By Mike Fossano
So you think you can come up with a better plan to balance the state’s budget than the politicians?
The Center for Michigan, a “think-and-do” tank founded in 2006 by former newspaper publisher Phil Power, recently came out with an online game that puts you in the shoes of Michigan Legislators who must address looming budget issues over the coming months.
Play the game here and see what decisions you’d make.
The engine behind the game allows you to choose from more than 20 options across six categories (education, prison and police, welfare and health care, public workforce) to scrap together enough revenue and savings to close what is initially a $1.4 billion gap.
Your first decision to make is whether to sign off on Gov. Snyder’s plan to slice business taxes by $1.2 billion, which widens the deficit to $2.6 billion.
I began by choosing to keep the business tax as is. I then freed up $222 million by endorsing Snyder’s plan cut funding for state universities, which 15 percent cut to 15 state-funded universities and is likely to result in tuition increases. I’m of the opinion that K-12 funding needs to be preserved wherever possible. In an age when, thanks to other cuts, some teachers will be forced to handle classrooms of 50 or even 60 children, I see the argument of concessions as subjective.
Next, I saved $125 million by enacting prison sentencing reforms, which will reduce the prison population by offering alternatives for housing (and re-integrating) drug-related and other select non-violent offenders.
I backed Snyder’s plan to seek concessions from state workers as well as his income tax reforms, which saved a combined $1.001 billion.
Finally, I raised the beer tax, which has been collecting dust since the 1960s and needs to be adjusted for inflation. That saved $106 million, leaving me with a slight budget surplus.
What choices would you make?