The 2010 Election is Over – Now What?

by Doug Paterson, Director of State Policy, Michigan Primary Care Association

Another election cycle is in the books and it is clear that Republicans now are in control of our State.   The Republican Party controls the Executive Branch, the House, and the Senate, as well as the Supreme Court.  The people who voted obviously feel that the Democrats have had the opportunity to lead our state for the past eight years, and they are ready for a different party to give it a try.  Many people do not feel that Michigan has been on the right track.

However, now the heavy lifting begins.  Most of the easier cuts have already been made over the past eight budget cycles.  Politicians now have to govern rather than campaign, and in a state with a deficit of $1.5 billion, it will be very hard to make the decisions necessary to resolve that budget deficit no matter what the party.  As you know, this year’s budget was almost entirely balanced with one-time stimulus funding that will not be available next year.

Most of state revenue pays for just four things: Corrections, Higher Education, Medicaid, and School Aid.  In many cases, reductions in state funding to all but Corrections means eliminating matching funds from the federal government, thus exacerbating the problem.  It will be very difficult for the new legislators to make cuts to these areas as they generally affect local areas significantly.  Closing prisons is extremely difficult on local economies and jobs, and the public typically resists cuts to education.  With health care reform, the state is limited in its ability to cut Medicaid without drastically affecting the federal revenue for this program.

And this is done in a state that has implemented a “mandatory inexperience law” called term limits, where the people charged with the task of governing often don’t know one another, have not had time to build relationships or trust, nor have experience in dealing with the detail that good decisions require.

It will be ABSOLUTELY essential that we begin, as soon as possible, to educate our elected officials about what Community Health Centers do and the important role they play in keeping the people in our state healthy.  Quality preventive and primary care can save the state money.  Evidence proves that fact.  But we will be competing with thousands of others who feel their interests must also be heard.  Those who get the early start will have an advantage.   I encourage the folks at each Health Center to immediately begin building relationships with their elected officials, or nurturing relationships that are already established.   Call your legislators ASAP to congratulate them and tell them you look forward to working with them as they begin or continue their job.  IT IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, which are very dynamic – they either move forward or backward.  Which will it be for you?

To find a listing of all recently elected officials click here.

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