by Richard Piet
The spin on term limits several years ago made them seem like a good idea: Eliminate dead weight in Michigan government by forcing EVERY lawmaker into a temp job.
That is, force them out after a couple of terms in order to usher in new blood.
Sounded like a great idea to Michigan voters, who passed the measure and enabled its effect some time ago. Lawmakers shook their heads, but that seemed largely to be interpreted as a typical reaction when you’ve just been forced into a temp job.
Fast forward a few years – and a few terms after term limits began. What’s been the result?
Today, Michigan’s governor and legislature continue their back-and-forth budget game. A Detroit Free Press editorial suggested Governor Jennifer Granholm, in the last year of her second term before she’s limited out of her job, still doesn’t have the political hutzpah to rally a compromise.
Other experienced lawmakers like Don Gilmer from Kalamazoo County – also a former budget director – say there is no “legislative memory” in Lansing. Current lawmakers, many with relative little experience thanks to term limits, are bumping around in the dark, trying to learn as they go.
Then consider freshman lawmakers like Larry DeShazor of Portage, who claim they’re being shut out of the budget process in Lansing. Apparently the newbies are supposed to sit on the sidelines while the experienced politicians make the budget deals happen – or not.
Where does that leave us when those “experienced” politicians are term limited out? We’re left with newbies who have had relative little chance at working a budget out themselves.
When you spin it this way, it seems term limits haven’t been a good idea. The cost has been more than the benefit.
My guess is it will be harder to convince the voting public, though, that kickin’ the career politicians out – perceived as fat cats – has been a bad thing, when many of Michigan’s citizens are unemployed and barely making ends meet, if at all.