Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bankrupt GOP Has No Ideas, Slash-and-burn budget strategy sends Michigan in wrong direction

Not my title. The House Democrats title.

I'm likin' what I'm readin' here.

House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) today criticized House Republicans for failing to offer any solution to reform state government. The GOP’s only solution is to cut education, job creation and health care programs which will only lead to increased spending down the road.

"Cuts without reforms will not fix the state’s fiscal crisis," said House Speaker Andy Dillon. "As usual, my Republican colleagues are short on solutions, and the only reason they’re lashing out is to draw attention away from the fact that they have no plan to get Michigan back on track. Democrats are putting together meaningful cuts and reforms to government to put Michigan back on solid economic footing. We realize that we cannot survive on cuts alone. House Democrats have a sweeping plan to move Michigan forward, and we will unveil that plan next week. My Republican colleagues will get more done by joining us at the table with their solutions, instead of sniping at us through the media."

And sniping they are, claiming they are "protecting families" when they cut things like education, health care and police and fire protection.

Without seeing any details of the House plan, Republicans are simply attacking- and by doing that they reveal that it doesn't matter what the ideas are, they are going to obstruct. Period. They are going to insist on cuts alone in both chambers.

Their hand is now on the table for all to see. Democrats can pick up on the correct framing from here on out.

"The key to fixing our budget and moving Michigan forward is investing in job creation, health care and education," Dillon said. "We cannot afford a piecemeal approach and we cannot afford a slash-and-burn strategy that will harm our citizens and our ability to compete. We should be protecting job creation, health care, education and police and fire protection, not attacking them. House Democrats understand that we must invest in our future and use a long-term, big picture turnaround plan to tackle Michigan’s many challenges."

Republicans in the legislature can now be painted as having an extremist position. Stories of people who are affected by these cuts are starting to hit the media; go read this and tell me that Bishop doesn't look like a complete jerk after you get done.

Waldrop followed the Senate bill. "It's very easy to take funding away from someone like me, then stick my clients in a nursing home and give the money to a big business. That's just ridiculous. I make a quarter, or less, of what it costs for a nursing home."

And when even the DeVos lovin' Grand Rapids Press is calling for a tax increase (and not for the first time), the "cuts alone" crowd is going to find themselves further isolated.

The Press goes about this in the wrong way, of course, wagging their finger at the Governor more than anything, talking of sunsets and once again going after the teachers, but at least they do see the need for more revenue.

It's a start.

Far better for Ms. Granholm and her Democrat mates to merely add on to an existing structure: the income tax. It would involve no public confusion and entail creation of no new collection apparatus. Moving up the 3.9 percent tax to 4.1 percent for the remaining six months of the fiscal year would raise $120 million.

Republicans have not closed the door to such a tax, only rejected it for the current emergency. They ought to reconsider. The income tax route would be easy to implement and to explain. It would not lay a big new burden on businesses, which Ms. Granholm's service tax would do. And it could be sunseted to expire over any negotiated period.

The Senate won't have its own way with the budget. Accounting shifts and payment delays advocated by the Republican majority could offset a third to 40 percent of the deficit. The remaining $500 million to $600 million can be absorbed by the tax and cut combination. The two sides, held in a closed room, should be able to manage that.

They also suggest that a service tax should be looked at in the future, and we all should be "blown away" by that.

Granholm is open to anything, as long as the fix is permanent- as it should be. It's ridiculous to go through this year after year.

"Whatever the fix is, it's got to do the trick once and for all."

The stage is set. The Democrats need to keep pointing out the truth that a "cuts alone" strategy hurts us in the short term future and eventually costs us more in the long run. If they stick to that frame and hammer it home, we might be able to drown the MI GOP in their own bathtub once and for all.

It sure would be fun to watch Saul go swirling down that drain. Keep it up guys.

Friday, March 30, 2007

You get a frog...

The Bishop

The frogs are back at Huff Park

I got nothing.

I was going to do a piece on the Republicans entitled, "Denial: It's Not Just for Alcoholics Anymore", but I was so overwhelmed by all the quotes that indicate just how deep that hole goes that I quit halfway through. (You might still get that one later. Maybe as a book.)

My next target was, "Did the Democrats Hang My Governor Out to Dry?", but I might not be seeing that situation clearly because I think I'm buying into some of the Republican diversions (bad me), and, given the fact that they are going to need to be on the same page to beat the aforementioned Republican denial, I figured I better shut up on that for now. Besides, anything that makes Mike Cox "spit out his Wheaties" is probably a good thing that we should study a little closer.

