Campaign Year Fuzzy Math

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You really don’t need to look at the calendar to know it’s a campaign year — now that accusations, counter accusations and tons of “fuzzy math” are being tossed around in Lansing and across the state.

The Democratic Governors Association started running ads this week featuring Mark Schauer which are critical of the job being performed by Governor Rick Snyder (Republican), with a special reference to “cuts in education funding.” At the same time, today’s guest editorial column from Steve Cook, MEA President, trots out the standard “Snyder’s drastic cuts to public education” line. It’s clear what theme the MEA/Democratic Party will be using this year.

For balance, however, check out longtime capital journalist Jack Spencer as he weighs in with a thoughtful column asking whether $7,545 is actually more than $6,844, which is excerpted below:

“The state’s portion of K-12 education spending in the last budget under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm was $6,884 per pupil. In Snyder’s last budget it was $7,545 per pupil. That isn’t a cut and to call it a cut is what Winston Churchill referred to as a terminological inexactitude. He used this phrase because in the British parliament it was considered improper to openly call another member a liar.”

Or heck, why not do the research for yourself at the K-12 budget and analysis sections from the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency or House Fiscal Agency, as these offices do nothing else but look at state budget figures — without an interest in campaign messages.

In related news, budget watchers are anxiously awaiting next Wednesday’s presentation from Governor Snyder and Budget Director John Nixon as they outline the Executive Recommendation for the FY ’15 Budget, which starts the budget process. Projections are there will be roughly $970 million in additional revenue to cover FY ’13, ’14 & ’15.

Now, keep in mind that 2/3 of this found money is considered “one time” funds that should only be used for one-time expenditures or to increase the state’s Rainy Day Fund.  The other 1/3 of these funds could be used to fund ongoing activities, and you can rest assured GLEP is advocating these funds be used to address the equity gap in K-12 education.

But since this is an election year, some lawmakers are calling to return these “excess” funds to the taxpayers.  In fact, SB 402 was passed in the Senate Finance Committee today which would reduce the state’s personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 3.9% by 2017. Not to be outdone, HB 5265-5267 were introduced today in the House of Representatives to not only lower the personal tax rate to 4.05% by 2016, but to put an automatic trigger into state law that will further reduce the tax rate by another 0.01% whenever state revenue rises by $300 million in the future.

One might be tempted to think of this as some kind of political poker game (i.e. “I’ll see your tax cut, and raise it some more”) which usually happens in big election years.

We’ll be watching and reporting on these issues in the coming weeks and months, and please contact me if you have any questions or comments.  Take Care.

GGN (signature)