Michigan Citizens Hope to Limit State’s Spending

Published June 1, 2006

Voters in Michigan may get a chance this November to make big changes in state policy and how the state manages its tax revenues.

Petitioners across the state are gathering signatures to put the Stop OverSpending (SOS) initiative on the 2006 ballot. SOS, as its supporters call it, is designed to give voters a say in state spending decisions. The goal of SOS is to stabilize state spending so it doesn’t go through a bust-and-boom cycle.

Given state spending conditions in Michigan in recent years, some people believe the timing couldn’t be better.

“We’re getting a tremendous response on the grassroots level,” said Scott Tillman, who serves on the Michigan Stop OverSpending committee. “We’re working to put the people back in charge of how their money is spent, and that really resonates.”

Tillman, who also works with Americans for Limited Government, a national group sponsoring similar measures across the country, said the committee is working hard and gaining volunteers every day. The petition signatures are due July 10.

Losing Jobs, People

Michigan was the only state to lose jobs in both 2004 and 2005, supporters of the measure note. The state lost 45,000 jobs last year, and businesses and people are leaving in droves.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between July 2004 and July 2005 48,000 more people moved out of Michigan than moved in. Many analysts blame state government for many of Michigan’s financial woes. Between 1990 and 2004, Michigan state spending increased by 127 percent.

Critics of the SOS bill argue it will slash essential state programs. The Michigan arm of the American Federation of Teachers, for instance, warns on its Web site, “This proposal would have a highly detrimental impact on education and other human services.”

Tillman disputes that and notes SOS allows government spending to grow each year.

Plan Gives Voters Control

The ballot measure would amend the Michigan constitution to limit growth in state spending to the rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth. Excess revenues would be split between taxpayer refunds and a rainy day fund. The rainy day fund could be drawn down in lean times to avoid deep budget cuts.

The most important part of SOS, Tillman says, is that it gives taxpayers a say in state spending.

“If politicians want to spend more than the SOS limit, they can–but only if the people approve at the voting booth,” Tillman said.

Kurt O’Keefe ([email protected]) is an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law and a member of the Stop OverSpending Committee.

For more information …

Information on Michigan’s Stop OverSpending initiative is available online at http://www.sosmichigan.com/.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy report on Michigan’s spending of excess funds may be viewed at http://www.mackinac.org/article.aspx?ID=6897.