Don't tell anyone about our secret government
|By Kyle Melinn|
From now until at least September, our state government leaders will be periodically locking themselves in a room at an unannounced time and place.
The public has no real idea what is being discussed “behind closed doors,” as Charlie Rich sings, other than the promise is that next year’s budget is getting smashed together. The daily spoonful fed to the media is that discussions “are ongoing,” somewhat like life itself, but we’re assuming much more painful.
Whoever steps into the room takes a Mason’s-like pledge of secrecy. Anyone with the gall to break that circle of trust by — gasp — talking to anyone but the Holy Father himself is shot at sunrise.
And, yet, this is where state government discovers how much money it spends. On which programs the money will be spent. How much of that money will be spent on said programs. Which taxes and fees, if any, will be raised.
Pretty important stuff, really. And it’s all secret. Every last word.
What do these people talk about? What are the subjects that are truly “on the table?” What do all sides completely agree is “off the table?” The official answer: “Discussions are ongoing.” Until they cease to be ongoing, I suppose.
This year, the governor proposed a budget in February and then watched state revenues drop off a cliff. President Barack Obama fed this state money as fast as Treasury could print it, but a lot of it is meant only for a social programming, energy efficiency and likeminded, well-intentioned programs. The hemorrhaging General Fund? Nope.
The House passed its budget, by and large, before anybody knew how bad the problem was, which left the Senate to pass something in June so hideous two senators fought about it in an elevator.
So we have secret meetings taking place at secret times on secret proposals that ultimately will become a secret, unalterable “deal” that any member of the majority is obliged to vote for.
Sounds like the creation of the Michigan Service Tax of two years ago!
The difference, of course, is that the Service Tax was the spawn of some new dark hole that recently opened up in the Capitol called the “work group,” the poor and lessexclusive cousin of “targets.” Hand-picked lawmakers, lobbyists and staff all jump into this “workgroup” abyss when there’s a real big problem chasing them, like a broken tax system, for example.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write email@example.com.)