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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/09/michigan-scorecard-solutions-elude-policymakers/

Public sector

Michigan Scorecard solutions elude policymakers

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.”

Rick Haglund has had a distinguished career covering Michigan business, economics and government at newspapers throughout the state. Most recently, at Booth Newspapers he wrote a statewide business column and was one of only three such columnists in Michigan. He also covered the auto industry and Michigan’s economy extensively.

5 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. BluFox

    When Disciples of Ayn Rand are running the State, it’s hard to imagine anything constructive getting done.

    When you call “an expansion of Medicaid an “offense” to the party’s conservative base.” It tells a little about who these folks are and how they REALLY view people in need. I’m actually surprised that there hasn’t been a push to reopen the county “poor farms”, so that the Tea Party folks don’t have to see “those” people.

    As for the roads, they were dirt and gravel once……why not again?

    1. Duane

      BluFox,

      You seem to belittle the ‘poor farms’. I wonder if you have ever visted one or ever saw the people working those farms.

      I wonder if the term was create by someone who didn’t know the people that worked those farms, who didn’t value people that providing for themselves with their own labor, who didn’t see that a person gains much from working beit pride and self satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

      I suspect unlike you I have work some nasty stinky low skilled jobs and I took pride in doing those jobs well. My wife and I and our children have always taken pride in working and doing for ourselves. You may think it is better to not work and live off the benelovence of others, but I have found that when you do for your self you value what you do and who you are more then simply waiting for the largess of others.

      I would become a ‘Tea Party’ person if they were to focus their efforts on helping people to work/earn the assistance they recieve. Many years ago when cities could supplement their workforce by those who were recieveing government assistance I work with men who had shown themselves good workers and were able to turn that work experience to full time employment.

      Rather then belittle work we should be doing more to help people to learn how to work.

      By the way, I live on one of theos gravel roads in my town. The value of paying my street does not justify the paving. Other people’s money can be spent on things providing better value or not spent at all.

  2. Duane

    Mr. Haglund seems to miss the point of indexes and comparative ratings. Indexes are a tool to help in prioritizing resources and efforts, it is not about a competition to raise the index number.

    A comparative rating is not about competing for a better ranking it is about identifying those who are being more effective and learning about how they achieved their success.

    It appears all we hear these indexes and comparative rating used for is to simply justify spending more and more of other people’s money and never about how successes are truly being achieved.

    If I were to guess it is easier or at least more convenient to simply report the ‘numbers’ and never ask how others are succeeding.

    As for the the legislature passing the expansion of Obamacare in MIchigan, it isn’t offensive it simply reflects of lack of forsight by those supporting it. Like so many of these votes there is no concern or responsibility for the future. It is all about ‘good intentions’ and nothing about helping people make choices and improving their own lives.

  3. David Waymire

    Duane, if you define “succeeding” as having high per capita income for families and low poverty rates the answer is simple. The states doing the best are those who have the most college graduates. Visit http://www.michiganfuture.org to get the data, but of the top 10 states with the highest per capita income, all of them are in the top 15 of having the highest percentage of college graduates. (Except those that have oil). Texas is a mediocre state. Massachusetts is a winner state, by those measures. In the region, Indiana is a loser. Minnesota is a winner.

    To get more college grads, you need to have good public services. You need good k-12 schools. You need good universities. You need big cities that are safe and work. To get those, you need to invest in public goods. The states that are the poorest and have the most poverty are those who have cut taxes, stressed “personal reliance” at the expense of public goods, and patted themselves on the back as their people got poorer and poorer, their schools got worse and worse, and their cities collapsed into crime ridden heaps. I’m talking about Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama…and yes, Indiana and increasingly Michigan.
    Which is exactly what the Tea Party does. And is exactly what Michigan has been doing the last 15 years.

    1. Duane

      David,

      I am not trying to define ‘success’ only trying to help Mr. Haglund appericate the why and how indexes are created.

      Since Mr. Haglund seems to put great importance in the index ratings as an indication of ‘success’ then he should investigate how those higher ratings were achieve. Maybe those indexes are only based on the spending of other people’s money and and give no regard have no regard for the impact on people. As an example maybe the looks for the spending on education such as on core cirriculums and don’t include any measurement of student learning. If that is the case then it would be more important to find how those higher rated states are grannering their funding then caring if such things as roads and bridges are causing accidents. A simple test of this did Minnesota or Washington where there were catastrophic major bridge failure have higher index ratings than Michigan.

      As for the college graduate issue, I wonder if quality of education matters. It appears there is a heated debate about additional post graduation training of teachers as it appears even those in the univerities are saying that the school are not sufficiently preparing teacher to be the best they can be for the state students.

      My experience in using indexes has not been to worry about where you are rated but to focus on improving what and how you are doing. I have used indexes to identify strengthes and ensure they are retained and leveraged, identify others and their strenghts to learn from them. Even when our organization was at a high index rating we continued use those the indexes to improve. Indexes are not designed as score card for competition, they are designed as simple tools for improving whatever is important.

      The reality I found was that seldom were the index numbers usable means for justifying more spending. It was the practices and programs that were develop from using the indexes that were the value that justified spending. More times than not the indexes help identify practices that require no new moneys but simply changing the existing practices to employ those who we were finding had a better index rating.

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