Needless to say, we are generally very pleased with this Governor's performance. He ranks, in our view, first in the nation among chief executives in implementing an agenda for downsizing government and reordering its priorities. Not even Governor Weld of Massachusetts, often lauded as a budget cutter, has achieved as much change in the past two years as Governor Engler. His tenure so far stands in stark contrast to the interventionist policies of Governors William Milliken and James Blanchard.
Our review of the Governor's second year is not uncritical. Even the best of records leaves room for improvement, if for no other reason than the blocking actions of the political opposition. Here are some of the areas where we have identified problems or concerns:
The Governor's 1991 pledge to phase out state subsidies for the arts lobby over a three-year period saw scant progress in 1992.
Schools-of-choice likewise went forward at a snail's pace this year. For most districts, it was "business as usual" in spite of a state mandate to broaden choice options.
The rationale for the Governor's mental health reforms has not been put forth in a way that educates the public or allays legitimate anxieties.
Welfare reform, though sweeping by any standard, nonetheless fell short of its potential. Even a slight reduction in Michigan's already above-average benefit levels coupled with a cap on benefits for people moving here from other states or having additional children while on welfare would have been helpful.
The Governor took no major action to address the coercive power of the state's labor unions and their political clout, such as requiring that workers be informed of their rights under Supreme Court decisions to refrain from joining or supporting unions beyond the costs of collective bargaining.
All things considered, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy gives Governor Engler the grade of "A-" for his performance in 1992, compared to the "B" we assigned him in 1991. The "Engler Revolution," which we graded an "Incomplete" in 1991, receives that same grade for 1992, though it is clear that this governor ismaking an indelible mark on the course of state government. We hope that it may be possible before the end of his first term to judge major elements of the revolution, if not "complete," at least far-reaching and permanent.