Thursday, November 08, 2007

At Griffin Forum, lawmakers promise pay cut, touch on 2010

I had the chance to attend the semi-annual Griffin Policy Forum, put on by the Robert and Marjorie Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at CMU. (One Gary Peters currently holds that chair.)

This fall's Griffin Forum was titled "Now What? Managing the budget crisis while promoting a positive future for Michigan." Their panelists were Andy Dillon, Mike Bishop, Craig DeRoche, and Mark Schauer, with Tim Skubick as moderator. Seeing as how the panel consisted of four titans in Michigan politics, there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to go.

Few points were made by either side that I hadn't heard before then. Schauer discussed the uncertainty of the budget process and how that likely scared off businesses that would have otherwise invested in Michigan. Dillon called out the Repubs for not doing their jobs. DeRoche kept parroting the old GOP talking points: 'Taxes are bad!' 'We need reforms!' 'Why did I go to CMU? Go Broncos!' (Okay, he didn't use that last one.) All in all, not much besides what both sides have been saying for months now.

That said, not many of the hundreds of people in attendance had followed the budget battle as closely as I have, so for them to argue the same points was understandable.

They all agreed that extending the 6% tax on services was not a good idea; they disagreed as to where the new revenue should be replaced. Mike Bishop said he supports increasing the sales tax to 6.5%. Schauer supports retooling the new Michigan Business Tax. I'll have more on Republican tax hypocrisy in an upcoming post.

Tim Skubick seemed to take his job as a journalist seriously. Not that I haven't been unhappy with some of the things he's said and done, but props to him for giving the panelists some tough questions. After DeRoche went on about reforms, Skubick held him to account by asking, "Where were all the reforms when Engler was governor?" He's also good for a few laughs, though: "Here's the score of the game: Western 3, CMU 102." While discussing a forum on political stability which he moderated: "At the time, we were all in favor of it."

Mark this down: When asked if they would take a pay cut, all four of them said they would. Schauer and I believe one other person said they and some of their colleagues return a portion of their salary to the Treasury. (While you might think this recent proposal offers hope in that regard, this proposal affects future lawmakers, not themselves.)

Another thing to mark down: When asked if they would run for governor, Dillon, DeRoche, and Schauer all said No. Bishop's response? "You never know." Expect more definitive answers on this following next year's Presidential election.

Following the forum, Bill Ballenger, the previous Griffin Endowed Chair, congratulated Peters on a job well done. I second Ballenger's remark. For him to get these heavyweights in Michigan politics under one roof is a rare feat. Peters should be commended for helping to enhance our education at CMU by bringing these titans to Mount Pleasant.

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