Sunday, September 30, 2007

Next up, SB418 - MESSA Reform

Trying it again. Important reform bill. The MEA is vehemently opposed. They have a cadre of taxpayer and teacher-funded lobbyists working overtime to hold this one off.


Next up, SB418 - MESSA Reform

Trying it again. Important reform bill. The MEA is vehemently opposed. They have a cadre of taxpayer and teacher-funded lobbyists working overtime to hold this one off.

September 30, 1990, 17 years ago today...

...George Herbert Walker Bush broke his "read my lips" pledge. Today, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to raise the state income tax from 3.9% to 4.35%. It will generate about $765 million in new tax revenue per year. In the end, Chris Ward (R) Brighton, and Ed Gaffney (R) Grosse Pointe, voted with the majority of Democrats to approve the new tax. Both are in their last terms. They are not worried about reelection.

Mike Simpson (D), a vulnerable from Jackson voted NO. He got off the hook, thanks to two Republicans.

Please send thank you notes to rickshaffer@house.mi.gov and howardwalker@house.mi.gov and judyemmons@house.mi.gov. I made life a little tougher for them when I asked folks to write them and ask them not to vote for tax increases.


September 30, 1990, 17 years ago today...

...George Herbert Walker Bush broke his "read my lips" pledge. Today, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to raise the state income tax from 3.9% to 4.35%. It will generate about $765 million in new tax revenue per year. In the end, Chris Ward (R) Brighton, and Ed Gaffney (R) Grosse Pointe, voted with the majority of Democrats to approve the new tax. Both are in their last terms. They are not worried about reelection.

Mike Simpson (D), a vulnerable from Jackson voted NO. He got off the hook, thanks to two Republicans.

Please send thank you notes to rickshaffer@house.mi.gov and howardwalker@house.mi.gov and judyemmons@house.mi.gov. I made life a little tougher for them when I asked folks to write them and ask them not to vote for tax increases.

Final vote

57 YES, 52 NO.

Well, folks, there you have it.

Gaffney and Ward are the Republicans voting for a tax increase. Ward changed his vote AFTER the board was closed, not sure why. Maybe because he promised the Governor. Maybe he fell on his sword to get several Dem vulnerables to vote YES.

Send a thank you note to Judy, and to Dick Ball richardball@house.mi.gov He was solid red right from the start. Thank Rick Shaffer, Howard Walker, Judy Emmons. They did the right thing.


Final vote

57 YES, 52 NO.

Well, folks, there you have it.

Gaffney and Ward are the Republicans voting for a tax increase. Ward changed his vote AFTER the board was closed, not sure why. Maybe because he promised the Governor. Maybe he fell on his sword to get several Dem vulnerables to vote YES.

Send a thank you note to Judy, and to Dick Ball richardball@house.mi.gov He was solid red right from the start. Thank Rick Shaffer, Howard Walker, Judy Emmons. They did the right thing.

Judy has her thumb down.

The Speaker has to recognize her, now that the board is closed.
Ward is switching his vote to a YES, after the board is closed.


Simpson went NO

Judy is yellow, the board is closed. She may have a chance to register her vote, if the Speaker wans to recognize her and ask for her vote.


Judy has her thumb down.

The Speaker has to recognize her, now that the board is closed.
Ward is switching his vote to a YES, after the board is closed.

Simpson went NO

Judy is yellow, the board is closed. She may have a chance to register her vote, if the Speaker wans to recognize her and ask for her vote.

Gov still roaming

...gave up on Ward. Can you believe this? If she gets her tax increase, she wins! Some victory. Be careful what you want...you might get it.

Gaffney went GREEN. He voted for the tax increase!!!!!


Gov still roaming

...gave up on Ward. Can you believe this? If she gets her tax increase, she wins! Some victory. Be careful what you want...you might get it.

Gaffney went GREEN. He voted for the tax increase!!!!!

WARD!!

She is on his case now! Remember, she thanked him for being part of the courageous deal on Thursday? He is a NO right now. I don't think he will crack.


WARD!!

She is on his case now! Remember, she thanked him for being part of the courageous deal on Thursday? He is a NO right now. I don't think he will crack.

Here comes the Gov. again

She is in the front of the room, headed over to...


Here comes the Gov. again

She is in the front of the room, headed over to...

Simpson from Jackson, defeated a Republican

still yellow. Three yellows, Simpson, Emmons, Gaffney. Gaffney is in the back room with the gov, I think. Tobocman, one of the most liberal, is a NO. He is likely going to go green if the other three don't.


Simpson from Jackson, defeated a Republican

still yellow. Three yellows, Simpson, Emmons, Gaffney. Gaffney is in the back room with the gov, I think. Tobocman, one of the most liberal, is a NO. He is likely going to go green if the other three don't.

Emmons holds...

...so far.


Emmons holds...

...so far.

90 minutes to shutdown

Offers being tendered. Gov. seems to have given up on Gaffney. Heavy pressure on Emmons now...


90 minutes to shutdown

Offers being tendered. Gov. seems to have given up on Gaffney. Heavy pressure on Emmons now...

Now Emmons is being surrounded by her Dem "friends"

This is nuts.


Now Emmons is being surrounded by her Dem "friends"

This is nuts.

Granholm is putting the screws to Gaffney

Can't find Emmons, she hasn't voted. One Dem is still yellow, Simpson. Only need one more vote.

Oh, here comes Judy.


Granholm is putting the screws to Gaffney

Can't find Emmons, she hasn't voted. One Dem is still yellow, Simpson. Only need one more vote.

Oh, here comes Judy.

The gov is talking to one of our members


The gov is talking to one of our members

55 votes up...need one more

One Dem has not voted, two Republicans have not voted...


55 votes up...need one more

One Dem has not voted, two Republicans have not voted...

Here comes 5194 again!

As in poltergeist..."I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck!"

We are now voting to raise the income tax to 4.35% Stay tuned...counting votes.


Here comes 5194 again!

As in poltergeist..."I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck!"

We are now voting to raise the income tax to 4.35% Stay tuned...counting votes.

SB622 Privatization? Be still my beating heart!

Can you believe the governor is actually going to allow the Department of Corrections to contract with third parties to provide Mental Health services to inmates?

Believe it. The Senate bill passes the House by a tally of 82-27.


SB622 Privatization? Be still my beating heart!

Can you believe the governor is actually going to allow the Department of Corrections to contract with third parties to provide Mental Health services to inmates?

Believe it. The Senate bill passes the House by a tally of 82-27.

The Two-hour warning

We have been at ease for two hours. We are about to kick it into high gear. Get ready for some fast and furious legislative activity. Two hours to go before Michigan turns into a pumpkin.


The Two-hour warning

We have been at ease for two hours. We are about to kick it into high gear. Get ready for some fast and furious legislative activity. Two hours to go before Michigan turns into a pumpkin.

That sales tax vote we took. You should know...

...that NO Republicans voted for it. So far, we are 100% solid. Republicans do not vote for tax increases. Take the time to thank your Republican Representatives for sticking together.
Especially, rickshaffer@house.mi.gov, howardwalker@house.mi.gov, judyemmons@house.mi.gov. They have been the target of much pressure by some to vote for new taxes. I know they would appreciate a note of thanks after all they have been through.


That sales tax vote we took. You should know...

...that NO Republicans voted for it. So far, we are 100% solid. Republicans do not vote for tax increases. Take the time to thank your Republican Representatives for sticking together.
Especially, rickshaffer@house.mi.gov, howardwalker@house.mi.gov, judyemmons@house.mi.gov. They have been the target of much pressure by some to vote for new taxes. I know they would appreciate a note of thanks after all they have been through.

SB772 and 773 "Continuation budget"

We are voting on a 30-day continuation budget. It passed 107-0. This keeps the state running.

773 keeps the schools going for 30 days. These bills are essentially 1/12th of 2007 dollars to last through October.

The Dems did tie-bar it to the whopping income tax increase. If we don't vote for 4.3% income tax, the kids can't go to school, I guess. Don't call it extortion.


SB772 and 773 "Continuation budget"

We are voting on a 30-day continuation budget. It passed 107-0. This keeps the state running.

773 keeps the schools going for 30 days. These bills are essentially 1/12th of 2007 dollars to last through October.

The Dems did tie-bar it to the whopping income tax increase. If we don't vote for 4.3% income tax, the kids can't go to school, I guess. Don't call it extortion.

School employee insurance reform!

SB546 would ask new school employees only, NOT current ones, to begin to pay more into their own health care plan. Commonly known as "graded health care premiums". Although it would not resolve any short term budget issues, it is a major reform. The cost of health insurance for school employees is huge, it eats up at least $1000 of every student's foundation grant dollars.

This reform will begin to bring down the long term cost of public education. It's a good thing.

Alas, it only received 51 YES votes.


School employee insurance reform!

SB546 would ask new school employees only, NOT current ones, to begin to pay more into their own health care plan. Commonly known as "graded health care premiums". Although it would not resolve any short term budget issues, it is a major reform. The cost of health insurance for school employees is huge, it eats up at least $1000 of every student's foundation grant dollars.

This reform will begin to bring down the long term cost of public education. It's a good thing.

