Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled his proposed fiscal 2015 budget last week. It is significantly different from his previous spending plans, in both good and bad ways.
First, the good: After more than a decade during which the state has irresponsibly cut higher education spending by billions of dollars, this budget calls for a badly needed 6 percent increase in state aid to colleges and universities. The Republican governor also calls for more state troopers, more money for mental health programs and the Healthy Kids dental program, and expanded prekindergarten education.
But there is only an anemic 3 percent increase in state aid to elementary and high schools, which will be eaten up by inflation and pension costs. Worse, after two years of fighting vainly for needed new billions of dollars to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads, Mr. Snyder is apparently giving up, asking for just $250 million to trigger federal matching funds.
The worst news is that the budget the Legislature enacts will likely be worse than Governor Snyder’s proposal. This is an election year for state officials; despite evidence that the state no longer has enough money to maintain its roads and schools, Tea Party Republicans are insisting on rolling back the state income tax rate over three years.
Mr. Snyder is instead offering a more-sensible $100 million expansion of the state’s homestead property tax credit, which would mainly help seniors and low and middle-income families. But his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature seem bent on passing a tax cut that would mostly benefit the richest Michiganians and starve the state of nearly $1 billion in new annual revenue.
To some extent, both Gov. Snyder and the Legislature want to pander to voters in an election year. Why not, for once, appeal for votes by enacting a budget that is designed to serve the public good?