Lansing’s Budget Fiasco is a Train Wreck!


There’s so much happening in our town and in our region I can’t decide what to blog about, so let me hit several disparate subjects.

The Budget Fiasco

First, the train wreck in Lansing. Some would call it the “Annual Budget Process,” others would call it the showdown in the Garden of Good and Evil. Still, others of us find the whole process to be akin to watching a man standing outside a bank pulling down a ski mask. You know what’s going to follow can’t be good.

The state is in budgetary disarray. No, that’s far too kind: budgetary hell. The current fiscal year is still a mess. It appears as though our process here in Michigan was designed by Rube Goldberg, and Bernie Madoff is our budget director. Next year (fiscal year 2011) the early guestimates are that the state will be $1.4 billion short from the git-go. The problems are so many and the challenges so great, let me single out just one very dangerous option that the Legislature and Governor are toying with: taking stimulus money that was supposed to be available to cover some of the shortfall in 2011 and using it in the current fiscal year to plug the hole. Do the names Peter and Paul come to mind? Robbing Peter to pay Paul. And next year a manageable hole has been recklessly expanded into a fiscal chasm. What the hell, most of the principle players will be leaving at the end of next year anyway…it’s the next Governor and next Legislature’s problem to solve.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo…as in Gitmo

Why in the world would Michigan want to volunteer to accept in one of our state prisons some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world?  I refer to the properly maligned Gitmo detainees who are going to be forced to relocate because Obama wants to keep a stupid campaign promise that he prematurely committed to during his run for president.

Gitmo, isolated in Guantanamo Bay, is a perfectly good prison; it’s working fine; we own it. Therefore, the rent is right. I haven’t read about too many escapees from Gitmo. But now the federal government is thinking about moving those detainees to a state-run facility, pay the going rate, and endanger mainland America all at the same time. Brilliant.

My main objection to taking the Gitmo detainees is pretty simple: we’re putting a bulls-eye right on the back of Michigan, specifically the Standish area. Every would-be terrorist, wanna-be bomb maker, and al-Qaeda sympathizer will eventually gravitate to Standish, Michigan to ply his trade. Michigan, a fairly tranquil state with farmland, forests, and abundant freshwater, will become the next best thing to the World Trade Center.

Governor, I know that the people in Standish want jobs … why not send them one of your new green energy plants instead?

A Billion Here, a Billion There

The debate about rapid transit in the region still rages on. John Hertel, formerly everything from State Fair Director to Wayne and Macomb County Board Chairman, is now the eminently qualified transportation czar driving the light rail option.

While I’m perceived by many as an obstructionist to light rail, I say nay, nay, nay.  Light rail – schmight rail.  Bring it on: train on wheels, overhead trolley’s, I’m not opposed to any or all of them being implemented in Southeast Michigan. Really, line every mile road with rail; throw in a few stations on Woodward, Gratiot, Jefferson, Glastonbury. Turn downtown Detroit into downtown Durand, the train capital of Michigan. I don’t care.  All I have said over and over is how much is it going to cost and who’s going to pay for it? Those are nagging, uncomfortable questions and nobody wants to answer them.

It all seems like a field of dreams concept:  build it and they will come and ride it.  Okay, build to your heart’s content.  Just tell me two things.  How much is it going to cost and who’s going to pay for it?

In the September 28, 2009, edition of Crain’s, the answer is finally beginning to surface. According to the article quoting “Czar Hertel,” preliminary plans for the discussion of phase one of light rail has the price tag of $11.5 billion. That’s just for construction. You’ve got to factor in a couple more billion for maintenance and operation.

The same question: How are we going to pay for it? Don’t tell me new taxes.

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