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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/09/michigan-scorecard-solutions-elude-policymakers/
11 September 2013
This year’s Michigan Scorecard shows the state needs to boost educational performance, reduce poverty, repair crumbling roads and trim the percentage of residents without health insurance.
Fortunately, there are proposals in Lansing that would address those issues that affect the quality of life in Michigan.
Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled legislature have not yet agreed on most of them.
Snyder, a Republican, has backed plans to expand Medicaid coverage to 470,000 uninsured Michigan residents, implement Common Core educational standards, and raise $1.2 billion in new taxes and fees for roads.
The legislature recently passed a sort of time-delayed version of Medicaid expansion but hasn’t yet gone along with Common Core or road fixes.
Michigan ranks 17th in the percentage of residents covered by health insurance, down from 12th in 2008, according to the Michigan Scorecard.
Those lacking health insurance can quickly plunge into poverty as a result of huge medical bills resulting from a serious illness.
The Legislature also voted in June to prevent the Department of Education from spending any money to implement the Common Core, a set of nationally developed language and math standards.
Michigan ranks 42nd and 37th, respectively in fourth and eighth grade math scores, and 36th and 29th, respectively, in fourth and eighth grade reading scores.
Lawmakers also have refused for more than a year to approve Snyder’s proposals to boost road funding.
Thirty-eight percent of Michigan roads and 28 percent of state bridges are considered to be in poor condition, according to the Scorecard.
Democratic lawmakers generally support Snyder on expanding Medicaid, implementing the Common Core and boosting transportation funding.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer recently said the chasm between Snyder and Republican lawmakers stems from a “civil war” in the state Republican Party between moderates and Tea Party conservatives.
Snyder and most business groups that are typically friendly toward Republicans largely support Snyder’s agenda.
Rob Fowler, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said SBAM supports expanding Medicaid because it will reduce the amount of uncompensated care being shifted to employers that provide health insurance to their workers.
“I consider it a kind of organizational epiphany about a decade ago when we came to realize that the uninsured really matter to business,” Fowler said.
Studies have shown that expanding Medicaid could save Michigan more than $1 billion over the next seven years because the federal government will pick up much of the cost.
“Medicaid expansion, from my perspective, is absolutely a step in the right direction,” said Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University economist. “Somebody else is paying for it and we still won’t do it. That’s pretty crazy.”
But many conservative Republicans who advocate for smaller government and lower taxes were vehemently opposed to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
They say that even though the state might save money by expanding Medicare, it’s still being paid for by tax dollars from the federal government.
Todd Courser, a Lapeer conservative who nearly unseated Bobby Schostak as state Republican Party chairman earlier this year, called an expansion of Medicaid an “offense” to the party’s conservative base.
“We don’t need a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican governor advancing Obama’s agenda. We do not need that,” Courser said recently on the “Off the Record” public affairs program.
The Legislature also has been holding hearings on adopting the Common Core standards, which many Republicans regard as meddling by outsiders in the state’s education system.
Lawmakers also are discussing putting a road-funding proposal on the ballot, but they have not reached agreement on specifics.
John Klemanski, a political science professor at Oakland University, said Snyder is in a tough position to negotiate solutions to issues that greatly affect Michigan residents.
Many Democrats are still angry with him over his sudden support for right to work last year and what they claim was his weakening of the safety need for the poor. But Snyder is arguably less conservative than many Republican lawmakers.
“Gov. Snyder is in a pickle of sorts,” Klemanski said. “It’s hard to govern in a political climate that’s so polarized.”