As Gov. Jennifer Granholm unveiled her proposals for state government earlier this year, Mackinac Center policy analysts realized that eight of her cost-cutting ideas were similar to — or even identical to — recommendations previously published by the Mackinac Center. The eight proposals, advanced in the governor's February 2009 State of the State Address and fiscal 2010 budget recommendations, were the following:
- Eliminate supplemental financial support for the horse racing industry.
- Eliminate state fair subsidies.
- End state support to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
- Eliminate the Department of History, Arts and Libraries.
- Return enforcement of state wetlands protection to the federal government.
- Cut state subsidies for university operations.
- Eliminate the Office of Drug Control Policy and downsize the Office of Services to the Aging.
- Cut funding in half for the Michigan State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Program.
This Policy Brief analyzes the recommendations and explains how they would improve the state government's balance sheet and better divide the responsibilities for public services between government and civil society. Nevertheless, the brief also acknowledges that that these recommendations are only the first few steps on a long and necessary journey of reform.
Ultimately, these proposals stand out because of those who have embraced them: Gov. Granholm on one hand, and Mackinac Center policy analysts on the other — people who have not often seen eye-to-eye. These proposals thus represent the "low-hanging fruit" of state policy reform. If lawmakers find them too much to bear, it is hard to see how they will shoulder aside the myriad fiscal obstacles blocking the road back to prosperity.