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Detroit News solution to budget problems: Raid another special fund

by: Eric B.

Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:03:56 AM EST

During the Granholm years, state government was so paralyzed by Mike Bishop's hatred for the governor that the budgeting process was a complete disaaster. Year to year, it'd get kicked down the road until the last minute, a couple of times resulting in mostly symbollic shutdowns of state government, and then they'd balance the thing with accounting gimmicks and one-time raids of special funds set up specifically to provide a sustainable level of a service.

Then, benevolent overlord Rick Michigan was elected governor, and we were told that roses were now in bloom. He'd get the state's fiscal house in order with tough love on spending and a tax shift from non-living entities to poor and middle class people (and retirees!). Gone were the days one accounting gimmicks and one-time raids of special funds.

In his 2014 budget released Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder asked for $9.4 million a year — and $21.5 million in the current 2013 budget — for dredging to make sure key harbors are passable for boaters.

"But the Medicaid-crowded general fund starts to close doors as you look for that kind of money," says Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, whose district depends on lake tourism.

To remedy the situation, Genetski has drafted a bill allowing local communities to request funds from the Natural Resources Trust Fund to cover dredging costs. But what of other pressing infrastructure priorities like roads?

Snyder has asked for tax hikes to fund an additional $1.2 billion to maintain the state's deteriorating road system.

Or, not. The Bridge covered this last year. Michigan's citizens own -- collectively -- 4.59 million acres. The game of Pac Man that legislators imagine is going on called last year for the acquisition of another 18,000 acres. Hardly the stuff of a real, concerted effort by the state to take massive amounts of land away from private use. This quote from a MUCC dude is insightful, by the way.

“Talking about the number of acres of land the state owns is pointless,” said Erin McDonough, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “What we care about is the utility of state land and how we can utilize that land to strengthen the economy.”

Talking about the sheer number of acres the public owns isn't just pointless, it's also dumb. It's like arguing over the size of government, while ignoring whether government is providing services people expect and doing it competently.

Publicly owned land is a deceptive term, because lots of publicly owned land gets used by various industries for private profits. State and national forests, for instance, get logged. Also, if you like the state's tradition of hunting, one of the things that is squeezing people out of it is a lack of access to huntable land, with so much of it in private hands.

Eric B. :: Detroit News solution to budget problems: Raid another special fund
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I'm confused - and maybe it's because the link to this story brings us to the story of guns for teachers - but wouldn't dredging be exactly the kind of thing the Natural Resources Trust Fund should be used for?

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