Stacey Mathia is certainly not a professional politician, but many of her 37 years have been spent in some form of public service in her local community of Fife Lake, Michigan. She has served as president of the planning commission and of the sewer board, and last year was serving as a member of the village council when the Obama stimulus passed.
The stimulus, and the resulting fiscal ripple effect it had on states and localities across the country, prompted Mathia to do the only thing she felt she could do in response. She resigned.
Why? Not because of anything that happened in Fife Lake, but rather because the entire system of how government at all levels is financed had become, in Mathia’s eyes, so contrary to the constitutional model of government, she felt she could no longer work within it.
That may change, however, if this longest of long shots somehow achieves the big goal she is now pursuing – becoming Michigan’s next governor.
Are you the type of person who prefers to keep your goals reasonable, and if you have to deal with problems, would prefer to stick to problems that aren’t too difficult to solve? Well then, you might want to not run for governor of Michigan. With its 17 percent unemployment, eroding tax base, perpetual budget crisis, imploding major industry and historically hostile business environment, Michigan would be a challenge for anyone fix.
So how does Stacey Mathia, who is running as independent but is affiliated with the Tea Party movement, think she’s going to do it? It starts with the basics.
“If you look at Michigan, and what we’ve had here the past eight years, we’ve lost all common sense,” Mathia says. The past eight years represent the tenure of soon-to-depart Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but Mathia wants you to know that she doesn’t think Republicans, who controlled the legislature and the governor’s mansion for much of the 12 years before that, did much better.
Mathia’s first priority would be the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, an onerous levy that is often cited by frustrated small business owners as an impediment to their success and growth. The MBT is the sort of tax that the Big Three automakers, with their cadre of in-house accountants, have the resources to manage. But for budding entrepreneurs, it can represent a crushing burden both in terms of time and money.
Mathia would also eliminate all the state’s presumed efforts to mandate energy-efficiency in homes and businesses.
“We are pouring millions of dollars into wind energy and energy-efficiency, and we have mandates on our companies that both Republicans and Democrats have supported,” Mathia said. “This is going to raise our rates as consumers. If you mandate that a company be efficient, that’s going to affect the people who pay for it.”
Perhaps her most ambitious agenda item is to make Michigan a right-to-work state – something even long-time Republican Gov. John Engler never tried, despite a strong pro-business philosophy and a solid Republican legislature. Engler seemed to recognize that, because of the power of labor unions in Michigan, right-to-work was simply a political bridge too far.
Mathia doesn’t accept that. She is convinced that the people of Michigan are starting to wake up to the reality of labor unions’ impact on the state’s economic environment.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who were part of unions,” Mathia said. “You know, you work hard, but there’s no incentive to work for a raise because the unions have control over how much you make. They have control over everything.”
In a state where public employees are fighting to their last breath to preserve their jobs, Mathia insists a governor can’t be afraid to cut and force the state to live within its means. She mentioned the Michigan Public Service Commission, with its $29.6 million budget, as place to start. But she also wants to target those residents who are living off the state’s generosity, including recipients of Bridge Cards, which allow users to debit food purchases charged against their state benefits.
“I’ll just give you a little tidbit, because I’m not a professional politician,” Mathia said. “I was in a store, and there was this woman, and she was huge. She had chips. She had pop. And she had a Bridge Card. How can she be 300 pounds, and eat better than my family?”
Mathia is not without some level of professional support. Her campaign manager, Robert Eichmann, just came off a stint working on the successful campaign of now-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. She has a campaign web site, and she’s working to gather the 30,000 signatures she will need to make it onto the November ballot.
To a large degree, Mathia blames politicians of both parties who have allowed such incongruities to arise while mainly looking out for their own best interests.
Of course, governing is more than just taking stands. It’s working proposals through the legislative process and turning them into polices. How would Mathia gain the support of the very same people she so roundly roasted as being out for only themselves? She acknowledges that, without a massive wave of more citizen-type legislators being swept into office (which she is hoping for), she would have a tough time. But she does have a Plan B:
“It’s going to be tough, but I have a big mouth,” Mathia said. “And I’m not afraid to use it. And if that’s what it takes, I won’t stop opening my mouth to make it happen.”