The ongoing mid-year budget debate in Lansing has caught our attention.
Budget debates, they're as exciting as watching old men nap. Like most budget debates, the current one in Lansing covers a variety of issues.
Of particular interest are roads and auto insurance. These are matters relevant to average, every-day Michigan residents.
The outcome of these issues will affect every driver in the state.
This week, the House Budget Committee approved spending $215 million for road maintenance and bridge projects.
That's $115 million for long-lasting road projects, along with $100 million for pothole and snowplow repairs due to the severe winter.
For this, we applaud the lawmakers. Nothing could be more overdue for extra spending than Michigan roadways. They are in terrible shape, and an embarrassment to Michigan, home to U.S. automakers.
Until now, the state's only response to the road funding problem was talk of increasing the gasoline tax. That is not a solution.
Considering that the state is looking at a $1 billion budget surplus, allocating $215 million for state road repair is more than justified.
The state auto insurance issue is another matter. This on-going pain in the neck is proof lawmakers in Lansing don't have a clue.
This is convoluted bookwork at its best. Follow this one.
There is a shortfall in the state Medicaid budget because the one percent tax on health claims paid by insurers and HMOs is not bringing in as much money as lawmakers anticipated. They're down about $115 million.
The state needs to plug that $115 million deficit to qualify for federal matching dollars. That all makes sense.
So in their wisdom, where do lawmakers look to address the problem?
Some are suggesting that motorists should be charged an extra $25 a year to help pay the Medicaid tax. That extra charge would be rolled into a new auto insurance proposal that would reduce premiums.
In what world does this make sense? Reduce car insurance costs so we can charge each driver an extra $25 a year because there is a shortfall in Medicaid taxes?
What are these people thinking? Are they thinking?
Michigan's auto insurance laws have been a joke for years. Michigan has a one-of-a-kind auto insurance law for one reason - no other state is foolish enough to copy it.
Finally, someone in Lansing proposes a new insurance law and another group wants to tack on more costs.
As one might guess, the debate is so fierce, auto insurance reform is not expected to see the light of day before the November election.
That's OK. When they're coming around looking for votes this summer, ask the candidates for seats in Lansing when they are going to pass meaningful auto insurance reform.
If you don't like their answer, send them packing.