Friday, August 10, 2007

Michigan's First Spouse Is Burning Tax Dollars While State Awash in Debt

The State of Michigan is awash in debt--estimated at being somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.8 billion this year. Our Governor has traveled far and wide pushing for a package of cuts in spending and tax increases to bridge the gap. Michigan must, as required by the constitution, operate with a balanced budget.

There has been much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands. Heads have been scratched and many pencils have been sharpened. In the end we have been assured by the Governor that all possible cuts have been made--any further cuts will result in the loss of essential services.

Then, I read this article by former State Rep. Leon Drolet in Right Michigan:

Michigan is actually leading the nation in job growth in one small niche: The number of people employed on the staff of the gubernatorial "first spouse" has never been higher. Michigan Taxpayer Alliance research has revealed that Michigan's First Gentleman Dan Granholm Mulhern has the third largest staff of any first spouse in the nation. Only California and Ohio provides their governor's wives with more assistants - five and four staffers respectively.

Jennifer Granholm's husband Dan Mulhern has three paid staffers, at least one of whom reportedly receives a very generous $115,000 salary and benefits package. In a state with a population more than twice Michigan's, New York First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer ekes by with just two staffers. The spouse of the governor of Illinois has one staffer, as do those of Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. The national average is 1.2 state employees per first spouse, brought down a bit by the fact that a few governors are single or divorced.

In Michigan, working for the governor's spouse has become a growth industry. Former First Lady Michelle Engler had only one staffer for most of the 12 years her husband held office, according to John Truscott, who was Gov. John Engler's spokesman.

Some have questioned why Michigan's First Gentleman needs a larger staff than the first spouses of New York or Illinois. Mr. Mulhern has described his staff as dedicated, hard-working state employees who bring value to Michigan taxpayers, but the public has no solid information about what those staffers do, or how residents benefit from this expenditure of their tax dollars.
I think we can see how serious the Governor is about making cuts. If she cannot make the easy choices when it comes to cutting costs, how will she ever make the tough ones?

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