Budget shows Mich.'s contempt for students
After months of debating, a two-hour government shutdown and a monthlong extension, Gov. Jennifer Granholm finally signed a new Michigan budget into law last Friday, effectively eliminating the state’s $2.8 billion deficit.
But after all that drama, maybe legislators should think about working on the budget for next year.
Granholm said in a statement she wouldn’t “pretend that this is a good budget,” and neither will we.
Granholm had the audacity to voice her “disappointment” at the elimination of the Michigan Promise Scholarship while encouraging the Legislature to work hard to bring it back by finding additional funding.
This sounds nice, but what action did she take to keep the Promise? And not just in the past few weeks, but many months ago, when it was predicted that the scholarship could be in danger?
Granholm admittedly doesn’t have a magic wand, but a governor surely has some weight in these matters.
The Michigan Promise is not the only cut to higher education. The bill also eliminated state nursing scholarships, the Part-Time Independent Student Program, the Michigan Work Study Program and the Michigan Education Opportunity Grant. State funding for university operations was cut by 0.4 percent, and the total financial aid cuts amounts to a whopping 61 percent.
We are confident the governor and the Legislature could have taken additional measures to prevent some of these cuts. Though we realize financial aid funding can’t be saved in its entirety given the state of our economy, cutting 61 percent of financial aid is a slap in the face to the thousands of Michigan students attending college and universities.
There’s no question both Granholm and the Legislature had to make a lot of hard decisions in crafting this budget bill. But it’s also very likely that a lot of even harder decisions now have been deferred to next year’s budget.
Lawmakers procrastinated on this year’s budget until — quite literally — the last minute.
They always should have the budget on their minds and always should be looking for ways to cut frivolous spending and find new and creative ways to save funding. Studying for an exam throughout the semester is a lot more effective than cramming at the last minute. It might take more time and effort, but that ideally is what people sign up for when they go into state government.
A plan for the future is needed, and for lawmakers to only concern themselves with a year-to-year budget is foolhardy. It would be great if the Legislature could craft a five-year plan, but this likely will never happen so long as the plan exceeds politicians’ term limits.
Many MSU students have grown up in Michigan and would like to stay here. For those students, Michigan should be a place where they feel they can live, plant roots and start a family. But why should a graduating senior want to settle down in Michigan when the Legislature only is concerned about “surviving” year to year? This is especially true when in order to survive, we need to cut financial aid by 61 percent.
Both Granholm and the state Legislature should be ashamed of themselves. They procrastinated on a flawed budget, with not much to show for it but an elimination of debt and millions of dollars taken from students. Next year’s budget potentially could be worse than this year’s unless lawmakers take their job, their constituents and Michigan’s future seriously.
And if they do, they should get to work today.