Snyder, who campaigned in 2010 as a self-described “Tough Nerd,” has apparently now decided that going soft is his best path to reelection in 2014. He now professes to prefer an approach of “relentless positive action.” One result of this new outlook is that he and his GOP-dominated legislature are “positively” on the brink of returning to the tax-and-spend, go-along-get-along ways of the Engler years. Another is that he has endorsed Mitt Romney in Michigan’s February 28 Republican primary. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney “positively” did much of what Snyder is now pursuing, having raised taxes and fees by over $700 million per year during his single four-year term. That Romney would from all indications have been trounced had he attempted reelection in the Bay State seems not to matter.
As much opprobrium as Jennifer Granholm deserves for her miserable 2003-2010 stewardship, it was a free-spending frenzy at last century’s turn led by Engler and GOP-controlled legislatures which set Michigan up for its awful rest of the decade:
Engler, who was also “on a spending spree” for years preceding those shown, blew the lid off in fiscal 2001 and 2002. Granholm was naturally happy to sustain Engler’s previous profligacy and build on it. While the state lost over 2% of its population during the last half of the previous decade, “Spend Every Penny Jenny” and pliant Republican lawmakers increased spending by almost 5% in real terms even as Michigan’s economy went into free-fall. The spending level-off anticipated during the current and next two fiscal years under Snyder hardly makes up for what transpired during the previous eleven. Yet the writers of a recent New York Times story on the state’s reported $471 million surplus wondered “whether it is safe to start spending again.”
No it’s not, especially if doing so requires increasing taxes and fees by $1.4 billion. The net gas-related hike would make the amount Michiganders pay their state government to fill up their vehicles the highest in the nation. Increasing the vehicle value-based registration fee, or “birthday tax,” by the proposed 67% would further unfairly hit light-mileage drivers who inflict little damage on the state’s roads.
Another reason why the proposed levies don’t make sense is that, as the Mackinac Institute notes, most of the 6% sales tax levied on gas purchases — a levy separate from the per-gallon charge at the pump — “does not go to build or repair roads.” Targeting the money to its proper place could fund needed repairs while avoiding tax increases. But making sure that happens would also involve doing something about how the sales tax is currently allocated. Apparently, timid politician Rick and his state’s RINO legislators aren’t up for that.
One potential side-effect of this dangerous exercise is that a ballot referendum on the tax hikes might increase the November turnout of instinctively tax-averse conservative voters who would also oppose President Barack Obama’s reelection. But that strategy could backfire if large numbers of currently disengaged and otherwise disheartened young voters who supported Obama in 2008 (and would again) get motivated to show up at the polls because of the looming hit to their pocketbooks.
I’d rather see Michigan’s economy avoid a double-dip. Ax the taxes, guys, and look to another Rick — Rick Santelli — for guidance on what to do about spending.