Most of the political attention from the media is devoted to the federal government. The news outlets usually look at either the president or congress. With dipping approval numbers from both branches, 45 and 6 percent respectively, the public must look elsewhere to state governments where governors and legislatures work together to promote the public good of their own citizens. These are 30 governors of which are Republican.
Yes, believe it or not, they set politics aside and get their job done unlike their federal colleagues.
Love him or hate him, Governor Rick Snyder from Michigan turned a dismal deficit into a surplus. He reversed a $1.5 billion deficit to a close $500 million surplus that will be spent into additional programs in the new budget on additional K-12 and college education spending of around 2 percent, public safety spending with 1,000 more police officers, and even avoiding furlough pay for union employees. He infuriated union bosses by making Michigan a right to work state prohibiting mandatory union membership, but is “prioritizing” public spending by helping many public employees that would have lost their jobs if it wasn’t for the surplus.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did something very similar in his own state changing a $3 billion deficit into a $300 million surplus. Even though his jobs numbers may not be as impressive, he is a leader at diminishing the encroaching influence of many powerful public unions around the state of Wisconsin. He earned his praise from conservative talking heads.
However, successful stories are not just Midwestern. Governor Susana Martinez is sparking her own success in the state of New Mexico. After her popular speech at the Republican National Convention last year, Martinez is making a lot of improvements within her state. She lowered the corporate tax rate from 7.6 to 5.9 percent over five years along with many other tax cuts for small businesses, denied the access to driver’s license for illegal immigrants, and she eliminated the locomotive tax allowing for the building of a “$400 million hub” from Union Pacific Railroad. Martinez cut government spending by cutting down on the governor’s staff and attributes such as luxurious jets.
These Republican governors act fast and live up to their promises. They also innovate in public policy. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a trade agreement with China, for example, to invigorate Virginia businesses. He also eliminated the gas tax but leaving for some revenue increases to promote transportation spending like that of President Eisenhower. Innovation is key.
That’s the kind of leadership and ingenuity Republicans should focus on. Governor Chris Christie was right in saying this week on Morning Joe that “We’ve got 30 of 50 Republican governors in this country. Why? I think that’s because at the state level, they see the Republican Party as being doers – that we actually get things done for people.” Christie has done plenty for New Jersey especially with the Hurricane Sandy recovery, cutting taxes and spending, and taking on teacher’s unions. That’s not even mentioning balancing New Jersey’s budget every year in office.
Christie, Martinez, Snyder, and Walker are doers, and yes, they are all Republicans. They all understand that their states need to improve the pathetic economic situation by taking charge instead of waiting for the federal government. And their approval ratings speak for itself. The Republican Congress with 6 percent and Christie’s 70 percent, for example, should make those on the right focus on governors rather than congressmen or senators.
After all, success in state and local governments is embedded in our American fabric. The Founders believed in the fact that individual states would lead in policy. They knew that adopting effective state laws might prove effective for the federal government. They included the Tenth Amendment to allow innovation and limit the scope of the federal government to give states breathing room in their own sphere of government. They trusted states to spearhead America into the future.
Decentralization is paramount. These success stories should force many to restructure our current system of government where Washington is looked as the leading force of change. States are today’s leaders and the American people should change their own mindset and pay closer attention to the dealings of their individual states instead of the District of Columbia. They should promote states’ powers and avoid the inactive federal government.
Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz