Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget brings good news but fails to address the state’s ongoing revenue problems.
The governor’s fiscal year 2014 budget was released today to a room full of lawmakers, lobbyists and other Lansing insiders. Gov. Snyder’s budget includes commendable investments in Michigan’s future workforce and economy, including an expansion of the Medicaid program to very low-income parents and childless adults, dental services for an additional 70,500 low-income children and new investments in early childhood education.
The governor’s proposed investments are an important down payment, but without repair of our antiquated revenue system, they fall short of meeting the need, and in many cases do not restore many of the deep cuts made in critical programs for low-income residents and families over the last decade.
Most notably, the budget fails to address basic income assistance programs at a time when one-third of working families do not earn enough to meet basic needs. The best tool for helping the working poor, the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, was cut by the Legislature by 70%, and families will begin to feel the impact during this tax season.
Similarly, although we appreciate the governor’s advocacy for vital services such as health and dental care and early education, many of the revenue decisions made over the last few years have reduced Michigan’s tax base, making it difficult to take programs to scale or ensure adequate quality or sustainability.
For example, the governor’s proposed expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program into Ottawa, Ingham and Washtenaw counties is welcome news for low-income children in those counties, yet the large urban areas are left out – including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kalamazoo and Kent counties – because of a lack of funds. Likewise, new investments in early childhood education are needed for the state’s 4-year-olds, yet investments in the youngest children from birth to age 3 are wholly inadequate.
Lawmakers will now begin to tackle what is arguably their most important work—deciding how to carve up the state’s resources. Over the last decade, they have 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.
With this budget, the governor has expressed his confidence in the value of health care access and early childhood investments. 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