If lawmakers do their jobs, we don’t need a constitutional convention

Guest Editorial
We are angry.

We’re angry, like many Michigan citizens, that the state’s deepest, long-standing problems still are without legislative solutions: the business tax problem is terrible; the corrections system costs us far more per prisoner than that of many other states; not enough is being done to rein in the costs of health care here; public employees’ salaries and benefits are out of step with those in the private sector; our roads and bridges are crumbling; we’re finding it more and more difficult to educate our children; and we can’t even find a few dollars to fund the wildly successful “Pure Michigan” program, which brings in more money in tax dollars than it spends. We could go on.

We’re angry because we’ve watched a steady parade of candidates for years promise to go to Lansing to finally solve some of these problems and help put Michigan back on track for growth, repair, education and prosperity, only to see them get bogged down in political posturing and ideological rhetoric.

Yes, we’re angry, frustrated, exasperated and tired of waiting.

But that doesn’t mean we’re desperate.

Some of the good citizens of Michigan would like to persuade voters this November to support the idea of a constitutional convention, at which, presumably, we would tackle en masse all the challenging structural and other issues that are bedeviling us.

It’s a nice dream, and we’re tempted to go along, but we believe it’s the wrong move.

We view it the way some college football coaches used to view the forward pass: There are three things that can happen, and two of them are bad.

1. We could have a convention, but special interests could influence delegate selection and we could come away with fixes that are worse than the problems we already have.

2. We could have a convention, but then voters could reject the new constitution over political differences and we’d be no better off after wasting a year or two.

3. We could have a convention and it could solve all our problems. (Somehow, despite our fondest hopes, we doubt this would be the outcome.)

The truth is that we do not need a constitutional convention to solve our problems. What we need is a governor and legislators who will stop all the political yap and do what’s right for the people and the state of Michigan. What we need is leadership. What we need is courage.

It’s particularly frustrating that we’ve known for years what our problems are, but our elected state leaders have been so unable to overcome their differences that solutions never come. It’s easy — and tempting — to point fingers, but these failures lie at the feet of members of both political parties.

This fall, Michigan will elect a new governor, and there will be new leaders in both the state House and Senate. Term limits have seen to that, and while we have come to doubt the wisdom of term limits as they exist now, perhaps it’s for the best in this case.

Voters are sending their new leaders to Lansing with a mandate, and it is that they are sick of the dithering and they don’t care what the reasons are for the lack of accomplishment. They want jobs and good schools and decent roads. They want sensible tax policies and responsible handling of tax money. They want ideas and solutions. And — for crying out loud — they want collaboration to get things done.

So forget about a constitutional convention, an idea both gubernatorial candidates oppose. Reject Proposal 1 and elect representatives who can get the job done immediately, then hold them accountable for that.

Then, if our legislators do what we need them to do, we can all stop being angry.