Gutless Michigan Legislature kicks responsibility down the road

After a year of shoving “tough solutions” down the throats of Michigan’s teachers, unionized state workers, retired workers, homeowners, charities, firefighters, police officers, emergency responders, the unemployed, welfare recipients, people with jobs that don’t pay much … you know, everyone — the Michigan Legislature preached tough solutions. But when it came to getting tough with themselves, they punted.

Certainly the state had to do something about the budget shortfall.  It took several drastic measures that affected virtually everyone who lives in the state in some way. But when it came to dealing with themselves and their “lifetime” medical benefits, they ended them, but passed the burden on  to the next batch of legislators. [Detroit Free Press].

The bill would prohibit retiree health care benefits, which legislators have been getting since 1957, for all future state legislators and end benefits for current House and Senate members who don’t have six years of service before Jan. 1, 2013.

The House passed a bill that would have ended retiree health benefits for legislators who didn’t have six years of service as of Jan. 1, 2007, which would have ended benefits for all but a handful of lawmakers.

But the Senate passed a different version Wednesday that puts that date at Jan. 1, 2013. The bill protects benefits for all but two senators — Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, and Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield — and 14 House members.

The House passed the Senate version, which protects virtually all of them (Sorry, Colbeck and Gregory, but we have to draw the line somewhere!),  96-11. Of course it did. It was a much better deal for most of them.

This isn’t intended to be political, pro-union, anti-business or anything else. These votes were non-partisan, as all but one senator and 11 representatives voted in favor. They’re almost all complicit in this mockery of leadership. But let’s look at the scoreboard of how Legislators have dealt with issues of this state:

Teachers: forced to pay higher health insurance benefits, virtually ended teacher tenure, and are in the works of making teachers the state’s only right-to-work profession, i.e. people can take the fruits of unionization without paying for it;

Unionized state workers: Reduced health care benefits;

Retired workers: Pension income no longer exempt from taxes;

Homeowners: The homestead tax credit ends next year …

Charities: … as does the credit for charitable gifts.

Firefighters/Police/First responders: Higher health care costs, which was forced on local governments whether they wanted to give more benefits or not.

The unemployed: Reduced unemployment from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

Welfare recipients: Capped benefits to four years and made it retroactive, kicking many recipients off the roles almost immediately. (And no “starting in 2013” language to be found here, either).

Working poor: Ended the earned income credit.

Municipalities: Already crushed by the effect falling home values have had on property tax revenue, the Legislature is seriously considering killing the personal property tax on businesses, which the Michigan Municipal League says would be a “death blow” to communities of all sizes.

Themselves: Protected their benefits, but just long enough so that they aren’t affected by their decision.

If Gov. Snyder had any guts he’d veto this bill and have it revert back to the version where the current batch loses their lifetime benefits as well. But he won’t, as the Freep story says. Instead, he “applauds” them for being hypocrites, according to a spokesperson.

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