OAKLAND COUNTY TREASURER ANDY MEISNER’S RESPONSES
TO PROPOSED STATE OF MICHIGAN 2012-2013 BUDGET
(A Ferndale View by, Andy Meisner, Oakland County Treasurer, issued 2/17/2011, run 2/22/2011)
Former State Representative, current Oakland County Treasurer, and Huntington Woods resident Andy Meisner issued the following statement in response to Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed State of Michigan Budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013:
“Along with some real bloopers, there are positive elements of Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget, and to the approach he and his team have used in developing their proposal. I compliment the Governor for this approach, which appears almost devoid of political calculation in favor of ‘spreading the pain’ – irrespective of lobbying influence.”
Two Year Budget
Moving to a two-year budget cycle may be the most important element of the budget, in that it promotes taking a longer view and makes hiding the fiscal crisis – a favorite Lansing pastime – much harder to do. While not legally binding, this approach takes a page from Oakland County’s award-winning and AAA bond-rated success in establishing fiscal responsibility, and is a step in the right direction.
Transparency and Accountability
I’m a strong believer in strategic planning and clear definition of performance measures of effectiveness. Governor Snyder’s approach to this area is appropriate and necessary, holding Lansing’s feet to the fire to deliver results as promised.
With regards to tax policy, Governor Snyder adopts an approach I have long advocated: ending the murky and special interest-ridden practice of spending billions of taxpayer dollars off-budget through tax credits, exemptions and deductions, or tax loopholes. When these tax expenditures are off-budget, Michigan taxpayers are deprived of the opportunity for transparency and a robust debate about their effectiveness. Every one of these expenditures should get the same scrutiny received by the Michigan Motion Picture and Digital Media Production Tax Credit.
Movie Tax Credit
As one of the authors of the “Movie Credit,” the decision to put these credits on-budget was intentional to allow for greater transparency and accountability. In my view, these credits have more than justified their existence in light of this debate, much more so than billions in other tax expenditures that have not yet been subjected to such scrutiny. What’s more, these credits have spawned a new industry, created thousands of jobs and helped lure our young people back to Michigan from the coasts. Governor Snyder should keep his promise not to “pull the rug out” from beneath this fledgling industry. His meager proposal would definitely deprive Michigan of the competitive advantage we’ve enjoyed since the legislation’s enactment in 2008, killing one of our few productive golden geese.
Business Tax Policy
Everyone in Michigan wants to support the growth and success of our businesses of all shapes and sizes, especially efforts to promote a spirit and culture of entrepreneurship. That said, Governor Snyder’s budget continues a troubling trend of shifting the relative tax burden – or the amount of the state tax burden carried by individuals versus businesses – strongly to the benefit of businesses. Costs associated with eliminating the Michigan Business Tax would be covered by individuals, dollar for dollar.
If we are to proceed with implementing the tax and regulatory structure the Governor has proposed, I’d like to know more about what model this structure is based on, and where it has been most successful. I’ve heard Indiana has adopted a similar structure. What have been Indiana’s job creation numbers during this time?
My time as Chairman of the House Commerce Committee suggested that site selection and business growth decisions are based on many things other than taxes, including access to a well-trained work force, good schools for employees’ children, public safety, transportation infrastructure, and vibrant downtowns. Most of these items are severely cut under the Governor’s budget, making these cuts counterproductive to his stated goals.
Tax Treatment of Pensions
The individual tax burden would grow significantly under the Governor’s proposal as it relates to tax treatment of public and private pensions. This proposal could jeopardize the retirement security of seniors on a fixed income and hard working men and women across Michigan. Even if the proposed cuts in business taxes – subsidized by taxing pensions – delivered the promised jobs, I fear this proposal violates our core values.
Elimination of Statutory Revenue Sharing
Cities, villages and townships have made great strides in consolidating services, but much work remains in exploring efficiencies and economies of scale. Governor Snyder’s proposal forces the issue by moving to an incentive-based approach to revenue sharing. Locals reading the tea leaves have seen this change coming, which will force locals to sink or swim. When many sink following this change and proposed changes to the Emergency Financial Manager Act – as they will – I hope we’re prepared for the consequences, which will include insolvency and deterioration of public safety and other critical services.
Early Childhood Education
Investment in early childhood education may be the smartest dollar spent in the state budget, and is proven to prevent truancy, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, learning disabilities and future interaction with the criminal justice system. As a Board Member of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, I applaud Governor Snyder’s commitment to this critical area.
Governor Snyder’s proposed 2012 and 2013 budget represents a dramatically different approach to budgeting in Lansing, which I congratulate. That said, many of the assumptions on which this budget are based require scrutiny and public debate, and some of the ideas miss the mark entirely.