Monday, September 17, 2007

Today's budget impasse began in 1983

If you thought this mess in Lansing had something to do with the 2008 budget, you would be wrong.

In 1983, on the heels of a budget crisis worse than this one, two Democratic senators were recalled. This action flipped the Senate from Democratic control to Republican control.

Future governor John Engler became the Senate majority leader and ran the GOP as a sort of opposition party. Sound familiar? He then became governor running on a platform of budget cuts and tax cuts. He lived up to his word demanding cuts in spending and taxes for the 12 years he was in office. The legislature borrowed from the right hand to give to the left until there was no more money. In the meantime, the auto industry, our life blood, began to decline-but that's another story.

The important thing is that obstruction and ideological resistance to any revenue increases resulted in GOP electoral success. And this is the point we must remember today.

Mr. Drolet remembers. Recall 1983 is the rallying cry of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, headed up by Mr. Drolet. It suggests there can be a glorious reliving of the sad triumph of 1983 and that it would be good and right to pursue recall actions against legislators who vote to increase revenues.

He and his organization categorically oppose tax increases. MTA's board includes Grover Norquist, most frequently quoted as wanting to "drown government in a bathtub." This is called ideology, not public policy.

Institutional memory is a casualty of term limits. No one in the legislature was present for the drama of 1983. But they need to review history to appreciate the drama they're caught in and act intelligently on behalf of our state and our future. Good luck.