I became a political radical, at least in Michigan politics, when I realized that if we were governed by a parliamentary system of government there would most assuredly be a "no confidence" vote and we'd be looking at new elections next month. I like that idea - a recall vote of every member of the Legislature as well as the Governor all rolled into one, with no petition needed.
As I thought through the process, I realized that there is no reason that we couldn't convene a Michigan Constitutional Convention and move to such a system. At that point, when I started fantasizing about a Constitutional Convention, I realized I was a radical.
In all seriousness, radical changes are certainly needed in Michigan. Let me identify a few...
Until Michigan loses the last of our big-union jobs, many prospective employers won't even put Michigan on their "long list." I've talked with executives from Asian and European car makers, who tell me that the world believes that that the UAW runs Michigan like certain Italian families allegedly run New Jersey. Not only does the UAW control the auto manufacturers, they also are the union for most of the State of Michigan employees, and are probably the largest contract for Blue Cross Blue Shield (itself a heavily unionized company badly in need of reform). Throw in the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa and the wall-to-wall coverage of the recent contract talks, and it's like playing "Sopranos" reruns to prospective employers.
The Michigan Constitution is now laced with provisions that compartmentalize spending. There are budget cuts for the Albion Public Schools, but $1 million for new bike trails in the City of Albion park because the park money comes from a protected fund. Between these special funds and the Federal "pass through" funds, the amount of spending that is actually subject to cuts is a very small percentage of the budget. When one adds in debt service, you'll see that areas that can be cut are subject to "fatal" cuts in order to balance the budget. It is entirely possible that under the current Constitution, is is not possible to downsize State government.
We need to revisit term limits. We all decry "career politicians," but the truth is that a government cannot run without at least a few such politicians, and the bureaucrats that service them. The current budget debacle shows us the result of the perfect storm of term-limits destroying leadership and knowledge, a governor who refuses to be a mediator, and hard economic times. Nothing good happens when 1/3 of the Legislature changes with every election. In previous times we had long-term Legislators who knew how to run the train company and could make the trains run on time. We might not have liked the way it was run, but at least it was run.
A good example of the damage of term limits is the Service Sales Tax debacle. In order to implement a services sales tax you'd have to have a long-term legislative process to carefully craft the legislation, followed 1-2 year ramp up by the Dept of Treasury before the first dollar come in. Right now, you've got a legislature who need the money NOW, where 1/3 of the members can't see themselves coming back for the next session, where none have long-term experience in passing complicated tax legislation. One gets the mental image of kids trying to find a chair when the music stops, instead of adults trying to understand a very complicated multi-billion dollar government. Experienced legislators would've known better.