- May 17, 2016
- Michigan League for Public Policy
- Rachel Richards
Michigan has a budget problem, and simply put, there just isn’t enough money to go around. Michigan has experienced crisis after crisis—the Great Recession, nearly record-high unemployment, municipal financial emergencies, the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy, the Flint water crisis and the financial struggles of Detroit Public Schools to name a few. In attempting to fix them, the state has relied on budget cuts, temporary Band-Aids or one-time pots of money. It hasn’t worked. Michigan’s disinvestment in its schools, infrastructure, communities and people needs to be reversed, and it cannot do so without more revenue.
Unfortunately, at the same time that the state needs more money, policy trends have continually pulled more out of our state budget. In recent history, we have spent more in state and local tax credits, deductions and exemptions each year than we do in total budget spending from state general and restricted funds—a difference of roughly $4 billion in 2015. On top of this, instead of increasing revenues to cover increasing costs, the Legislature shifts around our revenue streams, leaving potential shortfalls to be resolved with budget cuts. Lawmakers need to have a better idea of how much money we are failing to collect, review existing tax expenditures and earmarks to make sure they are still good policy, and provide accountability for new tax breaks and other policy changes.