Why No State Budget? Read Why Yellow Dogs and Elephants Are Afraid to Vote!
Consensus Process Hampered by Threats from Michigan Taxpayers Alliance
September 19, 2007
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By: Dave Rogers
Leon Drolet, former state representative, wields a heavy club from the balcony of the State House chamber.
Higher taxes seem inevitable for Michigan residents.
But getting a vote on any tax increase and reaching agreement on a new state budget has proven to be nearly impossible, according to reports from Lansing.
Meanwhile, the state is less than two weeks from a partial shutdown of operations, reminiscent of the "Payless Paydays" of 1958-59. In those days the Senate Republicans, led by L. Harvey Lodge of Pontiac, stonewalled any budget deal that Gov. G. Mennen Williams and the Democrats proposed.
Today, so-called "Yellow-Dog Democrats" and a group of like-minded "Yellow Elephant" Republicans in the House reportedly are afraid to vote for any tax increase out of fear of being targeted for defeat by the Michigan Taxpayer's Alliance.
"This makes it virtually impossible to conduct state business and is certainly not in the public interest," said a veteran Capitol observer.
The tag "yellow" stems from the voting process wherein a green light on the legislator's desk signals a "yes" vote, a red light is "no" but yellow indicates a vote has not been cast.
Peering down from the balcony is a sharp-eyed hawk, a tight-fisted dude named Leon Drolet, head of the taxpayer's group, who casts an evil eye over the proceedings, threatening members of both parties who dare vote for a tax increase.
Drolet, a libertarian and former state representative from Macomb County, reportedly has cowed both Republicans and Democrats with threats of recall if they vote for tax increases.
One Republican representative, Dick Ball of Shiawassee County, has been voting "no" but told the Lansing State Journal today he is willing to defy Drolet if bipartisan support emerges for a budget plan. But 10 representatives, condemned as "Yellow Dog Democrats" by Republican state chair Saulius Anuzis, have been refusing to vote on any tax issues.
Anuzis posted this statement on the Republican state website: "House Democrats have 58-52 MAJORITY...every Republican on the board voting NO on the income tax increase.
"Yellow Dog Democrats Refuse to Vote...they won't vote yes...won't vote no.
"They have no one to blame but themselves...the "Yellow Dog Democrats".
He issued a Yellow Dog list:
Rep. Terry Brown (D-Pigeon)
Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga)
Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville)
Rep. Robert Dean (D-Grand Rapids)
Rep. Kate Ebli (D-Monroe)
Rep. Martin Griffin (D-Jackson)
Rep. Mike Simpson (D-Liberty Twp.)
Rep. Dudley Spade (D-Franklin Twp.)
Rep. Mary Valentine (D-Muskegon)
Rep. Lisa Wojno (D-Warren)
"Democrats Control the House of Representatives, 58-52. With a Democrat Majority -- they don't need a single Republican vote to pass ANY bill -- NO excuses -- any delay, any problems are solely the fault of the Democrat Majority which refuses to act/vote/lead!
"The 'Yellow Dog Democrats' who REFUSE to vote -- are they too 'yellow' to either to support taxes or oppose taxes??? Who are they working for? Apparently not the taxpayers of Michigan."
Some of the Democrats explained to the State Journal that they are waiting for a bipartisan consensus to emerge before voting, maintaining that the voters are seeking a bipartisan approach.
Drolet is a former Macomb county commissioner known for defending gun rights and other libertarian issues in articles posted on the web at www.leonforliberty.com. He calls himself "a libertarian Republican and leader of the conservative Republican caucus."
A photo posted on the web identifies Drolet as a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.
Drolet's unusually great clout with lawmakers comes because of his records in passing statewide initiatives. He led the drive to collect 500,000 signatures to put Proposal 2 on the ballot in the November, 2006 election.
Drolet was state-wide chair of the successful Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The initiative (Proposal 2)prohibits governments from discriminating against, or giving preferential treatment to, any citizen on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of government hiring, contracting, or state university admissions. The amendment was approved by 58 percent of voters even though backers of the plan were heavily outspent by opponents who supported the existing preference programs for minorities and women.
Drolet also co-authored a state constitutional amendment that prohibited governments in Michigan from using eminent domain to seize private property for economic development. This amendment, Proposal 4 in the November, 2006 election, was overwhelmingly adopted by voters.
Senate Republicans have proposed a one cent increase in the sales tax, increasing the total to seven percent on eligible purchases. The House Democrats apparently prefer an increase in the Michigan income tax.
House Speaker Andy Dillon, Democrat of Redford, and Republican Senate Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester, met Tuesday night and reportedly hammered out a tentative agreement that would combine increases in the sales taxes, or new taxes on some services, and a hike from 3.9 percent to 4.3 percent in income taxes combined with cuts in services of around $300 million.
Michigan's Legislature has about a week to work out appropriations of nearly $40 billion and find revenue to offset a $1.75 billion general fund shortfall.
"The Legislature is putting in marathon sessions with little to show for," said Senate Democratic Floor Leader Buzz Thomas of Detroit. Every time a vote is called on a tax increase that might help solve the impasse the yellow lights stay on.
The state's fiscal year ends September 30 and unless appropriations for operations are agreed upon a government shutdown is imminent, said Sen. Thomas.
House and Senate conference committees are trying to compromise on spending levels.
There were extended negotiations last week between legislative leaders that centered around placing an issue on the ballot in the November general municipal elections. Despite efforts by the Governor to force the issue, bargaining broke down when House and Senate leaders refused to put a vote up on either issue.###
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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