Alas, it only received 51 YES votes.

Welcome the new MI sales tax!

HB5198 just passed the House 56-53. See earlier post to get some details. It ain't pretty.


Welcome the new MI sales tax!

HB5198 just passed the House 56-53. See earlier post to get some details. It ain't pretty.

Clear the Board!

They just took MESSA off the board. Now going back to HB5198, the 6% service tax...


Clear the Board!

They just took MESSA off the board. Now going back to HB5198, the 6% service tax...

A great deal on a nice state!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=130158953725&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT&ih=003


A great deal on a nice state!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=130158953725&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT&ih=003

My Hero of the Hour: Rep. Kevin Green

This MESSA thing has caused some angst with some of my caucus brothers. Take Kevin Green, for example. The conservative Republican from Wyoming has lots of public school types who have pressured him greatly NOT to vote for MESSA reform. Hey, its tough to do the right thing when you are getting veiled threats of a strong opponent in the next election by those folks at the MEA.

But my buddy Kevin, principled conservative that he is, put his "Green" vote up and supported the MESSA reform. Send Kevin a thank you note at kevingreen@house.mi.gov


My Hero of the Hour: Rep. Kevin Green

This MESSA thing has caused some angst with some of my caucus brothers. Take Kevin Green, for example. The conservative Republican from Wyoming has lots of public school types who have pressured him greatly NOT to vote for MESSA reform. Hey, its tough to do the right thing when you are getting veiled threats of a strong opponent in the next election by those folks at the MEA.

But my buddy Kevin, principled conservative that he is, put his "Green" vote up and supported the MESSA reform. Send Kevin a thank you note at kevingreen@house.mi.gov

I guess you can call this progess...

The Democrats just went into caucus. They have a bit of a conundrum. This MESSA vote. I think they tried to call our bluff. They told our leadership that they would run the MESSA bill, but they needed 42 Republican votes to pass it. They were going to put up 14 Dem votes to get this reform done. Keep in mind, the Senate already passed it.

Well, at first, only about 33 or so Republicans voted for the MESSA reform, but we ultimately held up our end of the deal. Now, I am a little tired and my vision is getting blurred, but is that 44 Republican votes I see up there? We have 46 green votes up total, only need 10 more brave Democrats to finish the deal.

Maybe that is what they are doing in caucus...drawing straws for who gets to expose themselves to the wrath of the MEA.

By the way, there have been some comments about who would benefit and who would be hurt by MESSA reform. Make no mistake, the taxpayers and the school districts would benefit big time. The school employees who are insured with BC-BS under MESSA would do no worse and might do better as other insurance companies offer competitive bids.

The loser? The Michigan Education Association. They own MESSA, the third party administrator who reaps millions in "profit" for the MEA by being the administrator.


I guess you can call this progess...

The Democrats just went into caucus. They have a bit of a conundrum. This MESSA vote. I think they tried to call our bluff. They told our leadership that they would run the MESSA bill, but they needed 42 Republican votes to pass it. They were going to put up 14 Dem votes to get this reform done. Keep in mind, the Senate already passed it.

Well, at first, only about 33 or so Republicans voted for the MESSA reform, but we ultimately held up our end of the deal. Now, I am a little tired and my vision is getting blurred, but is that 44 Republican votes I see up there? We have 46 green votes up total, only need 10 more brave Democrats to finish the deal.

Maybe that is what they are doing in caucus...drawing straws for who gets to expose themselves to the wrath of the MEA.

By the way, there have been some comments about who would benefit and who would be hurt by MESSA reform. Make no mistake, the taxpayers and the school districts would benefit big time. The school employees who are insured with BC-BS under MESSA would do no worse and might do better as other insurance companies offer competitive bids.

The loser? The Michigan Education Association. They own MESSA, the third party administrator who reaps millions in "profit" for the MEA by being the administrator.

Tax increase or shutdown?

I sent out a newsletter a few days ago asking that question and inviting responses. The results were amazing, not only because the votes for shutdown outnumbered the votes for tax increases by at least 10 to 1, but also because of the nature of the responses.

Many who wrote in spoke of personal sacrifices they thought a shut down might cost them. Nevertheless, they were willing to pay the price for better and more efficient government. Many who work for the state even wrote in and said, "I will be laid off, but I am willing to pay that price if it means making Michigan better in the long run." Others wrote to say that their business or family simply could not survive under another layer of taxation.

On the other hand, almost to a person, those who suggested I vote for a tax increase, did so out of purely selfish reasons. Virtually every respondent was a state employee who did not want to be laid of for a few days. I even had a state judge, who probably makes over $100,000 per year, tell me that! This jurist told me to just go ahead and raise taxes..."I can't go without a paycheck..."

It is a sad commentary that more than a few civil servants would rather see millions of tax payers take another hit just so they don't have to take a few days off without pay.


Tax increase or shutdown?

I sent out a newsletter a few days ago asking that question and inviting responses. The results were amazing, not only because the votes for shutdown outnumbered the votes for tax increases by at least 10 to 1, but also because of the nature of the responses.

Many who wrote in spoke of personal sacrifices they thought a shut down might cost them. Nevertheless, they were willing to pay the price for better and more efficient government. Many who work for the state even wrote in and said, "I will be laid off, but I am willing to pay that price if it means making Michigan better in the long run." Others wrote to say that their business or family simply could not survive under another layer of taxation.

On the other hand, almost to a person, those who suggested I vote for a tax increase, did so out of purely selfish reasons. Virtually every respondent was a state employee who did not want to be laid of for a few days. I even had a state judge, who probably makes over $100,000 per year, tell me that! This jurist told me to just go ahead and raise taxes..."I can't go without a paycheck..."

It is a sad commentary that more than a few civil servants would rather see millions of tax payers take another hit just so they don't have to take a few days off without pay.

Gov't Mismanagement Part 3: Time to cut the FAT

In a previous letter, I discussed examples of apparent mismanagement and lack of accountability in certain government departments. That original letter appears at the bottom of this edition. In today's letter, I offer a tangible solution for true reform.
How to Reform Government: Transparency

Since my original letter in May about gross mismanagement and overspending by state government, I have attempted to "get to the bottom" of the problem.  Most of my time has been spent pursuing the DIT contract with Policy Studies Incorporated (PSI). This consulting contract was initially signed in 2000 for $5.6 million and was to have lasted about a year. The purpose was to bring the state Child Support Enforcement System in compliance with federal requirements and standards. It ended up lasting 40 months, and costing the state $200 million.

Frustration

As I began asking questions I became frustrated with department staffers who were slow to respond to questions, or vague in their answers. Documentation was often unclear or simply not there.  Finally, by going to the department directors, I ultimately did receive answers to all my questions and have received assurances that, "these problems have been addressed and won't ever happen again", though I have yet to see any policy procedure documents to verify this.
Where did the money go?

Probably the best example of this is the response I received from both the Department of Management and Budget (DMB) and the Department of Information Technology (DIT) to a request for documentation and rationale for a $10 million "change order" in the last three weeks of the PSI contract.  I could find no explanation for the expenditure, only a signature approving the disbursement. Here are the answers I received to my request for information.

DIT: "We are unable to attain any information in regards to the December 2003 change order based on the information you provided. The PSI contract was a FIA contract that occurred prior to the creation of DIT."

DMB: "Unfortunately, the file is missing documentation that would identify the change notice and the reason for the increase. Today, Purchasing Operations has an established contract management focus which has eliminated the potential for such contract file deficiencies. Each buying division...has centralized contract changes by identifying...a single staff person...[which] will eliminate instances of missing documentation."

The Solution

I believe the core problem here is lack of transparency. Asking people to be responsible for other people's money, without clear and constant oversight is a recipe for misuse of funds. I am introducing legislation later this month with some of my colleagues as part of a package which could eliminate the problem.  The package is called the "Funding Accountability and Transparency (FAT) Act". Simply stated, my bill will mandate every dime of government spending be made available on a searchable database available on the Internet.  The best way to describe it is "Google Government". Imagine, you can look up any item, any department, any contract with just a few keystrokes.  Sound impossible? It is already being implemented in five other states and at the federal level.  Expensive to implement?  Oklahoma is doing it for $260,000. The $2.9 trillion federal budget will be put online for $15 million over the next five years. Seems like a bargain to me.
 
Imagine having all state expenditures online.  We would potentially have 10 million taxpayers looking over the shoulders of state bureaucrats watching their every move.  Talk about transparency.  Do you think that would lead to greater accountability?
 
Background from original letter in May
 
Over the past several months, there has been much posturing about how to balance this year's budget shortfall which as of mid-May had ballooned to over $800 million.  The assumption from the governor's office is that we have "cut to the bone" and there is no where else to find savings, therefore we must raise taxes to balance the shortfall.

What the governor seems unwilling or unable to deal with is a basic problem of mismanagement in state government, a problem that only the head of the executive branch can address. Governor Granholm herself was quoted as saying in December 2003 regarding cuts to higher education, "just like any other entity, if you can't cut 5 percent a year, you are not doing your job." (Booth Newspapers, December 17, 2003). But since 2003 state government has grown by $4 billion and hundreds of millions have been lost because of gross mismanagement by the governor's own department heads.  Let me cite a few examples (some of these started before the Granholm administration, but continued into her term):
  • The Department of Information and Technology (DIT) signs a contract with Ameritech for voice and data communications worth $17 million, but after several "change orders" ends up paying $129 million.

