Dillon, Bishop encouraged toward open compromise

September 8, 2009
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The Labor Day holiday has its roots in Australia and then in Canada, prior to its advent in the U.S. in 1882 to become part of a more global celebration of the efforts of workers.

There is no comparison in the efforts of laborers then and now. The contrast is stark when one considers the action of state legislators holding on to outdated concepts and their continued rancor that, together, perilously perch this state at the brink of budget collapse.

Michigan is a peninsula riddled with angst given its top-ranked unemployment rate and myriad of attendant woes. Now comes news that Gov. Jennifer Granholm, her budget boss Bob Emerson and legislative leaders were secretly meeting last week to privately discuss potential budget outcomes. It is hardly comforting in the midst of the worst recession and economic impact since the 1930s. 

The state budget for 2009-10 must by law be balanced and adopted by Sept. 30 lest the state (once again) face a shutdown. Every resident of the Great Lakes State understands there is a deficit, though few could likely have predicted it would amount to almost $2.7 billion for the next fiscal year.

The locked executive doors were especially interesting as state offices closed before the holiday in what was the last “furlough” day for state workers due to shortfalls in the current fiscal year budget. The citizens of Michigan should instead furlough its legislators — as much would be accomplished in more limited and unpaid time as has been accomplished while “full time.”

In plain sight — and in stark contrast — Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop, R-Rochester, was able to lead his colleagues through a process that provided a balanced budget plan, approved by his fellows in August. In the House, Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, has certainly shown he is willing to find common ground, most famously with his agreement last month to change benefit providers historically serving the state’s labor unions such as the Michigan Education Association.

Bishop and Dillon have healthy differences, and a healthy respect for one another. But there are those who would distort this breakthrough and attempt to contain Dillon with a label dating back to the origins of Labor Day. The biggest breakthrough for this state would be insistence that those labels belong to another era; these are times of change, and it matters not whether one embraces change because it has already occurred. So, too, must the actions of legislators now less than 22 days from collapse.

The continued hyperbole from MEA Executive Director Lu Battaglieri of “being at war” on budget issues is nonsensical in this time. For any legislator to participate in any semblance of “caucus mutiny” is a heresy of their oath of office.

A visiting Lech Walesa once told a local group of union leaders during a World Affairs Council dinner: “Even a leech knows when to leave its host.”

The continued effort toward compromise must be supported. Perhaps it’s best for Dillon and Bishop to meet at center aisle and suggest the governor butt out. There are no secrets in this perilous time.

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