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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2007

Michigan at the brink

IN ATTEMPTING to right the state of Michigan's fiscal ship, Gov. Jennifer Granholm hasn't been the strongest of leaders, but most of the blame for the stalemate in Lansing can be laid at the feet of Republicans, who mismanaged state finances for more than a decade and are slow to take responsibility for the mess they created.

GOP lawmakers who control the state Senate have continued to stonewall efforts to avoid draconian cuts in school funding in the manner of Ms. Granholm's predecessor, John Engler, who never met a tax cut he didn't like.

Mr. Engler ruled Michigan from the governor's chair for 12 years with a virtual mania for cutting taxes on businesses and shifting the burden of funding state services to taxes on individuals.

As jobs and people have vanished in the wake of the state's declining auto industry, the result is lack of revenue to maintain basic services.

The GOP further aggravated the situation last year, when it was evident that Ms. Granholm wouldn't be ousted from office in favor of a tax-cutting Republican, by abolishing the single business tax and spitefully refusing to adopt a new tax to replace it.

Michigan now faces shortfalls of $200 million in its school budget and $500 million in the general fund, which includes state-supported colleges and universities, prisons, Medicaid, and the rest of government.

For schools, threatened cuts of $125 a pupil couldn't come at a worse time - the close of the school year, when options to recoup are few. This uncertainty has officials in districts like Bedford Public Schools in a justifiable quandary, and residents should be just as concerned.

Slashing school funding won't help Michigan regain its economic equilibrium and, in fact, will accelerate the state's plunge into disarray. Underfunded schools won't attract new business and industry but will only repel what the state needs most - growth.

The same is true of support for higher education, as citizens of Ohio know only too well.

No one likes tax increases, but Michigan Senate Republicans have an obligation to stop stonewalling and join with the Democratic governor and House of Representatives to work out a quick solution to this looming fiscal crisis.



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