Center's McHugh expresses concern that Legislature is failing to act on budget challenge
For Immediate Release
Monday, June 8, 2009
Contact: Jack McHugh
Senior Legislative Analyst
MIDLAND - The Mackinac Center for Public Policy today released a study by Center Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh explaining the advantages of eight budget recommendations proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in her State of the State Address and executive budget earlier this year. In the study, titled "Eight Is a Start: Where Gov. Granholm's Budget Recommendations and the Mackinac Center's Agree," McHugh observes, "The recommendations are admittedly quite modest relative to the reform necessary to revitalize Michigan's economy," but represent progress by recognizing "unavoidable economic realities" and beginning to "eliminate programs better left to local government, the private sector and civil society."
McHugh focused on these proposals because they were either identical to, or similar to, suggestions published earlier by Mackinac Center policy analysts. Under the governor's recommendations, $90 million to $100 million would be saved annually by eliminating supplemental financial support for the horse racing industry; eliminating state fair subsidies; ending state support to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs; eliminating the Department of History, Arts and Libraries; returning enforcement of state wetlands protection to the federal government; cutting state subsidies for university operations; eliminating the Office of Drug Control Policy and downsizing the Office of Services to the Aging; and cutting funding in half for the Michigan State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Program.
"Admittedly," McHugh says, "the governor doesn't generally go as far in these proposals as we've recommended. For instance, with the Office of Drug Control Policy and the Office of Services to the Aging, there's actually less than meets the eye - to some extent they represent program consolidations rather than outright eliminations of government functions. Still, the proposals do involve genuine budget cuts, and there's virtue in consolidating and rationalizing the delivery of government services."
While Mackinac Center authors and Gov. Granholm have sometimes agreed, they have not often seen eye-to-eye. In 2005, the governor called a commentary co-authored by a Mackinac Center scholar "treasonous to the state of Michigan." In turn, Center analysts have publicly questioned her proposals to expand state government, spotlighting 24 of them in her 2008 State of the State Address alone. McHugh grants that the governor's and his own justifications for the proposals differ, but notes that their conclusions are similar.
"Ideally, with the governor and people at the Mackinac Center agreeing on these recommendations," McHugh says, "we wouldn't have had to publish this study. Michigan's economic and fiscal problems are so well-known that we would have just assumed the Legislature would approve or even extend these proposals, which are low-hanging fruit. But state legislators have been passive. So far, they've mostly ignored the recommendations and done little to reduce spending. If they can't adopt ideas that even the governor and Mackinac Center analysts agree on, how will they manage the much harder budget cuts ahead?"
The 10-page study is available from the Mackinac Center, a Midland-based nonprofit think tank, at www.mackinac.org/archives/2009/S2009-03.pdf.