GUEST EDITORIAL: Gov. Snyder must rein in Bolger on unions

Gov. Rick Snyder was being kind, or polite, when he described as “a challenge” House Speaker Jase Bolger’s bizarre insistence that Detroit’s union leadership pony up with money to help bail out the city’s underfunded pensions.

Because there are much more fitting words, like “annoyance,” or “politically petulant.”

Bolger’s demands aren’t about union members, whom he says were duped by their leaders, or taxpayers, whose money he says he’s trying to safeguard in the complicated deal to save the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts and soften the blow to city retirees.

No, it’s about politics. If union leadership could come up with money to contribute to the deal, they’d have but one source: the money they use to support candidates other than Bolger in elections.

How convenient for Bolger. And how manipulative.

Snyder already has a mountain to climb selling his plan to kick in $350 million in state money for the deal. Out-state legislators are concerned about political backlash from a deal that looks like a bailout for Detroit. Legislators from all over could have legitimate questions about why Detroit’s pensions (woefully under-funded but hardly the only ones in Michigan that can be described that way) are deserving of help outside a bigger solution for retirement funds everywhere.

He’ll be working on that right up to the June 1 deadline he has traditionally set for concluding budget negotiations. And there’s no guarantee at all that it will happen.

Which would be a disaster. The entire bankruptcy settlement depends on the complex art-for-pensions deal getting done. This is no triviality: Without the deal, the museum is vulnerable, and pensioners could take a much larger hit than they’ve already agreed to absorb.

That makes Bolger’s play all the more frustrating.

We’ve disagreed with Snyder about any number of things, and have bristled at the way he has managed the Legislature’s more off-base impulses. He doesn’t say no often enough.

Here’s a time when his strongest leadership skills will be necessary. He ought to go around Bolger, if need be, to the more reasonable members of House leadership. (Rep. John Walsh of Livonia comes to mind). There’s no time for a snag like this — one that’s based on politics and acrimony, rather than the spirit of cooperation, compassion and common sense.

Bolger’s out of his lane. The governor’s right to either push him back in, or just go around him.

This editorial originally was published in the April 25 edition of the Detroit Free Press.


Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply