Before moving in, I had to empty most of my checking account to pay the University what my Promise Scholarship did not. The program is on Lansing’s chopping block, and families all over the state are scrambling to make up for this empty promise. I’m angry, like most students, but my anger isn’t blindly directed at the budget-cutters. It’s the legislators who made these empty promises that deserve our wrath.
The Promise Scholarship debuted when I graduated high school in 2007, during the 2008 fiscal year. That year, the state government had a $605 million deficit. Rather than focus on long-term corrections, governor Jennifer Granholm proposed only $108 million in spending cuts. At the same time, Granholm wanted $66 million in university payments delayed — an accounting trick pushing expenses off of one book and onto another.
That same year, the Michigan Business Tax debuted, giving breaks to the collapsing automotive industry while making service firms pay more. After small businesses protested, the legislature removed the service hike — and replaced it with a 22 percent surcharge on all taxable companies. The MBT has amplified the volatility of government revenues, making the budget process even more difficult.
In fiscal year 2009, the budget deficit grew to an astounding $1.75 billion, pushing the state’s credit rating down further. This year, the deficit reaches $1.3 billion — and the state government is just now getting around to cutting horse racing programs.
Our legislators and governor made a promise to students and they have yet to take action toward keeping it. If painful-but-necessary cuts had been made earlier, alongside a fair tax system, our scholarships could be in safe hands. Instead, students and families are left with more debt and fewer opportunities to further education. Remember this when you hear politicians talk about “saving” our Promise Scholarships, as if this was their first chance to do so.