Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Taxpayer Funded Lobbying

I am sure you know what a lobbyist is. It is someone who is paid by a client to represent that client to the legislature. Everybody has one or more. The Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Education Association, the Small Business Association, etc. all advocate for or against pending legislation and seek favorable treatment by the legislature. Sometimes they lobby for more funding.  But would you expect departments of state government to have lobbyists? Read on...


How Your Tax Dollars are Used to Spend Your Tax Dollars

If a department of state government thinks their budget is about to be cut, what can they do to ensure the taxpayer's spigot of money stays wide open? One creative method is to hire a lobbyist. Several government entities, the Department of the Treasury, Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of State Police, Department of Education and even the Executive Office of the Governor, are doing just that. They are using your tax dollars to hire lobbyists who pressure the legislature to spend more of your money on growing their budgets.

That's right. Executive departments of government are spending YOUR money to lobby the government! Let that sink in for a minute.

These departments spent over $320,000 on lobbying last year. That is a 20% increase over the previous year! So in a year of supposed budget shortfalls and impending "budgetary disasters", government agencies found enough extra change in your sofa cushions to hire lobbyists who worked the halls of the legislature to ask for more of YOUR money.

Let's look at one of the largest offenders: Higher Education. Over $1.8 BILLION of you tax dollars are used on higher ed. And yet, virtually every public university has at least one lobbyist, each of whom is working hard to get more money for their
respective schools. What is especially frustrating about this is the Constitution says we have to fund public universities but then says we cannot tell them how to spend it. Higher Education uses taxpayer dollars to lobby for more taxpayer dollars,
and they don't even have to tell the legislature how they plan to use the money. If they want to build a new multi-million dollar home for a university president, or teach useless courses that force students to take five years to achieve their four-year degree, they can. After holding legislators hostage and labeling them as anti-education, they too often abuse our trust and throw the dollars away on things that are unnecessary.

The Michigan Taxpayer's Alliance, headed by former state Rep. Leon Drolet has suggested we should investigate where this money is going.  Unfortunately for the taxpayers, the budget is under the governor and her office is exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, so the chances of getting any answers are slim to none.

I can't wait for the budgets to come to the House floor for consideration.  When we are told that there is nowhere to cut any money in the budget, I might just bring up taxpayer funded lobbying.

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