Advocacy Blue Arrows

Communities Controlling Their Own Costs -
PA 312 and Mandatory Binding Arbitration

Source: Detroit Free Press

In Our Opinion: Negotiate Government Reforms

September 19, 2007

The neglected part of state budget talks -- overshadowed by the tax increase debate -- is reform, real change in the structure of government. Producing one or more substantial reforms in the next few days is essential to getting the fiscal business in order.

First, significant reform should give a dozen or so House Republicans the political cover they need to vote for a tax increase. They would be able to tell their constituents they made a major breakthrough that will help ratchet down state spending for years to come, not just the next 12 months.

And they'd be right to be proud of such an accomplishment. Michigan is not well aligned for the future, as manufacturing jobs dwindle, the workforce becomes more mobile and instant communications make the state's ungainly patchwork of governmental units redundant and sometimes counterproductive. In terms of local governments, the state is still living in the 1800s; in terms of most labor practices, the 1950s.

A solid reform effort, if it pulls everyone back from the brink, could also set a pattern for more action. The deadline for a budget solution, Sept. 27, doesn't offer enough time to get more than one or two changes underway. Gov. Jennifer Granholm cited 58 reforms her office has open for discussion, and there are probably more possibilities. She has to be open to them.

Up for discussion is Act 312, which requires binding arbitration to settle contracts for police and firefighters, who cannot strike. The law needs streamlining and more flexibility.

It would be a place to start, along with benefit programs for public employees and consolidation of government service. Revenue is the immediate need; reform is the long-term solution.



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