Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Reforms or Window Dressing
Be careful about first impressions. When the guys at Business Leaders for Michigan (BLFM) first hatched the concept of a two year budget for state government, the first blush response was, what a lame-brained idea in that it looked like a "reform" on paper only. After all, when lawmakers write a one year budget it is obsolete before the ink is even dry on the darn thing. Hence writing one for two years means it would be outdated too and therefore an exercise in stupid government. So it was dismissed as a misleading gimmick masquerading as a reform to appease the citizenry which is fed up with state government to begin with. "Let me try to change your mind," the state government source on the other end of the line requested. "Sure, give it a shot," came the response. By writing a two-year budget, it gives whomever the governor is, an easier shot at balancing the books without the drama of a possible budget stalemate and shutdown each and every year. Shucks. Anything that averts a government closing is good news in that when it was shutdown in 2007, it produced all sorts of negative headlines around the nation providing one more reason for any family or business not to move here. Here's how it works. Lawmakers and the governor pass the budget and if economic conditions change, which they always do, the governor does not go back to the full legislature to make adjustments; she or he goes to the house and senate budget committees instead. It is infinitely easier to pass an executive order which reduces state spending when you need only the votes of two committees and not 56 votes in the house and 20 more in the senate. Ergo, this really is a reform with some substance and it is teed up to be adopted by this legislature soon. One reform down and a ton more to go and so much for first impressions which can be wrong. This one will actually work.