  • The Department of Management and Budget signs a contract with EDS for computing hardware, software and services worth $58 million which explodes to $555 million after "changes".

  • DIT signs a 13-year contract with Oracle for software and support for "all state agencies" for $2 million, but somehow additions are approved to increase the contract to $144 million.

  • A forty-month contract with Policy Studies, Inc. for the Michigan Child Support Enforcement System to provide project management services worth $5.6 million is increased to $200 million, (over $1 million per week in overcharges!)

  • The Department of Community Health makes over $55 million in questionable or over-payments to its Pharmacy Benefits Manager.

Meanwhile, in 2006 the Department of Human services (Mary Ann Udow, Director) overspends its budget by $30 million, doesn't report it as required by law and goes on spending, even though they know two months before the end of the budget year that they are over-budget and in violation of the constitution.

All of these overpayments and many more like them were reported by the Auditor General of the State.  You can see this audit at: http://audgen.michigan.gov/comprpt/docs/r5051005.pdf  The legislature responded when appropriate with new legislation to tighten controls.  But the only way to truly address these serious issues is for the Department heads to be held responsible by the "CEO" (the governor) for their incompetence or lack of accountability.  This has not happened. To my knowledge, no department heads have been dismissed or even disciplined for their gross mismanagement.

The governor continues to ask for tax increases.  She has recommended an additional $1 billion in spending for next year.  She has recommended an additional 700 civil service positions, (while threatening to lay off 29 state troopers).  As a state representative responsible for sound fiscal policy, I cannot in good conscience even consider voting for tax increases when spending continues to spiral upward and hundreds of millions of dollars are mismanaged and misspent by government.  I am hopeful that the executive branch of government will get its house in order.

The board is stuck open

OK, quiz question. The board opened up for a vote on the MESSA reform package. The Dems all put up their "NO" votes (except for three brave souls who voted "YES") and then left the House floor. They haven't been seen much since. So the question is, Why? Where did they go?

Here is a hint. The board opened at 1 p.m. Hmmm, let's see. Oh, I know, I know! That was when the game started!

Figure on the folks in charge to start thinking about that silly little shutdown thing at oh, about 4 O'Clock.


The board is stuck open

OK, quiz question. The board opened up for a vote on the MESSA reform package. The Dems all put up their "NO" votes (except for three brave souls who voted "YES") and then left the House floor. They haven't been seen much since. So the question is, Why? Where did they go?

Here is a hint. The board opened at 1 p.m. Hmmm, let's see. Oh, I know, I know! That was when the game started!

Figure on the folks in charge to start thinking about that silly little shutdown thing at oh, about 4 O'Clock.

Standstill

The MESSA reform package has been on the board for about two hours. Only two Dems have voted for it. Most Republicans have voted for it, but the total is well under 56. The board remains open. The next move belongs to the Dems. They control the board.


Standstill

The MESSA reform package has been on the board for about two hours. Only two Dems have voted for it. Most Republicans have voted for it, but the total is well under 56. The board remains open. The next move belongs to the Dems. They control the board.

They gave up for now.

Cleared the board and delayed the vote until later. Now we are voting on SB418, MESSA reform. All you really need to know about this bill is it allows school districts to request bids on health insurance for their employees from competitors. It mandates MESSA, the third party carrier for insurance for most school districts to open their claims data so competitors can quote.

The MEA is dead set against this bill because it would mean a huge potential loss of revenue. The Dems almost all voted NO and then walked off the House floor. They are now hiding in their caucus room.


They gave up for now.

Cleared the board and delayed the vote until later. Now we are voting on SB418, MESSA reform. All you really need to know about this bill is it allows school districts to request bids on health insurance for their employees from competitors. It mandates MESSA, the third party carrier for insurance for most school districts to open their claims data so competitors can quote.

The MEA is dead set against this bill because it would mean a huge potential loss of revenue. The Dems almost all voted NO and then walked off the House floor. They are now hiding in their caucus room.

This is hilarious!

You just won't believe what is happening now! The Democrats have only been able to find 52 of their members who will vote for this ridiculous service tax package (need 56 votes). So now, they have sent all of their members over to our side to personally lobby us to vote for it. This is so funny I can hardly contain myself!

My counterpart, the Democrat from Kalamazoo, came over to ask me to vote for this. Guess what he said? "This is a republican idea! This is the fair tax!" Yeah, right. My reply to him was, "OK, you're right, this is like the fair tax, now all we have to do to make it exactly like the fair tax is to repeal the personal income tax, and the personal property tax on businesses completely!" He walked away.


This is hilarious!

You just won't believe what is happening now! The Democrats have only been able to find 52 of their members who will vote for this ridiculous service tax package (need 56 votes). So now, they have sent all of their members over to our side to personally lobby us to vote for it. This is so funny I can hardly contain myself!

My counterpart, the Democrat from Kalamazoo, came over to ask me to vote for this. Guess what he said? "This is a republican idea! This is the fair tax!" Yeah, right. My reply to him was, "OK, you're right, this is like the fair tax, now all we have to do to make it exactly like the fair tax is to repeal the personal income tax, and the personal property tax on businesses completely!" He walked away.

Service taxes...cha ching!

House bill 5198 is on the board for a vote. It has come out of "conference" which means the Senate and the House have agreed on the content. Now both houses have to vote the package up or down, with no changes allowed. Our lone Republican House conferee, David Palsrok voted against the bill in conference. Sadly, of the 6 conferees, he was the only NO vote. the content of the bill is too large to describe. Suffice to say, all of the items in it are NEW revenue, things that have never been taxed before. It is intended to bring about $750 million in revenue per year.

Here are some of the things enumerated in the bill:
If you clean your carpet, you pay a tax
Armored car services, pay a tax
Janitorial services, are taxed (clean your own toilets)
Personal Services are taxed...such as,
Baby shoe bronzing (give 'em to Goodwill)
Balloon-o-grams (send flowers)
Check room services (just wear your coat at the ball)
Comfort station (wait till you get home)
Concierge services (use Google)
Dating services (meet someone at church instead)
Social escort services (I'm not going there)
House sitting (you're kidding, right?)
Social introduction services (I don't even know what that is!)
Party planning services (after all this, who even wants to have a party?)
Personal trainers (buy a treadmill, Oh yeah, that's taxed, too)
Personal shopping services (use Google)
Psychic services (I think fortune cookies are exempt!)
Rest room operation services (like I said before, hold it until you get home)
Shoeshine services (wear tennis shoes)
Singing telegrams (use "land-shark" he doesn't sing)
Skiing services (snow, not water...I think)
Warehouse and storage (big hit on industry)
Mini-warehouse, and self-storage (I think your glove box is exempt)...
...there is much more, but I think you get the idea.


Service taxes...cha ching!

House bill 5198 is on the board for a vote. It has come out of "conference" which means the Senate and the House have agreed on the content. Now both houses have to vote the package up or down, with no changes allowed. Our lone Republican House conferee, David Palsrok voted against the bill in conference. Sadly, of the 6 conferees, he was the only NO vote. the content of the bill is too large to describe. Suffice to say, all of the items in it are NEW revenue, things that have never been taxed before. It is intended to bring about $750 million in revenue per year.

Here are some of the things enumerated in the bill:
If you clean your carpet, you pay a tax
Armored car services, pay a tax
Janitorial services, are taxed (clean your own toilets)
Personal Services are taxed...such as,
Baby shoe bronzing (give 'em to Goodwill)
Balloon-o-grams (send flowers)
Check room services (just wear your coat at the ball)
Comfort station (wait till you get home)
Concierge services (use Google)
Dating services (meet someone at church instead)
Social escort services (I'm not going there)
House sitting (you're kidding, right?)
Social introduction services (I don't even know what that is!)
Party planning services (after all this, who even wants to have a party?)
Personal trainers (buy a treadmill, Oh yeah, that's taxed, too)
Personal shopping services (use Google)
Psychic services (I think fortune cookies are exempt!)
Rest room operation services (like I said before, hold it until you get home)
Shoeshine services (wear tennis shoes)
Singing telegrams (use "land-shark" he doesn't sing)
Skiing services (snow, not water...I think)
Warehouse and storage (big hit on industry)
Mini-warehouse, and self-storage (I think your glove box is exempt)...
...there is much more, but I think you get the idea.

Off and running

We are now voting:
HB4862 - fee bills. They are cancelling the sunset on a number of agricultural fees. It will bring in $500,000 to be paid by pet shop owners, nursery owners, plant growers, riding stables, livestock auctions, etc.

OK, well, that was fun. The Dems are now going into caucus. That one vote, the first vote since 3 a.m., has exhausted the majority caucus, and/or confused them so much that they need to go back into a private huddle to figure out what to do next.


Off and running

We are now voting:
HB4862 - fee bills. They are cancelling the sunset on a number of agricultural fees. It will bring in $500,000 to be paid by pet shop owners, nursery owners, plant growers, riding stables, livestock auctions, etc.

