Our best hope now in this budget mess is for government to shut down in the state. We don't fear it; we welcome it -- the longer the better. The services we receive are easy to live without. In fact, I can't think of a thing they do for me or a thing I'd miss. Government shutdowns don't hurt any of us who pay the bill, only those on the public dole.So what is Jon referring to? Michigan legislators have till the end of the month to come up with a new budget or the state faces a shutdown. Republicans want $1 billion in budget cuts along with a state income tax hike from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent. Gov. Granholm said the state can't sustain such high cuts without hurting people and has proposed $300 million in cuts. Democrats are also proposing a hike in the state income tax to 4.6 percent.
Jon Etnyre, Sterling Heights
How did our state get to this point? Jack Lessenberry explains:
The present crisis has been a long time coming. The politicians have starved state government and set up the current crisis by slowly choking off public money through a series of tax cuts.Granholm has already reconciled more than $4 billion in budget deficits and state government is at its smallest size since 1973, but Republicans - and Jon - want more cuts that will increase class size in our schools, take police off the streets, take away health care from thousands, and possibly shut down the state. It's easy to say "shut it down," but are Republicans and people like Jon really prepared to live with the consequences? This letter-to-the-editor writer isn't:
Stay with me for a minute while I explain how that happened: For many years, Michigan's income tax was 4.6 percent. That was cut to 4.4 percent in 1994, when Proposal A increased the sales tax to finance education.
That was fine and dandy. We wouldn't be in the mess we are in if they had just left it at that. But the Legislature then gradually cut the income tax rate from 4.4 percent to 3.9 percent — without replacing that money.
What that meant was that every year the state came up short. Those who wanted the tax cuts said, "Fine, that means we should cut spending." In fact, the Legislature did, gradually eliminating programs, some of which (sorry, liberals) probably deserved to be eliminated.
But those savings weren't enough to make up for the loss of money, and inflation and other factors (such as the growing prison population) meant the state needed more and more money for legitimate needs.
Things also have gotten worse as the dwindling auto companies threw people out of work, further reducing tax revenues coming in.
What did our lawmakers do about that? Ducked responsibility, that's what. They raided whatever savings and "rainy day funds" the state had. They shoved the problem over into future years. Last May, in a move that should have gotten the legislators all impeached or shot for dereliction of duty, they sold off money the state was due to get in future years for an outrageous fraction of its worth.
According to the national settlement against the tobacco companies, every state gets a pot load of money every year to compensate for medical expenses incurred by the millions of people tobacco kills. Michigan's irresponsible lawmakers traded $900 million in future payments for $400 million right then.
That was, again, to avoid dealing with this year's budget problem. They also shoved a lot of the deficit into next year's budget. Now, the party's over.
There are no more funds to loot — not enough, anyway, to come up with the money needed. Now, the cupboard is just about bare, and the state starts out with a deficit of $1.8 billion. Not million, billion.
I was fascinated by the Sept. 14 letter "Go ahead, shut the state down" (from a letter writer in Sterling Heights), which said shutting state government down would hurt "only those on the public dole."I side with Andrea on this, and she didn't even touch on the sick, poor or children, all targets of Republican cuts. And what about all the people who will lose their jobs because of the cuts? Our state needs more jobs and more revenue, so how does it help our economy to put people out of work? Those people pay taxes on their income and spend it in their communities.
One out of every three state employees works for Corrections, so I guess we can release all those prisoners; may I suggest Sterling Heights as a nice place to send them? Then there are the remaining state mental hospitals staffed by state employees; we can send those patients to Sterling Heights as well.
I guess the writer eats only at home, so he will not miss the state employees who survey restaurants to make sure they are compliant with public health requirements. And he must never go to the hospital or know anyone in a nursing home, so he will not miss the state employees who survey them for compliance with state licensure and Medicare and Medicaid rules.
The writer must never leave Sterling Heights to visit any of the state parks or forests, so he won't miss the state employees who work there. And he doesn't travel the roads that the Department of Transportation work on, so there is no need for those people. He must never visit the casinos, so he won't miss the state employees who need to be working for those to run.
Hopefully he is not a doctor, nurse or in any other type of job that needs a state license, because the people who process those licenses -- and those who investigate reasons why some doctors, nurses and other professions need to lose those licenses -- will all be gone.
He probably has never been unemployed, so he would not need the state workers who handle unemployment. And, of course, he would never need the state troopers for any reason, nor the Secretary of State's office.
Andrea L. VanDenBergh, Belleville
Lessenberry sums it up best:
Taxes are the price we pay for a decent life. Restoring the state income tax rate to 4.6 percent would cost someone who makes $50,000 about five bucks a week. You blow more than that on vending machines. Failing to raise taxes might double college tuition, lower the quality of our schools at the same time, risk the public heath and raise license fees through the roof.The cupboard is almost bare, and regardless of what the Republicans or people like Jon say, a majority of Michigan's voters support a tax increase combined with reasonable cuts. "Reasonable" is not throwing people under the bus for a few dollars.