This week’s budget update is like the cliché western scene: two grizzly cowpokes facing each other, standing a hundred yards apart in the middle of a dusty street. Tumbleweeds blow as they eye each other with contempt and ready their grip near their holsters. All the townsfolk have scurried for cover in fear that they may get clipped by errant crossfire. Substitute suited politicians for the cowpokes and insert $2.8 billion instead of the hundred yards and you have an accurate assessment of where the budget debate stands. Each scenario, incidentally, is literally a matter of life and death.
If the level of cuts that have been proposed by the Senate become reality it is not an exaggeration to say that the safety net in Michigan will be virtually non-existent. It is not hyperbole to say that if the cuts proposed by the Senate become reality nursing homes across the state will have to shut down, leaving many of their residents, mostly elderly and disabled, with nowhere to go. It is not an overstatement to say that if the cuts proposed by the Senate become reality as many as 70 local communities may become insolvent, undermining police, fire, and public safety departments. It is not embellishment to say that if the cuts proposed by the Senate become reality that counties will no longer be able to provide mental health services. It is not amplification to say that the Senate cuts will cost the state of Michigan more in both the short and long runs.
The stakes are high, arguably nothing short of the character of our Michigan of the future. I mention this not to be overly dramatic but rather to offer you perspective as we all watch this process unfold over the next week. I won’t predict how it will end, only ask that while we witness it that think of how hard you would fight for those things that matter most. Procedural rules dictate that legislative action must occur next week at the latest in order to avert shutdown so next week’s update will be substantial. In the meantime, the showdown at the Capitol Corral continues.