Friday, September 7, 2007

On swine and spines

Right now, jittery state lawmakers are wishing the anti-bullying legislation they passed this spring applied to one Leon Drolet.

Drolet, the elfin former Republican state representative, has reinvented himself as chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, fond of stalking his old colleagues with a half-ton foam pig named Mr. Perks.

Considering a tax increase to give kids better schools? Mr. Perks and his adorable corkscrew tail beseech you to reconsider.

It's good, old-fashioned third-grade fun by a bunch of guys who haven't quite grasped the concept that evil taxpayer dollars allow us to flush dookie down the toilet.

But now the mirthful Mr. Drolet has turned serious, evidently intent on earning his $39,000 salary, more than half the alliance's funds, Gongwer news service reports.

(One does have to admire Drolet's conservative work ethic. When life gives you term limits, find a think tank, run back to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners from which you came and end up almost matching your sweet $79,000 Lansing salary — sans perks.)

Drolet is gearing up to file recall petitions against 10 Democratic and Republican legislators in swing districts (can you say politically motivated?) to browbeat them into supporting his group's extremist anti-tax agenda.

If need be, Drolet says he'll go after 20 more.Just what we need, to hemorrhage more moderate, reasonable voices in politics, just for doing what they think is right to represent the people of their district and the state of Michigan.

Nine times out of 10, recalls are an ill-conceived scare tactic — a waste of time and money. They should be reserved for cases of rampant illegality when the bum refuses to step down.

What we could face next year is total electoral chaos.State Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has vowed to recall two Republicans for every Democrat. Not to be outdone, the Michigan GOP is floating a recall of Gov. Jennifer Granholm to motivate the base, throwing the presidential and state House races the Republicans' way.

This takes politicking to a whole new level of insanity, thanks to people allergic to making prudent policy.And it's superfluous. Despite last year's Democratic tsunami, it's not all doom and gloom for the GOP, which could still win in '08 fair and square.

If Michigan-native Mitt Romney is the presidential nominee, he could easily take the state — and thus the Electoral College. The trickle-down effect in state House races could restore GOP control.

Plus, the Dems could deliver a surprise Christmas gift. If state Sen. Mark Schauer unseats U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, (an almost statistical impossibility if Romney's on the ballot) then his old seat is in the bag, thus bestowing the GOP with a healthy 22-16 majority till 2010.

No Democrat, not even those closest to Schauer, thinks the seat will hold.As for the budget, if you seriously believe the Legislature can solve the $1.8 billion shortfall by Sept. 30 without a modest tax increase, then you've spent too much time inhaling Mr. Perks' fumes.

Do the math. Of the $42 billion state budget, most is in restricted funds for things like road repair. The only funds in play are the $13 billion K-12 school aid and the $9 billion general.

Neither party wants to get tagged with hating children, so that leaves deep cuts to corrections, higher education, human services, local governments and community health.

Go ahead and further gut the Department of Human Services and feign surprise at the next Ricky Holland case — the savings still won't go very far.

Nobody's eager to let the bad guys out to shrink the bloated $1.9 billion prison budget. And even if we pillage the entire $1.9 billion from higher ed (Lansing's favorite whipping boy), we'd still run short next year because our Paleozoic tax code never raises the revenue intended.

This isn't tax-and-spend madness. It's trying to keep the Capitol's lights on and ensure the Mitten State has a future.For those morally offended by taxes, I suggest you declare the glorious Republic of Notaxistan in the hinterland, where perhaps Dick DeVos will subsidize your police and public works. Or maybe you'll be content to let the dookie run free.

As for our leaders in the real world, just do your job.

Try something new, like passing a budget and pertinent laws to grow jobs, broaden health care access and improve schools. Seems that would be better for your job security than bumbling around in a daze of fear and confusion.

After all, even Mr. Perks appears to have a spine.

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