Michigan is stuck in a state of incremental. Suffering the highest unemployment rate in the nation, sagging growth for years and budget deficits approaching 25% of the general fund budget, most of the solutions we’re offered won’t make a dent in our problems.
Eliminate the MBT surcharge! Tax plastic bottles to raise revenues! Eliminate college scholarships! Increase tax incentives! Cut tax incentives! These and many more are examples of incremental thinking.
A state with a damaged brand identity and uncompetitive business environment can’t grow again unless we think big and act bold. Say what you want about the Senate Republicans’ budget plan, but it’s bold. It balances the budget without raising taxes and or using smoke and mirrors. Ditto Speaker Andy Dillon’s health- care benefits plan. But neither has attracted much support from rank-and-file citizens.
Detroiters have shown more proclivity lately for thinking big and acting bold. A non-politican was elected Mayor. More than half of City Council may be turned over to a slate of reform candidates. A commission is being elected to re-write the City Charter. A measure to elect City Council members by districts will be on the November ballot. A regional authority was supported to manage Cobo Center. And an out-of-town leader has been embraced to rescue the schools.
Why can’t Michiganians follow Detroit’s lead? The Center for Michigan is trying to build a grass-roots base of change agents and needs more volunteers. The state is nearing a government shutdown, but isn’t hearing any hue and cry from the public. Businesses are fighting to stay open, but the associations that represent them get mixed messages about how to make things better.
One thing about the federal health-care town halls: They showed us that citizen input matters. So Michiganians, call your legislators, get involved in citizen movements, and voice your opinions to associations you belong to and tell them you expect actions commensurate with the times we live in.
Tell them you expect them to think big and act boldly.