OK, well, that was fun. The Dems are now going into caucus. That one vote, the first vote since 3 a.m., has exhausted the majority caucus, and/or confused them so much that they need to go back into a private huddle to figure out what to do next.

"A Call of the House"

Nothing was going on. So, many of us left to attend church. For some unexplained reason, during the church hour, the Dems issued a "call of the house". That means you come in immediately and you can't leave. So, we had to leave church, just when it was getting good, and come back to the House floor.

Well...here we are, now what?


"A Call of the House"

Nothing was going on. So, many of us left to attend church. For some unexplained reason, during the church hour, the Dems issued a "call of the house". That means you come in immediately and you can't leave. So, we had to leave church, just when it was getting good, and come back to the House floor.

Well...here we are, now what?

Shut down is 17 hours away...the morning report

As has been reported in major newspapers online this morning, we are still at an impasse on two major issues, tax increases and school employee insurance reform. A little background.

Last night around 10:30 or so, the Governor, the Lt. Governor, her chief of staff, her press spokesperson, I think the state Treasurer, and or the Budget Director all filed into the Dem caucus room for a meeting (rally?). They were in there for an hour. Speculation was she was laying out the plan for the deal to save the state.

Reporters waited in breathless anticipation out in the House Chamber. Finally, at 11:30, she emerged. She walked right past the reporters and out of the room without a word. It is now 9:30 a.m. and nothing has happened except a few reforms we did at 3 a.m.

In my opinion, the Dems do not have the votes to raise taxes to 4.35%, ($750 million) impose a tax on services at 6% ($600 million) nor do they have the votes for MESSA reform. What is that, you ask? Read the attached Detroit News story. They explain it rather well.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070930/UPDATE/709300366


Shut down is 17 hours away...the morning report

As has been reported in major newspapers online this morning, we are still at an impasse on two major issues, tax increases and school employee insurance reform. A little background.

Last night around 10:30 or so, the Governor, the Lt. Governor, her chief of staff, her press spokesperson, I think the state Treasurer, and or the Budget Director all filed into the Dem caucus room for a meeting (rally?). They were in there for an hour. Speculation was she was laying out the plan for the deal to save the state.

Reporters waited in breathless anticipation out in the House Chamber. Finally, at 11:30, she emerged. She walked right past the reporters and out of the room without a word. It is now 9:30 a.m. and nothing has happened except a few reforms we did at 3 a.m.

In my opinion, the Dems do not have the votes to raise taxes to 4.35%, ($750 million) impose a tax on services at 6% ($600 million) nor do they have the votes for MESSA reform. What is that, you ask? Read the attached Detroit News story. They explain it rather well.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070930/UPDATE/709300366

"Reform" bills

SB1 - Require healthy behaviors for Medicaid recipients. (good)
SB549 - Common school calendar, takes away local control from locals and charters.
HB4800 - Prevents collecting gov't pension while working a new gov't job.
SB632 - Allow jeans and shirts made in prison to be sold commercially (and compete with the Chinese!)
SB395,396,397 - Creates unpaid commission on gov't efficiency, to report to the legislature ways to make gov't more efficient. Appointed jointly by House, Senate, majority, minority. (If there is no cost, it can't hurt.)
SB398 - Commission on gov't mandates. (If we keep this up, we won't need a legislature to provide oversight.)


"Reform" bills

SB1 - Require healthy behaviors for Medicaid recipients. (good)
SB549 - Common school calendar, takes away local control from locals and charters.
HB4800 - Prevents collecting gov't pension while working a new gov't job.
SB632 - Allow jeans and shirts made in prison to be sold commercially (and compete with the Chinese!)
SB395,396,397 - Creates unpaid commission on gov't efficiency, to report to the legislature ways to make gov't more efficient. Appointed jointly by House, Senate, majority, minority. (If there is no cost, it can't hurt.)
SB398 - Commission on gov't mandates. (If we keep this up, we won't need a legislature to provide oversight.)

Sunday morning 3:30 a.m. Anybody watching?

This is the last day before "shutdown" day. It is the middle of the night. After three days of inaction, we are now voting on bills. I wonder what kind of great legislation the Democrats will bring to us now...while Michigan sleeps.


Sunday morning 3:30 a.m. Anybody watching?

This is the last day before "shutdown" day. It is the middle of the night. After three days of inaction, we are now voting on bills. I wonder what kind of great legislation the Democrats will bring to us now...while Michigan sleeps.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another very long, very unproductive day

We were told to be here for session at 2:00 p.m. for the invocation and attendance. It is now nearly 9:00 p.m. and we are still taking attendance. We have been "recessed" about four times today. We are really getting good at recess. In fact, some of us are considering the purchase of some monkey bars and slides to install out on the Capitol lawn so we can play during recess.

The latest word is that conference committees are still meeting and we will have some budget bills and perhaps some tax bills to vote on by 2:00 a.m. Pastor Mike, I hope you understand why I may not make it to church in the morning.


Another very long, very unproductive day

We were told to be here for session at 2:00 p.m. for the invocation and attendance. It is now nearly 9:00 p.m. and we are still taking attendance. We have been "recessed" about four times today. We are really getting good at recess. In fact, some of us are considering the purchase of some monkey bars and slides to install out on the Capitol lawn so we can play during recess.

The latest word is that conference committees are still meeting and we will have some budget bills and perhaps some tax bills to vote on by 2:00 a.m. Pastor Mike, I hope you understand why I may not make it to church in the morning.

Democrats use "creative financing"

They have been trying for three weeks to get a big tax increase through, and have been unsuccessful. The gap between the Governor's spending plan and revenue projections is still around $1.7 billion.

About a week ago, there had reportedly been an offer of a compromise: $600 million in new taxes, $1 billion in budget cuts. The Governor's response: no dice. She was apparently unwilling to go any further than a mere $300 million in cuts. So, here we sit day after day, at an impasse. We have one day left before the beginning of the new fiscal year.

This is where the "creativity" comes in. If you are unwilling to make any cuts and you want to raise revenues without a tax increase, what to do? I have one word for you: FEES. Watch for new and increased fees for just about any business activity you can think of. Our friends on the other side of the aisle can get very creative when it comes to finding ways to separate you from your hard-earned money.


Democrats use "creative financing"

They have been trying for three weeks to get a big tax increase through, and have been unsuccessful. The gap between the Governor's spending plan and revenue projections is still around $1.7 billion.

About a week ago, there had reportedly been an offer of a compromise: $600 million in new taxes, $1 billion in budget cuts. The Governor's response: no dice. She was apparently unwilling to go any further than a mere $300 million in cuts. So, here we sit day after day, at an impasse. We have one day left before the beginning of the new fiscal year.

This is where the "creativity" comes in. If you are unwilling to make any cuts and you want to raise revenues without a tax increase, what to do? I have one word for you: FEES. Watch for new and increased fees for just about any business activity you can think of. Our friends on the other side of the aisle can get very creative when it comes to finding ways to separate you from your hard-earned money.

Republican Party buys radio ads

http://www.migop.org/campaign_ads/2007/MRP07R10_Showdown.mp3


Republican Party buys radio ads

http://www.migop.org/campaign_ads/2007/MRP07R10_Showdown.mp3

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Twelve Hours...No Votes

We were called to order at noon on Thursday, September 27. We were recessed over and over again until at midnight we adjourned, because we had to. We did not take a SINGLE vote. Didn't even try.

Your tax dollars are being very well spent.

For those of you who live in Kalamazoo County, rest assured you are well represented. Your County Administrator has been sitting in the cloak room, drinking coffee, reading the paper, working on his computer and watching our EVERY move, every day since about two weeks ago.


Twelve Hours...No Votes

We were called to order at noon on Thursday, September 27. We were recessed over and over again until at midnight we adjourned, because we had to. We did not take a SINGLE vote. Didn't even try.

Your tax dollars are being very well spent.

For those of you who live in Kalamazoo County, rest assured you are well represented. Your County Administrator has been sitting in the cloak room, drinking coffee, reading the paper, working on his computer and watching our EVERY move, every day since about two weeks ago.

A great opportunity to find out about the Internet

When Michigan "shuts down" on Monday, it will give all of us an opportunity to find out how many things can be done on the Internet.

Did you know that most Secretary of State functions and DNR licenses can be obtained in the comfort of your home, on your computer?

Before running out on Friday to purchase a new tag for your plate, or a small game license, go to the following addresses, and see if what you need is available:
Secretary of State: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1627---,00.html
Department of Natural Resources: http://www.mdnr-elicense.com/welcome.asp

Master these web sites and you will be saying, "Shutdown? What shutdown?"


A great opportunity to find out about the Internet

When Michigan "shuts down" on Monday, it will give all of us an opportunity to find out how many things can be done on the Internet.

Did you know that most Secretary of State functions and DNR licenses can be obtained in the comfort of your home, on your computer?

Before running out on Friday to purchase a new tag for your plate, or a small game license, go to the following addresses, and see if what you need is available:
Secretary of State: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1627---,00.html
Department of Natural Resources: http://www.mdnr-elicense.com/welcome.asp

Master these web sites and you will be saying, "Shutdown? What shutdown?"

Here we go again...

I opined earlier today that the Dems didn't have the votes to pass the tax increase. That is the only reason I can come up with why the vote hasn't taken place. We were finally recessed about 8:00 p.m. until 9:30...only to be told at 9:30 that we were recessed until 11:00 p.m...

It seems the governor is in a tight spot and the longer this takes the tighter it gets. She as good as guaranteed that a deal was in the works for tonight. The media was even convinced. There were more news satellite trucks on the curb than since the last State of the State address. But they have all gone home. It looks like the governor cried "wolf" one too many times.

She put almost all the cards on the table tonight. It will be hard to save face if she can't pull this off. Judging by the mail I am getting, most people are ready for a "shutdown", especially now that the Gov. promised essential services would be provided.

It is interesting how many emails I have received from people who want to see a shutdown just to see if it can be endured. Most of the folks I've heard from believe we can prove just how unimportant many government services really are.

I know the Governor is convinced that she wins in a shutdown situation. But I think if it happens, the longer it lasts, the more the pressure will be on her as the state CEO to fix it.


Here we go again...

I opined earlier today that the Dems didn't have the votes to pass the tax increase. That is the only reason I can come up with why the vote hasn't taken place. We were finally recessed about 8:00 p.m. until 9:30...only to be told at 9:30 that we were recessed until 11:00 p.m...

It seems the governor is in a tight spot and the longer this takes the tighter it gets. She as good as guaranteed that a deal was in the works for tonight. The media was even convinced. There were more news satellite trucks on the curb than since the last State of the State address. But they have all gone home. It looks like the governor cried "wolf" one too many times.

She put almost all the cards on the table tonight. It will be hard to save face if she can't pull this off. Judging by the mail I am getting, most people are ready for a "shutdown", especially now that the Gov. promised essential services would be provided.

It is interesting how many emails I have received from people who want to see a shutdown just to see if it can be endured. Most of the folks I've heard from believe we can prove just how unimportant many government services really are.

I know the Governor is convinced that she wins in a shutdown situation. But I think if it happens, the longer it lasts, the more the pressure will be on her as the state CEO to fix it.

Mr. Perks Speaks

We have obtained an exclusive statement from Mr. Perks:



Thanks to the kids in Amy Franks' eighth grade class at Portage Public Schools for making this cool podcast! Those kids know WAY more than I do about technology.


Mr. Perks Speaks

We have obtained an exclusive statement from Mr. Perks:

video

Thanks to the kids in Amy Franks' eighth grade class at Portage Public Schools for making this cool podcast! Those kids know WAY more than I do about technology.

It is now 7:45 p.m. So, what is the hold up?

The Governor went on TV tonight and said she was pleased that there was a breakthrough on the budget tonight. What she was really saying was that she thinks there are enough votes to raise the income tax to 4.6%.


Ah, but apparently, she has counted chickens that have not hatched, or perhaps some of them have crawled back into their shells. I can tell you for a fact that we have not voted yet, as many had expected, because she does NOT yet have the votes.


It is very simple. There are 7 Democrats who do not want to vote for big government at the expense of wage earners. That means only 51 will vote for it and you need 56 to win. She is out trolling for 5 GOP votes. That will be tough enough, but, my sense is that just when a Republican agrees, a Dem says, "good, now I don't have to."


It seems from day one, this Speaker (and his CEO) has had a little trouble with basic math; he apparently does not know how to count to 56.


The disgusting part is that the only way to get those votes is to purchase them...with favors, jobs, perks, etc. And, the longer the holdout continues, the higher the price goes. In my opinion, there are a few members who are a little short on scruples. They CAN add. When they see one jump on, and find out what the price tag was, they jump off and wait for a better offer.


This could take all night.


It is now 7:45 p.m. So, what is the hold up?

The Governor went on TV tonight and said she was pleased that there was a breakthrough on the budget tonight. What she was really saying was that she thinks there are enough votes to raise the income tax to 4.6%.

Ah, but apparently, she has counted chickens that have not hatched, or perhaps some of them have crawled back into their shells. I can tell you for a fact that we have not voted yet, as many had expected, because she does NOT yet have the votes.


It is very simple. There are 7 Democrats who do not want to vote for big government at the expense of wage earners. That means only 51 will vote for it and you need 56 to win. She is out trolling for 5 GOP votes. That will be tough enough, but, my sense is that just when a Republican agrees, a Dem says, "good, now I don't have to."


It seems from day one, this Speaker (and his CEO) has had a little trouble with basic math; he apparently does not know how to count to 56.


The disgusting part is that the only way to get those votes is to purchase them...with favors, jobs, perks, etc. And, the longer the holdout continues, the higher the price goes. In my opinion, there are a few members who are a little short on scruples. They CAN add. When they see one jump on, and find out what the price tag was, they jump off and wait for a better offer.


This could take all night.

Say it ain't so, Madame Governor!




Let me see if I have this right:
  • MI State Police leases headquarters on MSU campus for $1 per year (in a nice facility)

  • They don't want to move

  • Gov. says MSU wants the land back

  • MSU says "no we don't"

  • Gov. authorizes $117 project for new HQ downtown

  • Her buddy (and contributor) gets NO-BID contract

  • New building to be erected on a flood plain

  • Her buddy gets $45 million payout, state pays his taxes
  • I have a letter from the administration that says "we don't give no-bid contracts"

Sound incredible? Watch the Channel 7 Detroit report at the link above. They say it's all true!


P.S. If you want to learn more about this or other mismanagement activities, ask for my free newsletter at JackHoogendyk@comcast.net




Say it ain't so, Madame Governor!




Let me see if I have this right:
  • MI State Police leases headquarters on MSU campus for $1 per year (in a nice facility)

  • They don't want to move

  • Gov. says MSU wants the land back

  • MSU says "no we don't"

  • Gov. authorizes $117 project for new HQ downtown

  • Her buddy (and contributor) gets NO-BID contract

  • New building to be erected on a flood plain

  • Her buddy gets $45 million payout, state pays his taxes
  • I have a letter from the administration that says "we don't give no-bid contracts"

Sound incredible? Watch the Channel 7 Detroit report at the link above. They say it's all true!


P.S. If you want to learn more about this or other mismanagement activities, ask for my free newsletter at JackHoogendyk@comcast.net



I know, you've heard this before, but the tax vote may happen today!

It looks like the legislature will convene at 3:30 to vote on a huge tax increase. Apparently there are enough votes to get it through this time. There have been virtually NO reforms or cuts in the budget.

The Governor will issue a statement this evening promising to shut down the state if we do not raise taxes. This is Texas hold'em at its finest. She is all in, saying either she gets her tax hike or she "shuts 'er down". If Republicans fold and vote for an increase, we will never have the opportunity to find out how well this state can function under shutdown and the Governor will never have to answer for making it happen.

You know who gets hurt the worst in a shutdown? The thousands of civil servants who work for her. She just can't lay them all off for a couple of days.

Stay tuned, looks like we will know more by tonight.


I know, you've heard this before, but the tax vote may happen today!

It looks like the legislature will convene at 3:30 to vote on a huge tax increase. Apparently there are enough votes to get it through this time. There have been virtually NO reforms or cuts in the budget.

The Governor will issue a statement this evening promising to shut down the state if we do not raise taxes. This is Texas hold'em at its finest. She is all in, saying either she gets her tax hike or she "shuts 'er down". If Republicans fold and vote for an increase, we will never have the opportunity to find out how well this state can function under shutdown and the Governor will never have to answer for making it happen.

You know who gets hurt the worst in a shutdown? The thousands of civil servants who work for her. She just can't lay them all off for a couple of days.

Stay tuned, looks like we will know more by tonight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Democrats will raise taxes $1.7 BILLION this week

We are at the end of the road. Democrats have not backed down from their demand for almost $2 billion more of your money.  And the Democratic process has broken down completely...

The Democratic process is something we all hold dear. It is the Hallmark of our American way of life. Everyone gets a chance to voice his opinion, with equal opportunity.  In the end, a vote takes place and almost without exception the process works, everyone assents to the winning team or candidate.  This is no longer the case in Lansing.
 
The traditions and honor of the parliamentary process have deteriorated completely.  Even between parties, there are some things you just don't do. As we wind down to the final act of this budget drama, Republicans have been shut out entirely.
 
The way it is supposed to work, a bill is introduced, run through committee and voted on the House floor.  There is a well defined protocol that is designed to give even the minority an opportunity to speak and to voice their arguments.  Mason's Rules are designed to give the majority party the decided advantage.  The Dems, who are in the majority, have the gavel in all committees and at the rostrum in Chambers.  They set the agenda and decide which bills will be heard.  But there are certain processes which, if not followed, end up disenfranchising some members and as a result, many citizens of the state. Don't forget, each of us on the House floor is representing 90,000 citizens.  We are privileged and obligated to speak on your behalf. You can't be here to speak, we speak for you. But not anymore. Over the last few weeks in this process:
  • Democrat leadership has discharged bills without any hearings with no opportunity for the opposition to offer amendments or compromise.

  • Democrat leadership has put bills or substitute bills on the floor for vote without any advance notice.  We all have computers where we can see full text of each bill. But they need to be on the system first. Today, they put a $65 million spending bill up for a vote before we even saw it.  It is 148 pages long.

  • Democrat leadership has refused to let Republican members speak from the floor.  The minority party has not been given the chance to even ask a question or read a bill before being asked to vote on it. The Speaker will not even acknowledge us as we stand on the floor with our arms raised, asking to speak.

The irony is in what new Democrat Speaker of the House, Andy Dillon said in January as he took the gavel as the new leader: "Agendas will be published, every member will be recognized and everyone will be allowed to read a bill or an amendment before they have to vote on it, no exceptions!"

The Democrats are poised to take $1.1 billion in income taxes $600 million in new business taxes in the dark of night.  And we, the Republican Representatives who came here to speak on your behalf, have been denied.  I have been proud to serve with 51 Republicans who have held firm and refused to vote for new taxes. Hopefully, we can endure to the end and fix this budget with reforms and spending reductions, not new taxes.

Further update on the tax bill

Here is a note from sleuth extraordinaire, Leon Drolet:

A committee of key House and Senate lawmakers have been meeting since 9:00am today, trying to reach an agreement on how to avoid a state shutdown that will occur this coming Sunday at midnight. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has refused to agree to an income tax increase and Democrats have refused to agree to more than $300 million in spending reductions and want to raise taxes for the rest of the $1.75 billion.

We have a stalemate that could break the minute either side blinks. And the spenders won’t blink. So, we either have shutdown, pass a continuation budget for one month or so, or we have a crippling tax hike on citizens.


Further update on the tax bill

Here is a note from sleuth extraordinaire, Leon Drolet:

A committee of key House and Senate lawmakers have been meeting since 9:00am today, trying to reach an agreement on how to avoid a state shutdown that will occur this coming Sunday at midnight. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has refused to agree to an income tax increase and Democrats have refused to agree to more than $300 million in spending reductions and want to raise taxes for the rest of the $1.75 billion.

We have a stalemate that could break the minute either side blinks. And the spenders won’t blink. So, we either have shutdown, pass a continuation budget for one month or so, or we have a crippling tax hike on citizens.

What is the status of the income tax increase?

Perhaps you are wondering what is the status of that big income tax increase we tried to vote on over the last two weeks? Well, the House finally did pass HB5194 with no increase in the tax rate. In order to actually have something to send to the Senate, they amended it to give disabled veterans a break on their taxes. You may remember hearing about the "vehicle" bill that went to the Senate. The Senate passed the bill last week in a slightly different form. When that happens it has to go back to the original House for "concurrence". The House, of course, did not concur, which allowed for the bill to go to the "conference committee". That was the plan, anyway.

Now what happens is the conference committee has to reconcile the differences, or change the bill and then send it back to both houses for concurrence. Neither chamber can make any changes to the final version of the bill. It must be an up or down vote.

So the big question is, what will the final version look like and who is making that decision? The conference committee is made up of three Senators and three House members. The majority party gets two members, the minority gets one. So, here is who ended up being appointed to the conference committee: Senators Jelinek (R), George (R), Prusi (D); and Representatives Tobocman (D), Meisner (D) and Ward (R). Because the bill originated in the House, Tobocman is the chair of the conference committee. They may meet as early as today.

Three of the conferees are staunch supporters of bigger government and protection of the status quo. They will vote for a big income tax increase. You might want to send all six of these members a note expressing your feelings for or against a tax increase. E-mail addresses are below...click away!
stevetobocman@house.mi.gov
andymeisner@house.mi.gov
chrisward@house.mi.gov
senrjelinek@senate.michigan.gov
sentgeorge@senate.michigan.gov
senmprusi@senate.michigan.gov


What is the status of the income tax increase?

Perhaps you are wondering what is the status of that big income tax increase we tried to vote on over the last two weeks? Well, the House finally did pass HB5194 with no increase in the tax rate. In order to actually have something to send to the Senate, they amended it to give disabled veterans a break on their taxes. You may remember hearing about the "vehicle" bill that went to the Senate. The Senate passed the bill last week in a slightly different form. When that happens it has to go back to the original House for "concurrence". The House, of course, did not concur, which allowed for the bill to go to the "conference committee". That was the plan, anyway.

Now what happens is the conference committee has to reconcile the differences, or change the bill and then send it back to both houses for concurrence. Neither chamber can make any changes to the final version of the bill. It must be an up or down vote.

So the big question is, what will the final version look like and who is making that decision? The conference committee is made up of three Senators and three House members. The majority party gets two members, the minority gets one. So, here is who ended up being appointed to the conference committee: Senators Jelinek (R), George (R), Prusi (D); and Representatives Tobocman (D), Meisner (D) and Ward (R). Because the bill originated in the House, Tobocman is the chair of the conference committee. They may meet as early as today.

Three of the conferees are staunch supporters of bigger government and protection of the status quo. They will vote for a big income tax increase. You might want to send all six of these members a note expressing your feelings for or against a tax increase. E-mail addresses are below...click away!
stevetobocman@house.mi.gov
andymeisner@house.mi.gov
chrisward@house.mi.gov
senrjelinek@senate.michigan.gov
sentgeorge@senate.michigan.gov
senmprusi@senate.michigan.gov

Mr. Perks to be released today!



So, as it turns out, Mr. Perks was not kidnapped, he was arrested! It seems he had violated some obscure law regarding licensing. For this minor infraction he was forced to endure the indignity of arrest and confinement. But in a classic show of respectful civil disobedience, he did not create any disturbance or lash out irrationally. He did, however, when asked to leave the premises, refuse to move. Yes, Mr. Perks stood firm! Finally, when law enforcement came in to force him off state property, he simply stiffened and held his ground. They had to physically remove him.

The good news, according to informed sources, is that Mr. Perks will be bailed out, pay his fines and fees and be back in place in front of the Capitol by 1:00 p.m. We all await his triumphant return! Yes, he will be there in time to greet lawmakers as they once again gather to attempt to raise your taxes to pay for their habit of growing government.


Mr. Perks to be released today!



So, as it turns out, Mr. Perks was not kidnapped, he was arrested! It seems he had violated some obscure law regarding licensing. For this minor infraction he was forced to endure the indignity of arrest and confinement. But in a classic show of respectful civil disobedience, he did not create any disturbance or lash out irrationally. He did, however, when asked to leave the premises, refuse to move. Yes, Mr. Perks stood firm! Finally, when law enforcement came in to force him off state property, he simply stiffened and held his ground. They had to physically remove him.

The good news, according to informed sources, is that Mr. Perks will be bailed out, pay his fines and fees and be back in place in front of the Capitol by 1:00 p.m. We all await his triumphant return! Yes, he will be there in time to greet lawmakers as they once again gather to attempt to raise your taxes to pay for their habit of growing government.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Help get Mr. Perks out of jail


A fund has been created to help pay the bail and legal fees for Mr. Perks. If you would like to help, call Leon Drolet.


Help get Mr. Perks out of jail


A fund has been created to help pay the bail and legal fees for Mr. Perks. If you would like to help, call Leon Drolet.

How far will the Dems go to take more money from us?

How about this one? We are doubling the fee for filing a non-profit corporation. Any particular reason why? Of course...we need the revenue! Oh, and speaking of pigs, this bill is the first one passed by the sponsor, so he has to "honor the traditions of the House" and provide a meal for all his colleagues. Guess what this first term Democrat is serving?

Pork.


How far will the Dems go to take more money from us?

How about this one? We are doubling the fee for filing a non-profit corporation. Any particular reason why? Of course...we need the revenue! Oh, and speaking of pigs, this bill is the first one passed by the sponsor, so he has to "honor the traditions of the House" and provide a meal for all his colleagues. Guess what this first term Democrat is serving?

Pork.

Release Mr. Perks!

During this long debate over whether to raise taxes or not, a large (trailer size) pink pig, affectionately named "Mr. Perks" has been parked on the front walkway of the Capitol building. Written on his side in a large font were the words "NO to Lansing's TAX HIKE".

Out of apparent frustration, the city of Lansing has been parking a large fire truck in front of Mr. Perks to block him from the view of passing motorists.

Today, Mr. Perks was hauled off (to jail?) by a truck. Nobody seems to know who took him or where he really is. But I think we might be able to call him the first political prisoner in this tax battle. So far, no ransom note has been found. Leon Drolet is keeping his phone line open in case the pig-napper calls with terms of release.

If you know anything of his whereabouts, please call the Lansing Police Department!


Release Mr. Perks!

During this long debate over whether to raise taxes or not, a large (trailer size) pink pig, affectionately named "Mr. Perks" has been parked on the front walkway of the Capitol building. Written on his side in a large font were the words "NO to Lansing's TAX HIKE".

Out of apparent frustration, the city of Lansing has been parking a large fire truck in front of Mr. Perks to block him from the view of passing motorists.

Today, Mr. Perks was hauled off (to jail?) by a truck. Nobody seems to know who took him or where he really is. But I think we might be able to call him the first political prisoner in this tax battle. So far, no ransom note has been found. Leon Drolet is keeping his phone line open in case the pig-napper calls with terms of release.

