Whispers, Noise & Rumors: June 1, 2020

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Budget Cuts, Revenue, Taxation and Politics: Every budget cycle when we hit these huge reductions in state tax revenue we hear talk of tax increases and new revenue sources. This year we are faced with unprecedented losses in state tax revenue for this fiscal year and next. Bridge Magazine has an article by two former state legislators who were both state budget directors—one Republican and one Democrat: John Walsh and Bob Emerson, respectively.

They raise the issue of whether, given our current fiscal situation should Michigan consider tax increases. They write that “We believe it is premature to consider general tax increases to address the immediate deficit. Now is not the time to burden individuals or businesses with the additional financial obligation any tax increase would impose.” They call for eliminating spending on “unnecessary activities, push for federal funding and use rainy day funds to shore up the safety net.”

Lou Glazer, Director and Editor of Michigan Future Inc, writes in response that “So if the goal is not burdening those individuals and businesses who have been harmed by the pandemic driven economic collapse, raising taxes on those who have not been hurt economically in the collapse needs, at least, to be on the table.”

Emerson and Walsh write that there should be a total review of our overall tax policy and that a group ought to be convened to do just that. They recommend appointment of a bi-partisan, blue ribbon commission which was utilized during the economic crisis in the Eighties. 

How would all this impact rural areas and the Upper Peninsula—revenue losses, deficits, budget cuts and tax revenue all on the table. What specifically ought to be considered about rural areas as these issues are debated? Should there be a bi-partisan blue ribbon commission composed of citizens from every corner of the state, including the UP, with representation from citizens of all different backgrounds? 

Thoughts? Ideas? More to come later on this topic.

Preparing for the State and Local Budget Cuts in the UP: Local school districts throughout the UP are awaiting information from the Governor and state legislature on what cuts will be made to their local education budgets this summer and fall. Rumors abound that cuts to schools could top $600 per student, as well as talk of 25% cuts to school budgets. Nothing confirmed. Hard for school districts to plan without this information. Their fiscal years begin July 1 while the state’s fiscal year begins October 1 and that always complicates the budget planning situation. 

Universities face similar budget stress. No word yet on their cuts either. Meanwhile in the central UP, Northern Michigan University is talking about budget cuts with their staff and faculty. Rumors abound that the faculty negotiations are no picnic and might even be described as contentious. Budget cuts are always difficult especially in the middle of contract negotiations. 

Upper Peninsula COVID and Budget Coordination:  Good news heard from the Sault Saint Marie/Chippewa County leaders that they have convened meetings to talk regularly about COVID issues and budget issues that involves the City of Sault Saint Marie, County of Chippewa, Lake Superior State University, law enforcement, health professionals, schools, etc.

Heard also that the City and County of Marquette government leaders have also been meeting to discuss COVID issues. 

Is it time for more regional coordination of these issues? Hearing more and more that local governments need more information on how universities are planning to handle the thousands of students reentering the Upper Peninsula in August. Testing, social distancing, masks, etc., etc..

Both the City Manager of Sault Saint Marie, Brian Chapman, and the County Manager of Marquette County, Scott Erbisch, both hold graduate degrees from NMU’s public administration program. Both distinguished in their fields and understand the people and programs of the UP.

Quote for the Week: From our Judeo/Christian backgrounds we find some good advice for us during these very challenging times in our nation and state. 

 “To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke (12:48). If you have heard that line of wisdom , you know that it means we are held responsible for what we have. If we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time and the like, it is expected that we benefit others.” (Casey Duhart, University of Tennessee School of Law).

“The rich take care of the poor and the poor take care of the poorer.” In the Jewish tradition it is called the eleventh commandment and is used to guide one’s personal life and behavior.

David Haynes

Professor David Haynes is a tenured Professor of Public Administration and teaches in the MPA graduate program at Northern Michigan University, where he previously served as President. David has been involved in the public administration and political science field for over 45 years.

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