Constitutional Emergency

I just received this from my state rep friend and find it necessary to pass on to as many MI people as possible. Truthfully, I didn't know what you are about to read about the budget.

Dear Friends:

I know you have heard of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the Federal "Stimulus" Package), passed by Congress earlier this year. What you may not know, however, is thatit prohibits states from cutting a substantial portion of their budgets and thereby mandates that state to continue the very same dysfunction that caused the budget crisis in the first place.

In response, I have introduced a resolution, SR 62, urging Congress to allow waivers for states in an effort to carry out the constitutional responsibility of balancing our budget. Moreover, demanding the federal government stop the excessive, overreach into state sovereignty.

Please see my floor statements below which help to explain the current status of the budget process, as well as the attached resolution for your information. I would appreciate any support you can provide when talking to your family, friends and neighbors. This is a crucial moment in our history and we need to ramp up our participation and make sure our voices are heard.


Michael D. Bishop
Senate Majority Leader

Bishop Floor Comments 6-16-09:

"Despite the substantial budget problems facing state governments, the Federal government crafted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in such a way to prohibit states from cuts to a substantial percentage of each state's budget and moreover states are prevented from doing the right thing, such as paying down debt service.

The practical result of the federal restrictions is that 47 percent of Michigan's General Fund/General Purpose budget is effectively off the table from consideration, even as we have a $1.7 billion deficit to reconcile. As a consequence, the cuts that must be made can only come from other priority areas, such as health care, police and emergency services, local government services, road infrastructure, and other core government functions.

If there is one bit of a silver lining in these very challenging times, it's the fact that state governments are forced to focus on priorities of government, right size their operations, pass long overdue reforms to broken, unproductive systems and learn to deliver essential services more effectively and efficiently with less money.

The irony of the stimulus bill is that its restrictions actually prevent states from making the necessary cuts and reforms to their own state budgets and to properly manage their own budget crisis, thereby enhancing the probability that the dysfunction that caused the current budget crisis, will continue.

And, in fact, the stimulus bill goes a step further. In many cases, it requires states who accept their own tax payer money, to build and sustain a bigger government. Which is exactly, the worst thing ANY state should be doing right now. After all, we all know that the first order of business when you first find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

States can't print money like our federal government and we simply cannot sustain the present rate of growth. The Federal government has to recognize that fact.

So, in the spirit of stimulating the economy, this resolution is a request to the federal government to give the state of Michigan the opportunity to do the right thing and reform our state government to give us a fighting chance of stabilizing a state budget that is long overdue for right sizing and reform.

Accordingly, by and through this resolution, we are asking the federal government to waive federal mandates against states who genuinely want to resolve their budget crisis without growing government at the expense of our children.

The state of Michigan desperately wants to begin its recovery, but as long as our state government continues with the status quo, we will continue to repel business and chase families out of our state.

The impact of the "strings" attached to the stimulus money is that the state is implicitly abdicating its authority and discretion related to meeting our essential responsibilities and establishing budget priorities to meet our constitutional obligations to provide core services such as health, public safety, and educating our children.

We therefore memorialize Congress to provide for waivers from requirements attached to stimulus funding that would hamper the state's efforts to meet its constitutional obligation to balance future budgets.

I respectfully urge your support."

Senator Bishop's second statement is as follows:

"...A couple of months ago, I did send that letter to Harry Reid and the good Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with a number of concerns that I had with the direction of the federal government. In that letter, I asked the federal government to ask the states to provide a plan on how they were going to reduce their budgets and how they were going to balance their own budgets before they send a dime to the states. To me, that sounded reasonable, especially in light of the fact that the federal government was in the process of excoriating, very publicly, our automakers for the way they had conducted their business and the way they continue to have troubles in the industry.

I thought it was fair that since we decided to ask the automakers to provide a plan, we ought to be asking the state governments to provide the same kind of plan, instead of just cutting a blank check and saying go ahead and have at it. That was the purpose of that letter, and I stand by that letter. I think had the federal government taken the opportunity and made that a requirement in this process, we wouldn't be in the position we are in right now and we couldn't be. States would be forced to balance their budgets before they even thought about the stimulus money.

Now we are in a position where we are trying to balance our budget, and at the same time, we are told that we can't address budget concerns because 47 percent of our state budget is off limits. That is the point of this resolution. It asks the federal government to relax the restrictions, so that a state like Michigan can do what it has to do, which is to resolve a very serious budget crisis. This request has been made by different states. The good governor from Florida has made the request and received a waiver to do what I am asking to do. I would think in a state like Michigan, we would probably have some standing to ask for this request. We are a state that has been devastated by an economic crisis, and the federal government should take notice of that fact. Instead of putting restrictions on how we can save our own situation, they ought to be providing us help, services, and resources on ways that we can resolve our own budget shortfall. I'm not asking for extra money. I am just saying get out of our business, and let us do what we need to do.

States are sovereign, and we have a right and an obligation pursuant to our Constitution to balance our budget. This resolution is important to this state and the future of our budget negotiations. I ask for your support.

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