Posted by | March 10, 2011 19:36 | Filed under: Contributors Opinion Politics Sandi Behrns

by Sandi Behrns

While the nation’s attention was turned toward the outrageous (and quite probably illegal) actions of the Wisconsin State Senate last night and the endorsement of that action by the State Assembly today, another new Republican governor was making an equally breathtaking assault on the citizens of Michigan. Today, the Michigan State Senate voted to pass the “emergency financial managers” bill, giving the governor the power to basically declare “financial martial law.” The bill is expect to shortly pass the House, and newly elected Governor Rick Snyder has promised to sign it into law.

Just what does this bill do? Snyder and his supporters say it’s intended to allow the state treasurer’s office to spot local governments in financial trouble before they reach a crisis level. From The Detroit Free Press:

But if they need intervention, emergency managers should have authority to do whatever it takes to declare bankruptcy, or avoid it by drastic steps. That could even mean ordering millage elections or dissolving local governments of school districts and merging them with neighboring ones.

Basically, Snyder will be able to declare municipalities and school districts to be in financial crisis and appoint an “emergency financial manager” (EFM). These managers would then have the power to 1) seize control of local civil services,  2) dissolve entire municipal governments, 3) dismiss elected officials with no replacement election, 4) void union contracts, and 5) hand taxpayer money, services and powers to private companies.

In fact, the Michigan legislation goes way beyond what is happening in Wisconsin. Here we are talking about the ability of appointed individuals, accountable only to the governor, unelected, and unanswerable to the public, with the ability to not only quash collective bargaining agreements, but also dismiss democratically elected officials, and even to dissolve towns and cities. It seems more than a little ironic coming from the same party that went apoplectic over the “tyrannical over-reach” of healthcare reform. But wait. There’s more.

Not to be left out on the fun, today the Michigan House introduced Gov. Snyder’s tax overhaul bill. What does that entail? For starters, $1.8 billion in tax cuts for businesses. How to pay for that? How about a $2.5 billion tax increase  on individuals – including a new tax on pensions.

It’s a good thing the voters will be able to repeal that, right? Wait. Strike that. The GOP has inserted a sneaky clause that just may make that immune from a repeal vote.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to cut business taxes and increase taxes on individuals – including a new state tax on pensions – may be unpopular with many, but it could not be repealed by voters.

The 183-page tax overhaul bill, introduced by House Republicans, includes a $100 appropriation that makes it legally immune to a citizens’ referendum.

House Democrats charged today that the provision is an attempt to subvert the right of voters to challenge laws they don’t like, such as a law to allow dove hunting, which a petition drive suspended in 2005 and voters repealed in 2006.

What can the citizens of Michigan do about this? Nothing, it appears. The Senate’s vote today came in spite of large-scale citizen protests surrounding the state Capitol this week. More protests are slated to take place, including one organized by the AARP. (A group whose members, ironically, probably voted to help make this fiasco possible. But I digress…)

The upshot is that the Republican majorities in the Senate and House, as well as Gov. Snyder, don’t seem to see the downside to enacting their radical ideology while they have the chance, no matter how unpopular it may be.

A few short months ago, if we had seen this headline: Group rallies in Detroit to decry government ‘takeovers’, we could have assumed it to be a Tea Party rally protesting healthcare reform, the auto bailout, or any number of supposed grievances. This time, though, it’s a GOP-controlled government engaged in the most egregious attacks on the fabric of American life this observer can remember.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Sandi Behrns

Sandi Behrns is a noted policy nerd, new media & web developer, and consultant to progressive organizations and campaigns. She is a senior contributor to Liberaland, and the Executive Editor of Progressive Congress News.