Editorial

Unfinished state budget heralded for early completion

June 14, 2013
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The press releases, photos and video streamed non-stop to editors across the state, hailing Gov. Rick Snyder’s signing of the 2013-14 budget of almost $49 billion last Thursday. The Governor’s press release began, “For the third year in a row, the state has passed its budget plan four months ahead of the constitutional deadline. The new schedule allows schools and local governments to use definite figures when putting together their own budgets for the coming year.”

Senate majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, sent one of several proud pronouncements from the state legislature, and gave the Associated Press a similar quote proclaiming the success of passing the state budget months before it is required. He further told AP, “I think this is the best budget I’ve been a part of. I really do.”

In truth, that’s about all the politicians can say about the plan for taxpayers’ dollars, because it left major issues unresolved for debate in the back rooms. We all might proclaim a victory for finishing a project early and hide the fact that it does not accomplish necessary objectives. Among several varied issues, not the least of which includes K-12 and college and university return of taxpayer funds from the state:

  • State leaders proudly herald an increase in funding for road repairs, but it amounts to “hush” money for instant gratification while a real plan sustaining investment in Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure is unanswered. The new budget provides $350 million for road and bridge “maintenance.” It is estimated that real replacement and real repair will cost $1.2 billion.

The business community statewide has invested a significant amount of time and energy to the facts of the costs they continue to bear for lack of real legislative leadership. The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council yet again sent the state a resolution representing governments thorough the region to determine a funding plan to fix the roads.

  • The budget does not include funding for the high-speed rail project in southwest Michigan.
  • Medicaid was not expanded as is required by the new federal Affordable Care Act. State Department of Health Director James Haveman last month anticipated something more than zero to result for 320,000 Michigan adults in need of care, some of whom he said are critically ill.

Spectrum Health used the Medicaid (and Medicare) reimbursement issue as reason for a nearly 6 percent increase in its rates beginning July 1. The increase yields a 1.7 percent increase in revenue per admission, and admissions are expected to increase by 3.6 percent. Some aspects of the health care giant’s rate rationale may be another editorial topic, but for purposes here it is important to note that Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has in the past shown more than 40 percent of its admissions are children covered under Medicaid. (Spectrum estimates its operating revenue to be $4.14 billion and expenses to be $3.99 billion. Operating profit for this year was estimated at 4.9 percent of the $3.9 billion in operating revenue.)

To their credit, members of the Michigan House of Representatives went back to their chamber and just before 10 p.m. Thursday passed the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for 2014. Senate approval is far more dubious.

The state budget plan isn’t early, it’s just half-baked.

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