The sad fact is I really need to get a life. I was probably the only person in West Michigan who was anxiously awaiting WOOD to get the video of last Sunday's "To The Point" with Chris Christoff up on the web. If you want to hear the scoop on what all went down last week, check it out. Besides some inside baseball from a couple of vets on the scene, the show contains the full statements by Granholm and Bishop from after the showdown.

I am such a geek.

Anyway- here is another flower picture. Enjoy your weekend.

Damn That's Red

Thursday, March 29, 2007

GOP answer to shutdown? Kick the can down the road some more

Were you expecting responsibility? Really? Will you ever learn?

Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to use a looming cash crunch to force legislative action on her budget, but Republican lawmakers say there's an easy way out.

Republicans are always looking for the easy way out, and that involves delaying payments, more borrowing, and taking money from other places. Notice there is no permanent answer to the problem here.

Since Michigan is constitutionally barred from running a deficit, the state has plugged periodic budget holes with short-term borrowing and accounting changes. Republicans Wednesday suggested the May budget hole could be plugged through similar means.

Kleine said the problem is that the state has reached its short-term borrowing limit for fiscal 2007. The state borrowed its maximum of $1.3 billion last November to keep cash in the till through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, when the loan has to be repaid.

Monthly shortfalls in revenue collection since then mean the state is constantly scrambling to stay solvent. On May 20, the state will be nearly $390 million in the red, but the number could balloon to $700 million, Mark Haas, Kleine's chief deputy, told the Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday.

On that day, "we have a real problem," Haas said.

Nah, not a problem, said the Republicans, pay them on the 21st!

Haas conceded the point made by Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, that a big part of the cash flow problem is one of timing, which could be solved by sending schools the money on the 21st. That would take a relatively simple change in state budget law.

But what about the next payment? No answer. OK, let's take the money from someone else!

Republicans also suggested that Kleine already has the authority to borrow the money from other state restricted funds, such as the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Kleine pointed out this is no solution.

Kleine says such accounting gimmicks are partially responsible for the current fiscal mess. Because the state hasn't made structural fixes -- cut programs or raised taxes -- during five years of budget turmoil, it has borrowed $1.3 billion annually to stay afloat.

So, no solutions from the Republicans, except for gimmicks, delays, borrowing, and taking food from grandma.

Let's turn to the Democrats. Any help there? At least they are stumbling towards a more permanent solution. We think, hard to tell. Rumors of an income tax increase again.

Some Democrats Wednesday said the quickest way to get money into state coffers was through an increase in the state's income tax rate, which has been shaved to 3.9 percent from 4.4 percent since 1999. Taking the rate back up to 4.4 percent would generate nearly $900 million annually.

And from the Freep comes a glimpse of Dillon's idea- and at first glance a deep sense of unease arises.

Anytime you put the words "monopoly" and "DTE" together in a sentence, red flags start waving.

Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon is drafting a plan for a novel but controversial tax on electric utility companies as part of a sweeping proposal to erase the state's deficit and stabilize its finances for years to come.

In return for the utilities agreeing to the tax, the state would change the law to effectively eliminate competition for the two major utilities -- DTE and Consumers Energy -- to encourage them to build new power plants, said people familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity. One expert said the utilities would expect to pass the tax cost along to customers.

Of course they will pass it along. We need to stop being so surprised that costs get passed along. Knock it off already.

The utility tax would generate as much as $1 billion annually, said the people familiar with the concept. Dillon outlined his plan Wednesday for executives at Consumers Energy in Jackson.

The tax would be a controversial alternative to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed 2% tax on services, which has been declared dead by legislative Republicans and Democrats alike. It would generate revenue for the state without a general tax increase. The Michigan Public Service Commission would have to approve any rate increase linked to the tax. The PSC has called for new power plants to replace the state's aging ones and meet the state's growing energy appetite within eight years.

As usual, Dillon had no comment for anyone, but is expected to reveal his plan today.

Dillon declined comment. It was not known whether the utility tax would be part of a budget plan he is to announce today. Consumers Energy officials had many questions after hearing about Dillon's idea.

That instills trust, doesn't it? Perhaps Dillon doesn't want anyone to pick apart his plans, but the secrecy surrounding this guy and lack of candor with the media doesn't help the face of the Democratic Party. Instead of taking charge and commanding the public talking points ( "We won't cut schools!"), they hide as much as the Republicans do.

Doesn't matter, the Senate is leaving on vacation- but first they want to slap the state employees again.

