Michigan Democrat Earns Highest Score for Fiscal Responsibility

imagesCAZWFKKCAs Michigan’s leaders muse over how to apportion an estimated $970 million budget surplus, one lawmaker isn’t wasting any time. Rep. Scott Dianda (D-110) introduced legislation today to repeal an unpopular pension tax instituted by the Snyder administration designed offset sizable corporate tax cuts. HB- 5219 was referred to the House Committee on Tax Policy — where it will likely be retired itself.

Dianda, from Calumet, was the sole sponsor of the bill. He explained his legislation thus:

“Punishing seniors who are already struggling to make ends meet is wrong. The pension tax has made life difficult for a lot of seniors in the U.P. who have worked hard their whole lives and are now surviving off a fixed income. I will do everything in my power to see that it’s repealed.”

Republicans have been chomping at the bit to dispose of the budgetary windfall in the form of tax cuts, so it will be interesting to hear their various excuses for not getting on board with a little something for the state’s retirees. Often, when Republicans say “tax cuts”, what they really mean is corporate welfare, or at the very least, tax cuts for “job creators”. The governor’s budget director, John Nixon, was quick to tell media that tax cuts were a foregone conclusion:

“Obviously whenever you have this much revenue, a tax cut or tax relief is inevitable, and that makes sense.”

He went on to explain that other priorities will also be taken into consideration.

Right.

True, there will be plenty of pressure to address the issues of education and roads funding, and Gov. Snyder, in clandestine campaign mode, would be a fool to submit a budget to the legislature next month without serious mention of some of the more moderate issues. His staff has opted to hold-off, for as long as possible, announcing his bid for re-election, so the governor’s actions appear less craven, and more gubernatorial. In the end though, it’s the Republican-led House and Senate that get to make the final budgetary call — and all 146 of their seats are up for grabs in November too. Therefore, Snyder can submit a completely unrealistic pie-in-the-sky budget proposal without a worry. All politics really are local.

Does this mean lawmakers will run to the right for fear of being “primaried” by a Tea Party candidate?

Funny you should ask — it seems when it comes to core fiscal policies, Democrats and Republicans are measurably neck-and-neck. The much reviled Mackinac Center for Public Policy maintains a database on a variety of metrics that interest their conservative funders. Among them is the Michigan Tea Party Scorecard — an evaluation of the voting records of all lawmakers based on key fiscal issues. Their study avoids the trap of becoming lost circling an endless cul-de-sac of social-conservative issues — with no mention of guns, gays or girl-parts. Yet, while the authors offer a fiscal score on each individual lawmaker, they fail to make any party-to-party comparisons. So, Democracy Tree did, based on their numbers. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Senate Democrats had an average score of 23.75 percent
  • Senate Republicans average was 23.54 percent
  • House Democrats scored an average of 36.75 percent
  • House Republicans came in at 39.65 percent

And, which lawmaker won the top score of the Tea Party fiscal responsibility contest? Drum roll please…None other than Democrat — Rep. Scott Dianda, with a stellar 64 percent. Bringing up the rear, the worst scores were handed-out to the following Republicans: Rep. Ben Glarden (14%), Sen. Geoff Hansen (11%), and Sen. Casperson, Jones, Kahn and Marleau (16%).

Yep, you can bet they’re gonna run to the right — sooo far…it’ll read “here be dragons”.

Of interest, the Mackinac Center report had this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: This report was prepared by a user of the www.michiganvotes.org site. The www.michiganvotes.org site is not responsible for the scores, nor the preferred vote.

Sure, whatever — don’t stand-by the data reported.

In the scheme of things, $970 million isn’t a lot of money to fix potholes or educate Michigan’s kids, no matter how responsibly spent. But it does have the power to sway votes. The governor will likely hedge his bets and, staying true to form, tie the funds directly to his corporate-inspired “best practices”, thereby forcing schools and municipalities to further privatize and renegotiate contracts if they want a piece of that pie.

Struggling Michiganders will see little, if any, of the crumbs.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

UPDATE: Sunday, Jan. 19,2014. Michigan Public Radio reports Gov. Snyder told the Detroit News that he will not reconsider the pension tax in spite of the surplus. 

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2 Responses to Michigan Democrat Earns Highest Score for Fiscal Responsibility

  1. Jack McHugh says:

    Lovely to see alive and well here the generous spirit of granting your ideological or political opponents the presumption of good will , one of the habits that separate healthy democracies from places where policy differences are resolved with bullets not ballots.

    The MichiganVotes .org legislator rating scorecard tool referenced above is a free service of the (“much reviled”) Mackinac Center, available on the site for any individual or group who wants to use it. The Independents for Responsible Government group is one of many who have taken advantage of this tool. Most recently, the Lansing MIRS news service used it to assemble their annual comparisons of House and Senate voting records, which can also be viewed on the site.

    Jack McHugh, Editor
    MichiganVotes.org

  2. Ray Hamman says:

    As the authors of the Michigan Tea Part Scorecard, we appreciate you using the scorecard, and also for noting that it is strictly non-partisan. We must correct your implication that the Mackinac Center is somehow responsible for the scorecard and should “stand by the data reported”. Their role is exactly as stated – they provide a database of all the votes in the legislature, and tools that allow us to select bills and assign a “correct” vote to determine scores. Anyone can do this, and you should feel free to use their database and tools to develop your own scorecard. It might allay your (unfounded) suspicion that somehow they control the use of that information. We would also note that a more recent version of the scorecard was published in October, and has significantly different results when summarized by political party.

    We clearly limit the bills that we score to those concerned with fiscal responsibility, limited government and private sector job growth – issues that are of concern to all citizens, and at least should be largely non-partisan. It is hard to find people who are for fiscal irresponsibility or oppose creating more jobs. Expanding or limiting government is clearly a more controversial issue and with clear partisan differences.

    Our goal is to provide transparency and hold legislators accountable based on facts – their actual votes as opposed to their speeches and press releases. The results show that unfortunately there is strong bipartisan support for giving 100’s of millions in taxpayer dollars to favored companies – commonly known as corporate welfare of crony capitalism. Both parties support things like giving millions to Mike Illitch to build a stadium for his sports teams, or millions to film companies. In a somewhat surprising switch, during the first half of 2013 Republicans voted for numerous fee increases while the Democrats opposed them. In any case, the votes speak for themselves – which is exactly the point of the scorecard.

    If members of either party change their votes based on our scorecard (as we sincerely hope they do), the impact so far this year (check the actual votes that were scored) would largely be fewer government fees, reduced barriers to entering a profession such as barbers and auctioneers, greater transparency and hopefully great reductions in crony capitalism, and reallocation of existing funds to worthy projects rather than continual expansion of programs and revenue. If this leads either party to a place where “here be dragons”, we have differing views on dragons.

    Anticipating comments on the Medicaid expansion scoring – we are not opposed to providing basic health services to those who need assistance. What we are opposed to is borrowing billions more to expand a flawed program that serves those individuals poorly while not addressing any of the fundamental cost and service delivery issues.

    Ray Hamman
    Tony Messina
    Independents for Responsible Government

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