Vultures Over Michigan

Senate Joint Resolution M: Paying for Michigan's Role in the Flint Water Disaster with Roads Funding?

Vulture Image 1Four Republican Michigan State Senators introduced Senate Joint Resolution M on December 15th to abrogate the just enacted PA 179 (HB 4370) deal which will eventually apply $ 600 million from State General Fund to roads repairs.  SJR M replaces this funding by raising the Michigan sales tax from 6% to 7%. The four Republican Senators are:

Ken Horn, District 32
Rick Jones, District 24
Darwin Booher, District 35
Mike Green, District 31

Senator Ken Horn

Senator Ken Horn

All four of these Republican Senators voted for every bill in the PA 174 – 180 road funding deal on November 3rd. But now, less than two months later, they want a different – all tax – funding arrangement for additional road work. Legislators’ remorse? Maybe not. Or perhaps remorse over a different situation?

First term Senator Horn was interviewed by Jake Neher of Michigan Radio on Senate Joint Resolution M:

Horn thinks the current plan relies too heavily on shifting money from other areas of the budget – especially with some big expenses on the horizon.
“That has me a little bit nervous,” he said. “If we tie our hands with $600 million out of the general fund, how do we ever manage new expenses?”

What “big….new expenses” cropped up in Senator Horn’s mind over the last 60 days?

Senator Mike Green

Senator Mike Green

At this point you should look at the Michigan Senate District map. Senator Horn’s and Senator Green’s Districts abut Flint. Senator Jones’ District is separated from Flint by a six mile wide strip of Senator Horn’s District. Senator Booher’s District is within 70 miles of Flint, to the north. Booher, Green, and Jones are second termers who will not face the voters again; they are also term limited out of the Michigan House.

Senator Rick Jones

Senator Rick Jones

Why might proximity to Flint produce a sudden concern amongst Senators for “big….new expenses”? The Flint water situation has gone from bad to worse. The Flint Water Advisory Task Force found the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality primarily responsible for the black comedy which transpired in Flint. MDEQ Director Wyant and his mouthpiece Brad Wurfel have resigned. And now the legal vultures are circling the State of Michigan looking to make a lot of money.

Although states are generally protected from legal action by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, that protection is not absolute. In 2009, Michigan settled a long running sexual abuse lawsuit by 500 female MDoC prison inmates for $ 100 million after losing two of the subsidiary suits. The veil of sovereign immunity is easily pierced by clever vultures plaintiff’s lawyers.

Anyone care to speculate how much Michigan will have to pay 99,000 Flint residents for lead poisoning in today’s litigious environment? Think Flint residents and their money grubbing vultures lawyers will demand less from Michigan than the MDoC inmates did?

$ 100 million to 500 inmates works out to $ 200,000 per inmate. A settlement on that scale in Flint would amount to $ 20 billion in round numbers. Two years of the entire Michigan General Fund’s revenues, 33 years of the $ 600 million dedicated to new road work from the Michigan General Fund by PA 179 of 2015. Over and above the actual cost of ‘fixing’ Flint’s water system!

We told you that you were going to pay for Flint water quality. Now you know about how much. $ 1.2 billion in new road funding has just become chump change, and at least four Republican Senators have figured this out.  Relentless, positive action anyone?

You Betcha! (18)Nuh Uh.(0)

  9 comments for “Vultures Over Michigan

  1. Tom Backers
    January 2, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    "Sighhhh..."...

    You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • JD
      January 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      ...exactly what Michigan citizens will say as the vultures finally land...(or our apathetic battle cry of late).

      You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
  2. JD
    January 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    When you have as many controversial issues as they do coming up fast (before the election cycle gets in to full swing and in the lame duck afterwards) I'm not surprised more than anyone else that they're simply testing the outrage early to see what they can get away with later.
    2016 will be the most ambitious in this state's history in terms of shuffling music chairs on the deck as even more head for the safety of the lifeboats. This is the term limited "Xanadu" that (most) everyone on our side was clamoring for when they weren't suggesting a part-time legislature to solve full-time legacy issues for our kids.

    When good people (should they ever appear in significant numbers) can't be assured that they have a secure job doing what few others apparently have the willingness to do for the rest of their lives...how are you going to find these people in the first place...on a 'part -time' basis?

    I concur that this is exactly what is happening in terms of the vultures circling. You can't massage budget numbers that have already been massaged to the point where they mean absolutely nothing without a significant amount of extra tax revenue (and even more denial concerning billions in unfunded liabilities).

    You Betcha! (2)Nuh Uh.(0)
  3. Conservative First
    January 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    The link goes to the old (2002-2014) state senate map. Here is the current map.
    http://www.senate.michigan.gov/2011_maps/Statewide.pdf

    You Betcha! (0)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • 10x25MM
      January 3, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks. Fixed the link. Text was prepared from a paper map of the current Senate Districts, so it continues to be correct. Not certain how I got the obsolete link.

      You Betcha! (0)Nuh Uh.(0)
  4. JD
    January 3, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    It was easy for them to dance around vastly differing competing plans introduced after Prop 1 failed.
    A relatively simple multi-billion dollar tax increase vs what they have already voted on is only politically problematic if voters demand early and often exactly how they would vote this time around. It will be difficult to come back with a "we'll wait and see" given the (historic) corner that they've all painted themselves in to unless they (obviously) believe that they can get away with that answer in 2016 and beyond.

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