With the release of the governor’s budget earlier this month, lawmakers are tackling what is arguably their most important work—deciding how to carve up the state’s resources to fund important state services such as income supports for low-income children; child abuse and neglect prevention; early childhood, K-12 and higher education; and police and fire protection.
Never has there been a stronger need for Michigan residents to have their voices heard as the state budget is set.
The League has produced A Matter of Priorities: A Guide to the State Budget that we hope will help you better understand the budget process and spending trends, and we will provide information about budget issues as they arise during the fiscal year 2014 budget cycle. A new Budget Briefs project will pull our analyses, blogs and email alerts into one area on the League’s website to offer timely information.
The barriers to citizen engagement are real: It is often difficult to access timely and concise information about budget issues, and the process is not always transparent—with meetings scheduled on short notice, and budget decisions and trade-offs increasingly made behind closed doors by a limited number of political leaders.
Many Michigan residents cannot easily identify the public services they rely one, yet each day in homes across the state, they in fact wake to routines that depend upon the availability of publicly funded services. They rely on clean water for their daily shower and cup of coffee. They drive to work on roads that are built and maintained by state, county and municipal road systems and protected by law enforcement officials. They take their children to child care centers or providers that are licensed by the state and provided basic training, or send them to the state’s public schools and universities.
Because of an unwillingness to address Michigan’s outdated revenue system, lawmakers over the last decade carved up a shrinking “revenue pie,” resulting in substantial deterioration in the quality of life in Michigan, including increasing childhood poverty, struggling public schools, fewer police and firefighters to answer calls of distress, and the crumbling of the state’s roads and bridges.
We hope that you will join us in speaking out as lawmakers build next year’s budget. The message is clear: We need spending priorities that meet the needs of all Michigan residents, and we can only get there if we enlarge the pie by reforming Michigan’s antiquated revenue system to ensure that there are sufficient revenues to invest in the human and other capital needed to move this state forward.
– Pat Sorenson