A budget deficit is never wanted in any circumstance, whether it is a state's budget or a company's. Currently, Michigan is suffering from a budget deficit of nearly $920 million in the General Fund and School Aid Fund (Michigan.gov). There will always be controversy over the options of raising taxes or reducing budget allotments to certain fields of state government. Every budget cut that can be performed without severely affecting the state of Michigan should be taken into consideration. In the past year, the Michigan legislature announced that they are committed to cutting their own budget. In addition to this move, there have been proposals to cut the pay of legislators who are not working efficiently.
In May of 2009, Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon announced, "there will be office spending cuts, staff attrition and layoffs as part of the plan to trim 4 percent from budgets this fiscal year" (Crainsdetroit.com). This act can be criticized as not enough of a cut, but having a 4 percent cut across the board in the Michigan Legislature is just another way to help eliminated the budget deficit. This move by the Michigan Legislature has prompted the Senate and the State courts to also cut their budgets by 4 percent. With these three fields taking part in a 4 percent budget cut, nearly $7 million is expected to be saved (Crainsdetroit.com).
This self-imposed pay cut was declared shortly after the Michigan Senate had already approved a 10 percent pay cut for the next governor and the 2010 group of legislators (Mlive.com). It has been argued that this cut is a "largely symbolic act"; but as stated earlier, any budget cut that can be performed without severely affecting the state of Michigan should be taken into consideration. This symbolic act is needed during the recession that Michigan is recovering from. The general population needs to become aware that it is not just them being affected, but the government as well. This is only one part of the Michigan government; there are several other departments that could contribute in the same manner.
The proposal that shall more specifically affect legislator pay is the performance-based salary. Senators Gretchen Whitmer and Hansen Clarke are the major proponents pushing for a performance-based salary. Senator Whitmer believes that her plan will strengthen the performance of legislators. Her proposal involves a "plan to cut legislators' pay, do away with lifetime health benefits, link Capitol pay to performance and even require lawmakers to disclose their income and assets" (LSJ.com).
Senator Hansen Clarke has proposed a plan similar to Senator Whitmer's that would give incentives to state legislators to complete the budget effectively and on time, basing salaries on certain performance measures (senate.michigan.gov). Senator Clarke firmly believes that the government should be run like a company when it comes to employees finishing their work on time and meeting all expectations. Clarke has called upon specific actions, such as, "[asking] the Chair of the State Officers Compensation Commission to consider reducing the salaries of the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader by a rate of at least $3,000 per day for each day after the end of the fiscal year that the Legislature has not enacted a balanced budget for that current fiscal year" (senate.michigan.gov). This specific plan of action is what will boost the overall effectiveness of the Michigan Legislature. In addition to Senator Clarke's plan of a performance-base salary, he also is supportive of having the legislative salaries reflect Michigan's median personal income (senate.michigan.gov). In other words, at no point shall the legislative salaries be rising if Michigan is going through tough financial times and the median personal income is declining.
In no way will the pay cuts be drastic enough to affect the budget deficit, but by creating a stronger Michigan Legislature the chance for resolving the deficit will be higher. As of last year, "There are currently 10 states in the United States with full-time legislators. Of those 10, Michigan is one of four that has legislators in session around 80 percent of the time" (Annarbor.com). With Michigan legislators having all this time to create their budget, there is no viable answer as to why they could not decide upon one by the night of September 30th, 2009. The failure to accomplish the tasks at hand should result in pay cuts.
The scare tactic of cutting the pay of Michigan legislators with direct correlation to the amount of work they have completed, or not completed, is a logical proposal. A company's basic definition is as follows, "a number of individuals assembled or associated together; group of people" (dictionary.com), is that not what the Michigan government is? Michigan's government may not be referred to as a "company," but they should follow the same basic guidelines that companies do. It is unheard of for an employee that does not finish his work on time, contribute to the overall well-being of a company, or satisfy the demands of his job, to be paid the same as someone that has polar opposite work ethics. Then why does it exist in government? This shall no longer exist, and there are ways to measure the performance of legislators.
First, have each legislator create a set of goals that they will accomplish throughout the next year. These goals may not be what their platform running for office was, but rather a realistic set of goals that will serve as a challenge for the year. The goals of each legislator will be submitted to a committee, or maybe even the governor. At the end of the year, the committee, or governor, will decide upon the legislator's performance. These legislators may not have accomplished all of their goals, but as long as an ample amount of progress has been made toward them their pay shall not be deducted. This system could also provide bonuses to the legislators that performed extremely well in regard to their goals. By instituting this system, it will provoke the Michigan legislature to do more work than is just required, which could be the resolution to balancing the budget. Critics will declare that this system would take too long to become in effect, but is that not how all proposals work? This system may not result in immediate relief to the budget or even a stronger legislature in the next year; but, if instituted and followed, the system will undoubtedly strengthen the Michigan legislature in years to come.