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Interview with Bill Ballenger PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Kuhlman   
Thursday, 02 December 2010 21:20

Bill Ballenger is a former state representative and state senator, an ex-state racing commissioner, and director of the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulation. Mr. Ballenger also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare in the administration of President Gerald R. Ford.

Ballenger obviously has a rich history in the political arena and he got his start at the age of 24 working to do research for the Republican Party. His favorite and most challenging position was a Racing Commissioner. This position authored a lot of authority as he found himself running all of horse racing in Michigan.

Over the course of his career, Bellanger has seen definite changes in Michigan politics. One change that has made an “enormous difference” is term limits. Bellanger has seen other apparently negative changes such as the infusion of money in political races and the loss of grass roots among political officials.

Having been very active on all political levels, Bellanger felt the desire to provide citizens with an accurate picture of government and Michigan politics. Bellanger also thought that much of the media coverage was naïve and “that it lacked a true picture of the relationships between Lansing and local levels.” For these reasons, Ellanger created the newsletter and website Inside Michigan Politics, which aims to analyze political and policy trends.

One trend that was common of the 2010 elections was the shift of political influence as Republicans took control of many legislatures. Although Bellanger did expect to see a shift, he was definitely surprised by the degree by which Republicans came back to power. One of the key issues on the 2010 ballot was Proposal 1, which would have elicited a constitutional convention. Bellanger agreed with Michigan voters about it however, raising several points against it: Michigan’s problems o not lie with its Constitution, can not guarantee what would actually be written, it would be expensive, and there is no guarantee of approval.

Rather than siding with the opinions of some of Michigan voters, Bellanger pointed out simply that Michigan’s big problem is a lack of sufficient revenue. Bellanger suggests that some of the options for fixing this problem lie with learge spending on programs for two to eight years and balancing the budget by restructuring spending priorities and the tax structure. While Bellanger feels that it is possible for the incoming legislature to make some of these changes, they face a lot of challenges regarding not only money, but also a lack of experience with so many new legislators.

 

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Andrew Kuhlman is Political Reform Fellow and Correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. Andrew is a first-year student in Lyman Briggs College at MSU.

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