Republican Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled his new budget proposal yesterday, and Michigan residents are in store for big changes — that are potentially good and bad. Either way, it’s clear that Snyder is fulfilling his promise to shake up business in Lansing.
Synder’s budget announcement was by no means out of left field. He has been talking about large-scale changes to Michigan’s economic system since he began his campaign. His proposal to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a flat 6 percent corporate income tax, for example, came as no surprise. And his substantial cuts to government spending were also not a shock. Even schools were prepared for a reduction in state funding, but few anticipated a 15 percent cut — Synder’s official proposal.
In what came as a huge blow to schools around the state, it was proposed yesterday that funding for public schools would be reduced by $470 per student — $170 of which had been previously determined — and that public universities would receive 15 percent less funding, according to a Feb. 17 Detroit Free Press article. These cuts have left schools scrambling to determine how they will cope with this decrease in state appropriations.
It’s clear that Snyder’s eye is on the future of Michigan and building the state up to a competitive level. There’s no doubt that Snyder’s budget decisions weren’t made rashly. The recently inaugurated governor certainly had his work cut out for him, after being handed down a state economy that is $47 billion in debt. But he seems to have lost sight that there are people who still need to live and work in Michigan while he is working to develop businesses and bring new people to the state.
Current Michigan students at all education levels are going to encounter significant, and potentially detrimental, changes at their schools. It’s unrealistic to expect schools to perform at the desired level — a bar that will potentially be even higher if scores needed to pass standardized tests are raised — without the proper resources. It’s also unrealistic to expect Michigan businesses to want to stay in Michigan if workers can’t send their children to well-funded schools.
Synder is known to reference Michigan’s “brain drain” problem. And while he may be working to establish job opportunities in the state for college graduates, taking away funding from public universities creates a problem for students trying to obtain an education in Michigan. If the state can’t give young people educational opportunities, then our future will be rather bleak regardless of the strength of our economy.
The self-proclaimed “nerd” is also a self-proclaimed businessman, and in all likelihood his budget proposals will be good for small businesses. But if you’re a student, a film producer or unemployed, Michigan isn’t going to be an easy place to live in in the coming months. The state hasn’t heard the last of Snyder’s budget proposals, and the Legislature will likely be tied up in debate over the specifics for weeks. So, as this budget is revised, Congress needs to ensure that Michigan’s students remain a priority because the current 15 percent funding cut says the opposite.