Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

October 23, 2010

Forum: Reinvent Michigan by voting yes

We should take advantage of a rare opportunity to overhaul Lansing and reinvent Michigan by voting "yes" on Proposal 1, the call for a state constitutional convention.

Rewriting our state constitution to make government more efficient and to accommodate new technology is the best way to position Michigan for long-term growth.

Unlike the federal Constitution, state constitutions are regularly rewritten (Michigan is on its fourth; Georgia is on its 10th). They define the structure of state and local governments and vary greatly from state to state.

Michigan's current constitution was written in 1961/62, when we were a wealthy state. It has left us with a government that we can no longer afford: A full-time Legislature, thousands of local governments, too many public employees per capita and inadequate budgeting rules. A constitutional convention will downsize government, making it more affordable and more efficient.

New budgeting rules moving up the fiscal year start from Oct. 1 to July 1, requiring each legislative chamber to pass balanced budgets, setting uniform accounting standards for local governments and expanding the role of the auditor general will avert future government shutdowns and provide the fiscal stability that's been missing in Lansing for much of the last decade.

State government can also be made more transparent and accessible by taking advantage of technological advances. Electronic storage of records, remote participation in proceedings, web-based posting of expenditures, minutes and public notices are examples of how state government can be brought into the 21st Century.

The opponents of Proposal 1, led by Lansing special interest groups who prefer the status quo, resort to fear-mongering by greatly exaggerating both the cost and risk of a constitutional convention.

The cost is minimized by legislation I authored that pays delegates nominally and utilizes the latest technology to reduce overhead expenses. The cost is easily recouped through the structural reforms a new constitution would implement. These reforms will save taxpayers billions each year.

The opponents falsely claim a constitutional convention would cause economic uncertainty and become mired in social issues, but history says otherwise. If the opponents of Proposal 1 had gotten their way, Michigan would still be operating under the 1908 Constitution.

In the last constitutional convention, the authors of our fourth constitution were wise to include a provision that gives us an opportunity to consider making revisions every 16 years. The changes needed to fix Michigan today are outside the reach of the next governor and Legislature. Revising Michigan's constitution offers the best way to reopen Michigan for business. We should seize it by voting yes on Proposal 1.

About the author: Sen. Tom George, M.D., a Republican from Kalamazoo, is co-chairman of Yes on Proposal 1. For more information, visit www.yesonproposal1.com.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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