The Republican-controlled Legislature and governor’s office are proving the axiom that a less active government is better.
In 2011, of 280-plus public acts passed by the Republican Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, a scant 4% were sponsored by Democratic legislators, showing a glaring lack of bipartisanship.
Let’s recap what an unchecked majority is capable of.
Last year, we saw a massive 83% corporate tax cut to replace the Michigan Business Tax without a shred of proof offered that it will create jobs. Yes, the MBT was broken, but, no, it should not have been fixed at the expense of the elderly, low-income residents and Michigan’s homeless shelters and other nonprofits.
This year, many seniors will have a dramatic tax hike on their fixed incomes, struggling families will have a drastically reduced Earned Income Tax Credit, and the tax benefit attached to certain charitable donations will be eliminated.
Further, Michigan will be disadvantaged going forward to attract the best employees nationwide, because the Republican Legislature blocked needed domestic partner benefits.
2011 can also be described as the year of the Republican-controlled Legislature’s attack on employees. Although I agree that bad teachers must be removed from the classroom, the majority party created a process that allows good teachers to be fired without due process guarantees. Collective bargaining for public workers will be curtailed from adequately protecting against workplace abuse. And there has been an unrelenting attack on workers compensation, making it harder for injured employees to collect vital benefits.
Further, in 2011, we witnessed a Legislature whose majority is less concerned with reinvigorating our economy and more concerned with shrinking Michigan’s social safety net. Republicans in the Legislature have added draconian limits on the ability of low-income Michiganders to avail themselves of state welfare aid. They also have reduced the number of weeks a jobless worker can receive unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 — the lowest in the nation.
But the most hazardous bill the Republicans advanced in the Legislature is to prevent unlimited no-fault auto insurance benefits and instead set an arbitrary cap of $5 million on catastrophic injuries. Experts say this policy represents a massive cost shift away from auto insurance companies to further burden Michigan’s already overstretched Medicaid, private health insurance and civil judicial systems — not to mention bankrupt numerous Michigan families.
Finally, the capstone of the Republican-controlled Legislature’s agenda in 2011 has been the damaging of education quality in Michigan. There have been worrisome and unprecedented funding cuts to community colleges and universities. Moreover, there has been a sustained raid on the School Aid Fund. In years to come, this will have the practical effect of more teacher layoffs, increasing classroom sizes, forcing school buildings to close, cutting busing and eliminating extracurricular activities.
The Republican Legislature also has guaranteed that charter schools will multiply without proper quality control measures in place to ensure a high quality education for all Michigan students. As the 2012 election approaches, let us not forget that in 2011, a state government, dominated by an absolute Republican majority in the Legislature and governor’s office, has created massive insecurity for a great number of Michigan citizens without the promise of better economic conditions in the future.