Swept Away in Snyder’s River of Opportunity

Over the past week, Americans have been buzzing about President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union and their local State of the State addresses. It’s an electric time filled with lots of new ideas and positive growth, but there are always bound to be a few disagreements about what’s best for our country and its citizens.

Michiganders in particular have been talking about Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address and the various plans he pitched in his River of Opportunity analogy.

Most proposals seem like they’re in our best interest. Snyder says he’s going to fix the roads, improve education and skilled trades, continue slashing unemployment by creating more jobs, take care of our natural habitats and reform government to be “efficient, effective and accountable.”

It may seem like a business-savvy move, but the specifics of the latter of those proposals are alarming for state workers and any state-funded entities.

Snyder stated, “The system is failing, folks. That’s not how you solve the problem of helping people have opportunity. What we have done is sliced and diced people into programs.” About 145 programs according to the governor and his team—35 in health care, 40 in work force and 70 in child services.

 We can agree the system is currently broken. As we’ve stated previously, children being cared for by the State of Michigan are still falling through the cracks. But, is streamlining the whole system really the answer?

Combining the Departments of Human Services and Community Health will be a huge task and will make the new merged department the largest and most funded in the state. No one can be quite sure what the outcome of this merger will be as there were more questions than answers. However, if we analyze some of the facts we already know, the future doesn’t seem so bright. Both departments are currently underfunded and understaffed. By merging these two departments, could we just end up with a larger, more dysfunctional group? And, although Governor Snyder has prided himself on creating jobs, will the merger force a multitude of lay-offs for these already struggling agencies?

At a press conference prior to the State of the State, John Walsh (R-Livonia), stated there is “no question” this strategy will require cuts, although he ensures the public there is no set amount of folks whose jobs are on the chopping block. 

In addition to cutting the fat of these already weakened departments, many agencies, Whaley included, are concerned this more streamlined system will provide less than adequate services for the citizens using them. In many cases, efficient and effective can easily translate to skeleton crews and insufficient resources.

Governor Snyder is on the right track when he states he is looking to take more interest in people and not programs by tackling the foundational issues which are causing people to continually need all of these government services. However, until that happens, there are still thousands of hurting children who need the programs currently set in place to help them heal. In one fell swoop, how many more children will fall through the cracks, all in the name of streamlined efficiency?