As Michiganians, the news reports of financial turmoil gripping the U.S. are not shocking or new to us. We have been living and working under these conditions in this state for many years. Michigan has the worst economy and the highest unemployment rate in the union. What is very troubling has been the inability to effectively adapt to the situation and turn Michigan's struggling economy around.
Reforming government and overhauling policies in Michigan are absolutely necessary if we are going to accomplish business growth, job creation and global competitiveness. The Chamber is pushing for several reforms, including restructuring the state budget, improving business taxes and fixing term limits.
The budget process in Lansing is broken. Our elected officials will continue to grapple with chronic budget deficits until spending is brought inline with tax revenues. This will require our elected leaders to make tough political choices. Areas such as prison management and state employee benefits need complete revamping to realize significant savings in the budget.
The Chamber has identified substantive and specific areas in the budget where cost-saving reforms can be enacted. We have zeroed in on the state's correction spending to target over $800 million in annual savings. The reforms require privatizing some prison functions, such as food services. We are also calling for sentencing and parole guidelines to be brought inline with other Midwest states. Michigan has a relatively high prison population, but not a lower crime rate. Adjusting the laws for which low-threat criminals go to jail and how long they serve behind bars will save hundreds of millions of dollars each year.