So that means this year’s proposed state budget is all about playing up to the voters. And play, he does.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key points to his budget — the good, the bad and the ugly.
First, the good:
• Allocating $14 million over the next two years to help stop or control invasive species that threaten Michigan’s plants, wildlife and waterways. This makes sense, but we have to wonder who, exactly, Snyder has in mind for the 16 positions that would be added to three state departments to achieve this lofty goal. Nevertheless, this is certainly a hot-button issue for most voters, and will hit the jackpot of goodwill with most.
• Paying $65 million to free-up 16,000 more publicly funded preschool slots in the state to families who need the extra assistance. This is a sure bet to engender goodwill from those who believe better early childhood education will narrow the achievement gap between the rich and the poor. Nice move. Well played.
Now, the bad:
• Increasing funding to Michigan’s public universities by 6 percent, or $78 million. While this looks like an A on paper — hey, who doesn’t support our hard-working college kids? — it’s actually a tricky, and savvy, campaign move. Even with the 6 percent increase, state funding to these institutions is still below where it was when Snyder took office. Why? Because he cut funding in his first year in office — decreasing funding by about a third from funding levels seven years ago. So, wow, thanks for the token increase.
• Using $250 million from the surplus to fix and maintain roads and bridges. This also looks great on the surface, but then there’s that little roadblock of Snyder’s stalled proposal last year to increase the gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees to record highs to fix roads. So, if he’s putting a little bit of surplus money to this problem now, is he going to push through gas tax and vehicle fee hikes again if and when he is re-elected? This $250 million won’t meet the overall needs, and there will have to be a reckoning after election season as roads continue to crumble.
• Upping the funding for state-based K-12 funding by 3 percent, or $322 million. This really is a slap in the face of educators everywhere who have been trying to educate our youth on pre-2005-06 funding levels. The cost of everything has gone up and technology demands have skyrocketed since 2005, yet our schools have had to scrimp and cut to make ends meet for the past eight years. You’d better believe the $322 million divvied up amongst all of our school systems will not stretch nearly far enough. Our youth, and our educators, deserve far better.
And, now, for the ugly:
• Giving an income tax credit up to a whopping $1,200 to those with household resources — essentially income — below $50,000. Keep in mind the “up to” language, as the credit is less generous to those who make between $41,000 and $50,000, and more generous to seniors and the disabled. Definitely don’t spend this credit until (or unless) you receive it, as some politicians have called this promise a lot of hot air. Snyder’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, Mark Schauer, is reminding folks that they’re paying higher taxes because of Snyder. What makes this credit really ugly is the fact that it’s pure politics and all about pandering for votes.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.