Finley: Democrats repeating 2012 mistake

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Democrats see an opportunity this fall to use what could be a wave election to push through a left-wing agenda in Michigan that they haven’t been able to enact through the regular policymaking channels.

A liberal wish list of ballot proposals are in the works that would do everything from raising minimum wages to legalizing pot to giving Democrats an edge in redrawing legislative and congressional districts.

The bet is the enthusiasm Democratic voters have shown in elections elsewhere since Donald Trump was elected president will fuel a large turnout in Michigan that overcomes the state’s typical skepticism of ideologically driven ballot measures.

Among the most radical of those fighting for a ballot spot this year is an initiative to force Michigan’s electric providers to generate 30 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030. The campaign is bankrolled by California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Steyer is already committing $20 million to a crusade to impeach Trump, and has pledged to spend $30 million to defeat Republican congressional candidates in 10 states, including Michigan.

With his Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan campaign, California’s Daddy Rich is seeking to replace the rational course Michigan set for diversifying its energy mix with a radical, hurry-up approach that will cost Michigan residents money and jobs.

“Michigan’s elected leaders just went through a deliberate process, with outreach and bipartisanship, to determine what’s right for our state,” says Gerry Anderson, chairman and chief executive of Detroit-based DTE, whose company defeated — at great expense — a similar measure in 2012.

“Now he’s coming in and saying he has a better idea for Michigan, without an understanding of our mix of industries or energy resources.”

Two years ago, Michigan reopened its renewable energy mandate to increase the goal to 15 percent by 2021. The mix now stands at 12 percent renewables.

The process was one of the better examples of compromise and consensus in policymaking. It allows power companies flexibility in the timing of adding renewables to the mix to best exploit the market and keep prices down. And it includes periodic reviews to determine how and when the mandate should be raised.

Had Steyer’s sky-is-falling approach been in place, Anderson says, it would have cost electricity customers an additional $150 million a year.

“This proposal would take the ability to be smart out of our hands,” Anderson says. “It would hurt the cause he says he cares about.”

It seems a perversion of the process the state constitution provides Michigan citizens for amending their governing document when a lone, out-of-state billionaire can buy ballot access for his personal agenda.

But with this proposal and others, Steyer and state Democrats may once again be overplaying their hands.

In 2012, when Democrats also thought they enjoyed a considerable advantage in the fall election, they larded up the ballot with a half-dozen measures. All of them failed.

When faced with a bedsheet ballot of confusing proposals, voters tend to just vote no. That’s what they should do again this year.

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