I received this in an email from Chris Ward's office. Others here may have received the same.
We are moving closer and closer to a shutdown of the state of Michigan and wanted to take this opportunity to let you know some of what has been happening in Lansing. I understand how frustrated everyone has become with the state legislature and our inability to pass a sensible budget to keep Michigan functioning well. I appreciate all the calls and emails from you (even if you don’t agree.) It is encouraging to know citizens are paying attention and care enough to write a letter or make a phone call.
I, too, am frustrated at the lack of progress and the unwillingness of all state government officials to “step up to the plate” to reach a compromise position. This is an excellent opportunity to make long-needed cuts and reforms that we have been trying to accomplish since Governor Engler was in office. Compromise, cuts and reforms can help with the long term financial health of Michigan, as well as solve the immediate fiscal crisis.
I have been working with everyone I can to break the log jam on reforms by bringing as many from both sides together to identify what both parties can agree on and what changes can be made that will still allow legislation that is effective but amenable to both sides. I have personally met with our Speaker of the House, the Governor and several members from both sides of the Michigan House and Senate. I am still hopeful we will have solutions in place. They will most likely involve reforms, cost containment measures, concessions in new spending and a revenue increase.
There are no decisions to be made with our current budget situation that will make everyone happy. Realizing this, it became important to me to actively seek a solution. As you know, I have always been in favor of less government and less taxes. The current situation has made it impossible, even after cuts, to leave the tax rate where it has been. The reforms will not save money immediately, but will leave Michigan in a better fiscal position in the future.
The solution I support means passing several bills that are“tie-barred” including the reform bills along with restoring the income tax to its’ previous level of 4.6%. This means all the bills must pass or none of them pass, ensuring the reforms are put into place along with the increase in income tax.
Some of the reforms being negotiated are:
Corrections reforms (privatizing some services)
State and public school employee retirement and retirement health care reform
Prohibiting “double dipping” by public employees (freezing pension benefits for retired employees who become re-employed)
Reducing legislative salaries and benefits
Changes in Medicaid to reduce fraud
Equity in school funding (making sure all children in the state are valued the same)
If a shutdown does occur it is quite possible that we will end up without any desired reforms and a hike in the income tax anyway. I don’t know where we will end up with the whole package but am doing my best to use this opportunity to make sure Michigan state government is as lean and responsible as possible.
If for some reason the process breaks down and we do not have a budget by the end of this week, it is my personal opinion that it will not be the fault of the Democrats, the Republicans or the Governor. It will be the fault of the legislature as a whole and I will have to take my portion of the blame. That is why I am committing to you to continue to do everything I can to come to resolution.
Thank you for your patience with this situation. I do take my responsibilities seriously and am doing my best to make good decisions for the citizens of Michigan. We will continue to face difficult decisions in state government, so please stay in touch. I value your input.
Republican Floor Leader