Since last July, it’s been clear that if they retained a slim majority in this legislative session, House Republicans would be totally unmoored, driven by nothing more than a desire to obstruct any legislation aimed at creating jobs, making health care affordable for people who don’t have it paid for by taxpayers, and extracting revenge from anyone who steps out of line.
This became especially obvious when Rep. Pat Somerville, who eventually won reelection by a few hundred votes, designed his entire campaign around the fact that he didn’t vote for the key pillars of Michigan’s supposed comeback: the new tax on pensions and deep cuts to K-12 schools. Somerville didn’t let this get in the way of his taking credit for “nearly 140,000 jobs being created” and “$700 million in investment in the Downriver area” from the auto industry. But he wasn’t the only one – across the board, House Republicans running for reelection chose to run on harsh and mostly unfounded attacks against their opponents, instead of on their supposed record of job creation and reinvention.
It was little surprise, then, when they rammed through hundreds of bills in the lame duck session, relying on a majority preserved by six members who had been soundly rejected by voters just weeks before. This narrow majority pushed a narrow agenda, completely out of step with the priorities of the people in every part of Michigan.
Unfortunately, 2013 has brought more of the same. This week Speaker Bolger issued an unhinged press release patting Appropriations Committee Republicans (and so-called independent John Olumba) on the back for rejecting all 73 Democratic budget amendments for the 2014 budget. The release claimed that these amendments at this early stage of the budget process “would unravel our economy and place an incredible debt burden on Michigan’s children.”
Never mind the fact that state government is constitutionally banned from doing any deficit spending and has never done so – despite constant inferences to the contrary by Republicans at all level of state government.
House Republicans apparently can’t read polls, which show that the kinds of spending priorities that House Democrats have been proposing are exactly what Michigan’s citizens are calling for. In a November EPIC-MRA poll, 64 percent of Michiganders agreed that the most important thing state government can do to support job creation is invest in public services – not simply cutting taxes and hoping for the best. And a January study from the Center for Michigan and Public Sector Consultants found that 76 percent of Michiganders support stronger support for educators, and 68 percent want to expand early childhood education, two things that House Republicans would never even pretend to back.
The fact is, “hard choices” aren’t necessary to make our state government work for middle-class families. The priorities of Michigan citizens are clear. The problem is, Lansing politicians aren’t listening.