Ken Braun of MLive may not agree with my conclusions, but it’s always helpful to take a fresh look at the state budget (as he did today) and realize that, much like the federal budget, most of the money goes to just a few departments.

State Capitol

Braun compiled a state budget summary that serves as a primer for those who claim, “No need to raise taxes for the roads, just squeeze the money ($1.2 billion) out of the current budget.”

Take a look at what’s in the $54 billion budget proposed by Gov. Snyder and, even for a neophyte, a couple things become quite clear. 
Cutting certain programs and agencies is counterproductive because it would mean a parallel loss of federal funding — reducing the return of tax dollars from Washington to Michigan. And sparing services for seniors and kids — health, education, nutrition — means hacking away, in a big way, in other budget areas so that some departments would disappear entirely.

U.S. Capitol

If lawmakers eliminated the Attorney General’s Office, Secretary of State, state courts, state police, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, and an array of obscure agencies, it would only get them about halfway to that $1.2 billion mark for roads and bridges.
Of course, the other problem here for the fiscal conservatives is that the Michigan Constitution and state statutes get in the way. Obviously, the state House and Senate cannot simply eliminate the AG’s Office. And they clearly have no interest in firing all of our state troopers.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a solidly conservative Republican, said recently that finding $1.2 billion in the budget is not impossible. All it takes is a majority — 56 House votes, 20 Senate votes — and a signature from the governor.
In other words, it’s very nearly impossible.
The reason is fairly obvious. Taking an axe to the budget with that amount of force would produce a lot of pain for a lot of programs that enjoy considerable bipartisan support at the Capitol.
On paper, possible. In the political world, probably not.

All of this is not to suggest Braun, also a solid conservative, is calling out delusional budget hawks in Lansing who oppose the road tax, Proposal 1 on the May 5 ballot. It also does not mean that Braun cannot point to any departments that have grown substantially in the past decade. Those agencies have some explaining to do.
Here’s a bit of his MLive column:

“The budget is top heavy: Put together, two programs suck up over half of the total.
“D.C. money will kick in a whopping $12.5 billion of the $18.2 billion Community Health budget this year. Most of the rest will come from state and local tax dollars and sources. Medicaid spending is the monster within this monster: Roughly 2.4 million of Michigan’s 10 million citizens are on this government healthcare plan, at a cost of about $15 billion. Despite state population remaining flat over the last decade, and cumulative inflation at a modest 17 percent, the Community Health budget has soared upward by 72.6 percent.
“Most of the $13.8 billion School Aid Budget – about $12 billion of it – will come from taxes sent by Michigan taxpayers to Lansing rather than money from D.C.
“… (And third, the) $5.7 billion Human Services budget is mostly public assistance, and other “welfare” programs. This budget is 79 percent dependent on federal funds.”