If you know anything of his whereabouts, please call the Lansing Police Department!

They are letting us speak from the floor again

After much pressure being applied, the party in control has agreed to let us speak to bills as they are being voted on. And we spoke with passion on the floor late last evening. They pushed through about $500 million in new taxes on business, in the form of cancelled tax incentives. These were incentives that were put in place as a way to lure new business investment in the state over the last several years. These incentives worked well, new jobs were created as a result of the relief that these tax breaks created.

But, feeding the monster that is state government has taken priority over inviting business to come to or stay in Michigan. As we argued on the floor that taking these incentives away would cost jobs, one of the Democrats countered that the state needs the revenue because police officers and teachers are "jobs, too" and we can't pay them without the revenue. What that good representative seems not to understand is that the private sector jobs create the revenue to pay for public sector jobs like teachers and state troopers.

Stay tuned for what might happen tonight. They called us into session at 1:30 and have had us sitting here ever since. No action, whatsoever. But, it will come, it's just a matter of time.


They are letting us speak from the floor again

After much pressure being applied, the party in control has agreed to let us speak to bills as they are being voted on. And we spoke with passion on the floor late last evening. They pushed through about $500 million in new taxes on business, in the form of cancelled tax incentives. These were incentives that were put in place as a way to lure new business investment in the state over the last several years. These incentives worked well, new jobs were created as a result of the relief that these tax breaks created.

But, feeding the monster that is state government has taken priority over inviting business to come to or stay in Michigan. As we argued on the floor that taking these incentives away would cost jobs, one of the Democrats countered that the state needs the revenue because police officers and teachers are "jobs, too" and we can't pay them without the revenue. What that good representative seems not to understand is that the private sector jobs create the revenue to pay for public sector jobs like teachers and state troopers.

Stay tuned for what might happen tonight. They called us into session at 1:30 and have had us sitting here ever since. No action, whatsoever. But, it will come, it's just a matter of time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Meanwhile...we are not allowed to speak from the floor

It is normal protocol for members who have questions on a bill to have an opportunity to ask questions. If the board is open for a vote, the member must ask for the board to be cleared. The Speaker presiding can, at his discretion refuse to clear the board, but it is common courtesy to at least allow the member to ask the question from the floor. Not this Speaker. He won't even recognize Republicans to speak.

What is really interesting about this is what Speaker Dillon said to the caucus when he was first elected Speaker. He wanted to be sure that we knew he would NEVER treat Republicans the way we treated the Dems when we were in power.

He said this on that great day in January when he took the gavel, "Agendas will be published, every member will be recognized and everyone will be allowed to read a bill or an amendment before they have to vote on it, no exceptions!

Just moments ago, they put up a substitute for the Senate appropriations bill SB229. It spends over $65 million for "general government". The sub was put up on our computers literally 30 seconds before we were asked to vote on it. It is a 148 page bill. When we stood to ask the board to be cleared so we could read the bill, or at least have an explanation of it, we were denied. We couldn't even ask.


Meanwhile...we are not allowed to speak from the floor

It is normal protocol for members who have questions on a bill to have an opportunity to ask questions. If the board is open for a vote, the member must ask for the board to be cleared. The Speaker presiding can, at his discretion refuse to clear the board, but it is common courtesy to at least allow the member to ask the question from the floor. Not this Speaker. He won't even recognize Republicans to speak.

What is really interesting about this is what Speaker Dillon said to the caucus when he was first elected Speaker. He wanted to be sure that we knew he would NEVER treat Republicans the way we treated the Dems when we were in power.

He said this on that great day in January when he took the gavel, "Agendas will be published, every member will be recognized and everyone will be allowed to read a bill or an amendment before they have to vote on it, no exceptions!

Just moments ago, they put up a substitute for the Senate appropriations bill SB229. It spends over $65 million for "general government". The sub was put up on our computers literally 30 seconds before we were asked to vote on it. It is a 148 page bill. When we stood to ask the board to be cleared so we could read the bill, or at least have an explanation of it, we were denied. We couldn't even ask.

The Dems are still planning to push a tax bill through

Looks like the Dems are ready to move the income tax increase again this week. The hottest rumor is that instead of being required to put up 54 votes before Republicans vote for it, now they only have to put up 53 votes. It will only require 3 GOP members to get the increase. Who are they? No point in naming names, but you might try to send your representative a note (if they are Republican), thank them for not voting to increase taxes and encourage them to stand firm.


The Dems are still planning to push a tax bill through

Looks like the Dems are ready to move the income tax increase again this week. The hottest rumor is that instead of being required to put up 54 votes before Republicans vote for it, now they only have to put up 53 votes. It will only require 3 GOP members to get the increase. Who are they? No point in naming names, but you might try to send your representative a note (if they are Republican), thank them for not voting to increase taxes and encourage them to stand firm.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Senate offers real solutions tonight. House shoots it down

Tonight the Senate passed an omnibus bill (put every budget in one bill rather than 17). The bill leaves about $569 million in shortfalls, vs. $1.75 that Governor preferred. It gets us much closer to balance than where we have been.

The House used a procedural move to keep the bill from being considered for final passage. Rather than "gavel" the bill from second to third reading, which is the usual process, the Speaker called for a "record roll call" to move the bill to third reading. The Dems all voted "no". As a result, the bill stays on second reading and cannot be voted on for final passage.

They are pretty stubborn. They want the whole enchilada and are willing to soak you for the money to pay for it. Here are some of the things eliminated to get us closer to a balanced budget:
Agriculture: Cut executive division by $1.7 million.
Attorney General: Cut 19% of departmental workforce.
Civil Rights: Cut 18% of workforce.
Civil Service: Cut 16% of workforce.
Community Health: Eliminate medicaid for 19 and 20-yr-olds.
Corrections: $6.9 million savings in prison food services, $8.8 million in staffing efficiencies
DEQ: Eliminate 143 employee positions.
Higher Ed: elimination of the 2.5% increase for next year, but does repay the delayed payment.
History, Arts, Libraries: $6.2 million in state aid to libraries.
Human Services: $207.5 million savings including reduction of 268 employees.
Legislature: $7.4 million cut.
Secretary of State: cut 80 employees.
Treasury: cut 137 employees.
There is much more, but this is just a sampling.


Senate offers real solutions tonight. House shoots it down

Tonight the Senate passed an omnibus bill (put every budget in one bill rather than 17). The bill leaves about $569 million in shortfalls, vs. $1.75 that Governor preferred. It gets us much closer to balance than where we have been.

The House used a procedural move to keep the bill from being considered for final passage. Rather than "gavel" the bill from second to third reading, which is the usual process, the Speaker called for a "record roll call" to move the bill to third reading. The Dems all voted "no". As a result, the bill stays on second reading and cannot be voted on for final passage.

They are pretty stubborn. They want the whole enchilada and are willing to soak you for the money to pay for it. Here are some of the things eliminated to get us closer to a balanced budget:
Agriculture: Cut executive division by $1.7 million.
Attorney General: Cut 19% of departmental workforce.
Civil Rights: Cut 18% of workforce.
Civil Service: Cut 16% of workforce.
Community Health: Eliminate medicaid for 19 and 20-yr-olds.
Corrections: $6.9 million savings in prison food services, $8.8 million in staffing efficiencies
DEQ: Eliminate 143 employee positions.
Higher Ed: elimination of the 2.5% increase for next year, but does repay the delayed payment.
History, Arts, Libraries: $6.2 million in state aid to libraries.
Human Services: $207.5 million savings including reduction of 268 employees.
Legislature: $7.4 million cut.
Secretary of State: cut 80 employees.
Treasury: cut 137 employees.
There is much more, but this is just a sampling.

Here is how we are fixing the budget shortfall.

This is Senate Bill 657. Go to http://www.michiganvotes.org/ and enter the bill number. Below is the explanation you will read:

"Introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek on July 26, 2007, to transfer to the general fund to pay for other government spending $70 million from a fuel tax that is supposed to be dedicated for the cleanup of leaking underground fuel tanks. (The underground fuel tank cleanup fund was also the target of a 2004 "fund raid".) This is part of the deal to borrow and shift funds to avoid spending cuts in the Fiscal Year 2006-2007 budget."

This is the way the cowardly lion would fix the budget.


Here is how we are fixing the budget shortfall.

This is Senate Bill 657. Go to http://www.michiganvotes.org/ and enter the bill number. Below is the explanation you will read:

"Introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek on July 26, 2007, to transfer to the general fund to pay for other government spending $70 million from a fuel tax that is supposed to be dedicated for the cleanup of leaking underground fuel tanks. (The underground fuel tank cleanup fund was also the target of a 2004 "fund raid".) This is part of the deal to borrow and shift funds to avoid spending cuts in the Fiscal Year 2006-2007 budget."

This is the way the cowardly lion would fix the budget.

The Conservative Republican Hall of Fame

We found a letter on our desks on the House floor tonight. It was a brief, four-paragraph letter telling us that "it is not inconsistent with with mainstream Republican principles to embrace higher revenues as part of a broad based compromise agenda...our party has a long and proud history of stepping up to the plate..."

This lovely little missive was signed by a long list of former Republican legislators, real "heroes" all:
Bender, Bobier, Bryant, Busch, Crissman, DeGrow, DeWeese, Dillingham, Dolan, Gast, Gilmer, Godchaux, Gougeon, Hart, Hayes, Hillegonds, Johnson, Lasata, McManus, Munsell, Ostling, Pumford, Scwarz, Scranton, Sederberg, Shulman, Sikkema.

Maybe some enterprising young College Republicans can do some homework and find out what kind of voting records these all-stars have.

Stepping up to the plate? Oh, yeah. Here comes a high hard one...swing and a miss.


The Conservative Republican Hall of Fame

We found a letter on our desks on the House floor tonight. It was a brief, four-paragraph letter telling us that "it is not inconsistent with with mainstream Republican principles to embrace higher revenues as part of a broad based compromise agenda...our party has a long and proud history of stepping up to the plate..."

This lovely little missive was signed by a long list of former Republican legislators, real "heroes" all:
Bender, Bobier, Bryant, Busch, Crissman, DeGrow, DeWeese, Dillingham, Dolan, Gast, Gilmer, Godchaux, Gougeon, Hart, Hayes, Hillegonds, Johnson, Lasata, McManus, Munsell, Ostling, Pumford, Scwarz, Scranton, Sederberg, Shulman, Sikkema.

Maybe some enterprising young College Republicans can do some homework and find out what kind of voting records these all-stars have.

Stepping up to the plate? Oh, yeah. Here comes a high hard one...swing and a miss.

Seven bills to extend current fees

All seven bills extend the sunset of various fees beyond the date of October1, 2007. No idea how much new revenue this package will generate. We are extending for five years, for instance, huge fees that manufacturing plants and utilities have to pay for "air quality permits".

It is just another money grab from a governor who can't figure out how to balance the budget. It means higher costs to do business...a detriment to employment growth.


Seven bills to extend current fees

All seven bills extend the sunset of various fees beyond the date of October1, 2007. No idea how much new revenue this package will generate. We are extending for five years, for instance, huge fees that manufacturing plants and utilities have to pay for "air quality permits".

It is just another money grab from a governor who can't figure out how to balance the budget. It means higher costs to do business...a detriment to employment growth.

Lansing...it seems like I just left this town.

We are back in session after a 58 hour break (if I'm doing my math right). First on the docket is a bunch of fee bills. I guess the Dems are going to balance the budget by extending sunsets on certain fees, or perhaps by imposing new or increased fees on any number of services rendered by the state.


Lansing...it seems like I just left this town.

We are back in session after a 58 hour break (if I'm doing my math right). First on the docket is a bunch of fee bills. I guess the Dems are going to balance the budget by extending sunsets on certain fees, or perhaps by imposing new or increased fees on any number of services rendered by the state.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If your taxes go up, don't blame the Democrats

Democrats like bigger government. They have never met a government program they didn't like. They like raising taxes. In fact, some think 4.6% isn't high enough. Bob Jones from Kalamazoo thinks 5.6% would be better. That way we can cover all the programs the governor proposed, plus have a "cushion" for any "emergencies".

But, if your income taxes go up, don't blame them. They are expected to vote for higher taxes. The problem in the House right now for Democrats is that while all 58 like higher taxes, (and only 56 votes are needed) only 51 are willing to vote for it. Why? Because the other 7 ran as conservative Democrats. They live in swing districts and know that a yes vote on taxes could spell their demise as state Reps.

The only way the Democrats can get their 18% increase in your income tax is if they can pull 5 Republicans over to their side. It will be the Republicans fault, and trust me, they will get the blame, if taxes go up.

I suggest you call your state Rep. if he is a Republican and ask him/her if they will vote for a tax increase. If you do not get an immediate and emphatic "NO", assume they are vulnerable to get snowed by the Democrats, if not bought off with a job promise from the Governor, or some other kind of perk, in exchange for a vote to increase taxes. Plenty of offers have already been made; a judgeship, a new college of ophthalmology in their district, an unopposed race for State Senate...who knows what else is in the offing. In fact, I would be willing to bet that while we are here on Mackinac, certain members back home are getting calls, letters, flowers...and lots of promises from the Dems.

Call your state Representative and hold their feet to the fire!


If your taxes go up, don't blame the Democrats

Democrats like bigger government. They have never met a government program they didn't like. They like raising taxes. In fact, some think 4.6% isn't high enough. Bob Jones from Kalamazoo thinks 5.6% would be better. That way we can cover all the programs the governor proposed, plus have a "cushion" for any "emergencies".

But, if your income taxes go up, don't blame them. They are expected to vote for higher taxes. The problem in the House right now for Democrats is that while all 58 like higher taxes, (and only 56 votes are needed) only 51 are willing to vote for it. Why? Because the other 7 ran as conservative Democrats. They live in swing districts and know that a yes vote on taxes could spell their demise as state Reps.

The only way the Democrats can get their 18% increase in your income tax is if they can pull 5 Republicans over to their side. It will be the Republicans fault, and trust me, they will get the blame, if taxes go up.

I suggest you call your state Rep. if he is a Republican and ask him/her if they will vote for a tax increase. If you do not get an immediate and emphatic "NO", assume they are vulnerable to get snowed by the Democrats, if not bought off with a job promise from the Governor, or some other kind of perk, in exchange for a vote to increase taxes. Plenty of offers have already been made; a judgeship, a new college of ophthalmology in their district, an unopposed race for State Senate...who knows what else is in the offing. In fact, I would be willing to bet that while we are here on Mackinac, certain members back home are getting calls, letters, flowers...and lots of promises from the Dems.

Call your state Representative and hold their feet to the fire!

36 Hours on Mackinac Island

We finished up in Lansing at 8:00 a.m. Friday. We have to be back for session on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. I made the run with my wife and 8-yr. old up to the island for the GOP conference. Best place to talk to the movers and shakers and policy-makers.

Here is the latest on the Presidential candidates.

Romney--strong presence. He's everywhere.
McCain--He's here, workin' the crowds.
Giuliani--I haven't seen him yet, and not a lot of signs or T-shirts.
Thompson--arrived on the island this morning. Meeting with policy makers today. I hear he received some very positive poll numbers in Michigan this morning. He is viable.
Huckabee--didn't make it. New campaign finance laws made it cost prohibitive to get a plane up here. Too bad. He has a great message.
Hunter--was here for a brief stay. Working on a shoe-string.
Ron Paul--you got to give him credit. He has a huge support base on the island and signs everywhere. His band of believers are small but dedicated. Must be every supporter in the state is here, all 200 of them.
Newt Gingrich is also on the scene, talking real policy.

Rumor: There is a straw poll today. One of the candidates came to the island with a satchel full of $50 bills. Buying votes? No way! Does that fall under McCain-Feingold? Feel free to post any comments if you can confirm or deny the rumor.


36 Hours on Mackinac Island

We finished up in Lansing at 8:00 a.m. Friday. We have to be back for session on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. I made the run with my wife and 8-yr. old up to the island for the GOP conference. Best place to talk to the movers and shakers and policy-makers.

Here is the latest on the Presidential candidates.

Romney--strong presence. He's everywhere.
McCain--He's here, workin' the crowds.
Giuliani--I haven't seen him yet, and not a lot of signs or T-shirts.
Thompson--arrived on the island this morning. Meeting with policy makers today. I hear he received some very positive poll numbers in Michigan this morning. He is viable.
Huckabee--didn't make it. New campaign finance laws made it cost prohibitive to get a plane up here. Too bad. He has a great message.
Hunter--was here for a brief stay. Working on a shoe-string.
Ron Paul--you got to give him credit. He has a huge support base on the island and signs everywhere. His band of believers are small but dedicated. Must be every supporter in the state is here, all 200 of them.
Newt Gingrich is also on the scene, talking real policy.

Rumor: There is a straw poll today. One of the candidates came to the island with a satchel full of $50 bills. Buying votes? No way! Does that fall under McCain-Feingold? Feel free to post any comments if you can confirm or deny the rumor.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Chris Ward: Dumb...like a fox?

Many of the Republicans in the House caucus were unhappy with Minority Leader Ward for apparently cutting a deal with Speaker Andy Dillon, offering to get him three Republican votes for a tax increase in exchange for some real reforms and on the condition that the Dems put up 54 votes first.

Was Chris selling out? Was he sincerely trying to work in some good reforms? Perhaps, but I personally wonder if Chris wasn't just doing the GOP caucus a big favor. He either swerved into a great strategy, or it was all by design.

Last night, Speaker Dillon was in a jam. He had promised to produce 54 Dem votes out of 58 members. But, there are arguably seven vulnerables! The math just doesn't work folks. Dillon worked all night to get 54 Dems on the board. He seemed to be doing some serious arm-twisitng with his own members. A couple finally voted green but appeared VERY unhappy at being coerced (or threatened?) into voting for an 18% tax increase. After a long night of holding the board open, with only 51 votes on the board, it was obvious the Speaker did not have, and never did have the 54 votes. As a result, the three Republicans were off the hook and we learned something. There are not even close to 56 Democrats willing to vote for a tax increase.

Instead of being angry with Chris, maybe we owe him a big "thank you" .