown, saying his “tactics have driven the state to near shutdown, a situation that only worsened last week after Bishop canceled Friday's budget talks with the speaker of the house and the governor to go on a golf outing.”

It happened again in 2009. This time legislators agreed about two hours after midnight on Oct. 1 to adopt a temporary 30-day budget and put off tough decisions about taxes and spending for another day. The move avoided temporary state worker layoffs and state office closures.

The ad itself cites no direct evidence that Bishop was uniquely responsible for the shutdowns. This ad makes it seem like Bishop took action unilaterally, when Granholm and Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon played equally critical roles.

The call: Regular Foul

The ad repeats a common tactic this election season: Pick a Michigan politician, any politician, who was in office in the worst of the recession. Then tie that politician to some event in that gloomy decade. It is true Bishop voted to cut spending for K-12 education and higher education and for state police. And had the ad stopped there, it would have been fine.

But the statement that Bishop “shut down government in Lansing” twice is misleading and incomplete. In the narrow sense, it was the governor who ordered the shutdown. She did so because the state Constitution requires the Legislature to adopt a balanced budget. But in a broader and more accurate perspective, it was friction among three political leaders and two political parties that brought the state twice to that impasse. Criticizing Bishop for his leadership role in the shutdowns would have been kosher. Blaming Bishop alone distorts his role in these events. Foul.

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Comments

Bill Nelson
Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:38am
Republican like to refer to the Granholm era as the lost decade. The reality, while Democrats controlled the House, Republicans controlled the Senate. Mike Bishop was Senate Majority Leader and was the Republican point man for obstructing virtually everything the Granholm administration and Democrats in the legislature attempted to do to turn Michigan's economy around. Certainly there were other players involved but Mike Bishop was primarily responsible. The ad is correct.
Joe Fifer
Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:26am
It was a philosophical debate about how to resolve a massive budget deficit. Either both sides are to blame, or neither (chalking it up to brinkmanship ).
Larry Stephens
Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:57am
This election year is flooded with adds that criticize those that did what they had to do to balance the budget when Michigan was in a fiscal crisis. Small businesses were failing all over Michigan, people were losing their jobs, and those on the public payroll were complaining about every cut in government spending. I applaud those in power that stayed the course and made the hard choices. We need more leaders like that. Raising taxes on the private sector or spending ourselves deeper in debt so government doesn't share in the pain is disasterous. I'm a small business owner of 34 years, and when government workers were complaining about paying a little more for health insurance, or not getting a raise, I was forced to drop my employer's paid health insurance plan, and eventually lay off employees that had worked for me for over 25 years. And, that was after I had drained all of my personal reserves trying to survive. One of my competitors went from a staff of about 75 down to about a half dozen! That is the kind of personal hurt the private sector felt. I hear people say that those on the public payroll pay taxes too. But, think about it. Unless they are paying more back into the coffers than they are taking out, the remainder of their paycheck must come from taxes paid by the private sector. When the private sector is stressed, the tax revenue is not there; and it won't help to raise the tax burden on already stressed and failing businesses. In hard times, all sectors of the economy must share the pain equally.