In the wee hours of Oct. 1, state legislators finally exercised responsible leadership and agreed on a budget that would mitigate the Michigan’s $1.75 billion deficit. After months of partisan bickering, the legislature finally voted in favor of the least popular of necessary evils – a tax hike. A state shutdown was averted, but not everyone was satisfied. Last Thursday, anti-tax activists moved to recall lawmakers who voted in favor of the necessary tax increase. Those targeted for recall include five Republican and five Democratic legislators. It is an unfortunate comment on the state of our democracy that responsible lawmakers are recalled and the liars who truly deserve to lose their jobs are consistently reelected.
The tax hike – consisting of a .45 percent increase in the state income tax and the implementation of a sales tax on certain services – was simply unavoidable. Although Republicans continue to call for cuts in spending, state services are already cut back to dangerous levels. Knowing that cuts alone could not balance the budget, state Republicans still held out and pushed the state into a brief partial shutdown. Fortunately, the closure was halted just hours later by the hurried passage of a budget that included tax increases.
While anti-tax activists call for the heads of those state legislators who voted for the tax increase, they are lavishing praise on some of Michigan’s congressmen in Washington, who recently cast an infamous vote to oppose a tax hike. Unfortunately, those congressmen – including Republicans Joe Knollenberg, Thaddeus McCotter, Pete Hoekstra and Tim Walberg – showed off their supposed fiscal conservatism by voting against the State Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program, a program that would have been expanded by an increase in the federal cigarette tax. Despite opposition from those four Michigan Republicans, the bill passed in the House and Senate, before being vetoed by President Bush.
If passed, the bipartisan proposal would have expanded healthcare to more than 4 million children whose families cannot afford private coverage and who don’t qualify for Medicaid. The president and his supporters claim that S-CHIP isn’t worth the $35 billion that would be spent throughout the next five years. Though the cost is high, the benefits to children and poor families across our state and country would be immense.
However, some of the state’s representatives in Washington think defending their feigned reputation as so-called fiscal conservatives is more important than helping sick children. It’s interesting that Knollenberg, McCotter, Hoekstra and Walberg, those supposed defenders of small government and minimal spending, continue to write blank checks for the president’s $100,000-per-minute scam known as the war in Iraq (in fact, Hoekstra remains convinced there were WMD’s in Iraq).
As the proposal to override Bush’s veto on S-CHIP was brought up yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives, all Republicans that had previously voted against S-CHIP refused to change their votes – Knollenberg, McCotter, Hoekstra and Walberg among them. The override failed by just 13 votes in the House.
One vote does not define any legislator, but for Michigan’s duplicitous Republicans in Washington, this is but the latest in a long line of failures. These congressmen are only fiscally conservative when it is convenient; in other words, they have no backbone and no reason for continuing to represent us. We cannot continue to keep voting for incumbents who are failing to show the moral convictions of true leadership.
Voters on all sides of the political spectrum were upset at those who voted against S-CHIP: Health care for children is something both Democrats and Republicans support. We must remember that and, come November 2008, we must aptly punish the moral hypocrisy of these representatives and vote them out of office before they can do any more damage.