Stopgap Solutions

The Harvard study concludes that these deficits have become structural, that is, the states are obligated to provide more services than they can afford.  This has been said about the Michigan situation for the last several years, but it has not been addressed.  Instead, quick-fix and stopgap solutions have been used to keep the books balanced.

The authors trace the problem to the 1990s boom when many states, again Michigan included, had the wherewithal both to increase spending and cut taxes.  But they did not sock away enough money for the inevitable recession that followed.  As tax revenues sagged, the states quickly drained their reserves and have since been living in a sort of payday-to-payday manner.

Detroit Free Press/July 17, 2004
/States like Michigan need bolder budget vision
my thanks to my employer’s clipping service

The editorial staff at the Freeps, like me, thinks it’s about time we rethought the structure of the state’s fiscal compact; since I’ve already commented on that, I’ll not repeat myself.  This paragraph, though, caught my attention:

Few states have shown the political will for the overhaul that is obviously required, in both taxes and services.  States such as Michigan with term-limited public officials minding the store are perhaps the least likely to make bold changes.

While I really dislike the short term limits we’ve put on the legislature, I don’t see this connection.  Methought one purpose of the term limits was to reduce the proportion of career politicians in office, thus reducing those officials’ institutional commitments and freeing up the creative juices.  That objective was certainly worthwhile, and ought to still apply.

Regardless, I don’t think we’ll see a legislative solution.  It’s likely time for a new Con-Con.

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