September 25, 2016

State cuts prove part-time legislature is necessary

Posted 6/3/09

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, psychologists and researchers claim, and back up their claims, that most of the times when people make judgments on thin slicing, which is basically using subconscious reactions combined with knowing the bullet points of a given situation, the right decision is usually made.

Think about what teachers tell you on a multiple choice test – most of the time the first answer is the right one.

Gladwell’s book should apply to the Michigan legislature, whose full-time job status has caused the lawmakers to not only eat up a large part of the state’s operating budget, but over think and over assess situations by mulling them over for extended periods of time. Instead of fixing itself, the legislature body is trying to cost-cut everything else in the government, cutting law enforcement, corrections, community health and more, increasing unemployment and erasing services for those who are in dire need during a recession.

Now the state government is setting its sight on education.

Recently the Michigan Senate voted to cut the Michigan Promise scholarship, which pays $4,000 in incremental allocations to qualifying students enrolling in a college or university. Fortunately Governor Granholm isn’t supporting the measure, so her office says, which would remedy the problem of college grads leaving the state by shooing them away before they even enroll in a Michigan university.

But, as one can see from the Standish-Sterling budget story, the educational cuts aren’t stopping with the Promise scholarship. The Senate is also targeting grants for reaching out to at-risk pupils and school readiness grants.

If Michigan is only going to be home to future generations that are without a college education, the chance that the state will need less policemen and corrections officers is unlikely. The chance that Michigan can attract clever entrepreneurs with 21st century ideas and business plans is even more unlikely.

These issues can be avoided, however, if the Michigan legislature, which many argue is too big, moves to part-time, saving taxpayer money on decisions that are over assessed and usually watered down due to partisan bickering, leading to ineffectiveness.

Thin slicing the state government requires some bullet facts, so here’s a start. Despite having a population of about 10 million, Michigan pays legislators about $90,000 annually. In Texas, where the population is 23 million, lawmakers make about $17,000 a year. In Florida, population 18 million, the annual pay is under $40,000. The list goes on and on.

To slice it even thinner, just analyze it even simpler. Michigan lawmakers work more than those in almost every other state, and are cutting government services and jobs more than almost every other state. If both the first part of that sentence were reversed, perhaps the second part would be too!

Lawmakers need to put down the scalpel they attack the budget with and quickly assess where the real issues are with Michigan’s government – the lawmakers themselves.

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While it may seem prudent to reduce the cost of the state assembly, the procedural process would require considerable revamping first. There are many issues now that do not get attention because they do not make it through the labyrinth that constitutes the present system of legislation. When comparisons are made, I would also challenge the individual to determine which state has the most professional and dedicated legislators. I believe that Michigan has some exceptional legislators. There is a level of salary and benefits that once reduced will result in the best candidates looking elsewhere for service. Certainly we are not close to that point. I would suggest that pay be directly tied to the amount of days actually spent at work by each individual legislator and in the positive effects actually accomplished.

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