Michigan's pressing fiscal challenges underscore a truth policymakers must recognize: This state has more government than it can afford. Nonessential, sometimes duplicative functions and programs have been adopted due to political dynamics, not as part of any rational, considered vision of what government should — and realistically can — do.
These modest budget reductions can be considered a small down payment on the greater transformational restructuring of state government that Michigan's plight now demands. In fact, all the cuts described in this brief total less than $100 million. In comparison, Michigan will soon see budget gaps of at least $2 billion out of some $27.7 billion in state spending from state revenue sources. Arguably, even after these gaps are closed, another $2 billion or more should be carved from the budget to permit tax cuts and other reforms that are prerequisites to restoring Michigan's economic vitality.
Among the hundreds of savings opportunities lawmakers can utilize if they choose, the eight recommendations above represent "low-hanging fruit." Indeed, these are areas where Gov. Granholm and Mackinac Center analysts concur, even though the governor and the Center's analysts have often disagreed over state policy.
Lawmakers should therefore think carefully before rejecting these proposals. The longest journey begins with a single step — or in this case, with the eight steps detailed here. If these steps are too many, it is difficult to see how Michigan will travel the road back to fiscal discipline and prosperity.