By Mike Wilkinson of Bridge Magazine
It’s the stuff of fantasy: A golden ticket that alleviates money woes. For Michigan lawmakers, that time might be nigh.
The next governor and Legislature are staring at the possibility of three big streams of cash next year: Money from newly legal marijuana sales and sports betting, as well as increased sales tax receipts from online retailing.
Combined, they could add another $100 million to $500 million or more to state coffers.
“It’s new money. And new money makes people smile,” said Richard LeBlanc, Westland city clerk and a former state representative.
To be sure, the revenues wouldn’t solve all the problems in Michigan, which has a $56.5 billion budget, of which $33 billion comes from state sources like the income and sales tax. But the new money would present a unique opportunity in a state that for years had to debate how to cut budgets rather than increase them.
“They’ll spend every dime,” quipped Mitch Bean, a former fiscal analyst for the House Fiscal Agency.
Michigan has many needs. Commissions appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to study infrastructure and education estimate the state needs to spend $6 billion a year to catch up. The state’s public pensions are woefully underfunded. And many politicians, including GOP gubernatorial candidates Bill Schuette, Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines, want to cut taxes.
“This (new money) would not solve all the world’s problems, but it will alleviate some of the budget problems,” said Jeff Guilfoyle, vice president of Lansing-based consulting firm Public Service Consultants, and a former director in the Michigan Treasury Department.