Republicans also proposed rescinding a pay increase in state employees' 3-year contract, saving the state $110 million in the next fiscal year.

But the move was largely symbolic. Two-thirds of the House and Senate would have to vote to reduce or reject the wage hike by April 8, and Democrats said they don't support the proposal.

The Senate Appropriations Committee didn't vote on the proposal Wednesday, and the full Senate will begin a two-week spring break after its session today.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems these people are going to lead us right over the cliff, just as soon as they get back from vacation. With Republicans refusing to negotiate and denying reality, and the Democrats being, well, Democrats, it doesn't appear that a solution will be found anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Update: Crisis? What crisis? Back to business as usual in Lansing

(Originally published this morning, keep that in mind when reading the first half of this post- see updates below)

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Last week, the state Capitol was buzzing with talk about an impending budget resolution. This week looks more like the week before Spring Break.

The environment was much more relaxed as the House met for a brief period and then adjourned. But there are many meetings taking place on the budget.

Sak had this ominous quote- and given the tone of some of the news reports along with Michael's statement, it appears that "some" of the Senate cuts might be acceptable to the House.

"The proposed reduction at the Senate level was not acceptable, or at least some of them," said Rep. Michael Sak (D-Grand Rapids), "so what we're doing here in the House side, we're going to meet at the appropriations level. We have three meetings today to look at the Executive Order. We're also going to look at budget appropriations for 2007-08."

Which begs the question, which ones were acceptable? Meetings and more meetings to figure that out. It does take time to read over the items that were rushed through last Thursday night- but a proactive approach might have been preferable to simply reacting to the Senate's hissy fit.

Back to the time crunch- why isn't the House plan ready? The headlines on MIRS that are accessible to the public tell us that Dillon will reveal "his" plan this week- yet another stealth move from the Legislature. Guess that makes the Governor the only one who is willing to be open and honest with people about future plans.

Maybe the only way to get anything done in Lansing is to keep it all a secret from the public and then spring it on us in the last minute.

Another blip from MIRS indicates rumors of a shutdown. The Corzine joke wasn't too far off the mark.

"The Department of Treasury has informed Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM that the state is facing a $400 million cash-flow problem as early as May, spurring unconfirmed reports that the front office has asked her department heads to formulate a government shutdown contingency plan by May 1."

This has been uttered a couple of times by the Governor, once at the end of a press conference in February (that no one picked up on), and most recently Monday night at the Traverse City town hall meeting.

One citizen implored that everyone should "sit at the table like adults" and fix the problem, which led to this statement by Treasurer Bob Kleine.

One of the big problems we have is that we are running out of cash in the state. We have a certain amount of manageable common cash we use to pay all our bills with, and in May of this year we are going to be as much as $400 million in the hole, in terms of our common cash, and that's never happened before, this early in the year.

We've had days in August, because we have a big school aid payment, where we've had small negative figures, but this is very unusual. And it's going to continue until we come up with a solution to this problem.

As far as replacing the Single Business Tax, it takes time to implement a new tax. Business needs time to adjust to it, the Department of Treasury needs time to implement a new program, we're already past the date, the ideal date, for replacing the Single Business Tax. So, we are reaching a critical stage, and we need to do something quickly.

The Governor went on to talk about the June 1st deadline from Standard & Poor's, and the fact that the agreement reached last week only solves 10% of the problem.

We have to achieve an agreement on all of this before Standard & Poor's acts, before we have to close down portions of government, because we don't have enough money to be able to move.

But... but... but... it's Spring Break!

Some legislators will be in town and a couple session days are scheduled. But the Legislature is set to go on break next week. Will anyone be around to talk?

"There's going to be a few that will be gone," Hansen said. "I think there are a lot that have canceled their plans and will be here."

Names. Get the names of the "few" that will be gone- and let's see just how much work gets done during this time. If it comes to a shutdown of any sort- remember this and those who chose to take a vacation while the state is in crisis. Might make for a good ad someday.

UPDATE: 2:46PM- This has hit the AP wire.

No fair! I had it first! OK. MIRS had it first. But still...

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has asked state directors to tell her by next week what programs might be affected and what steps should be taken if the state runs out of money in May and has to shut down.

"The money issue is real. This is not a fabricated crisis," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Wednesday. "The governor has made it clear for months the emergency we're facing."

You have got to be kidding me with this next item. From the terribly small mind of Craig DeRoche-

House Republicans on Wednesday announced legislation that would form a bipartisan commission to evaluate every function and service provide by state agencies and departments.

It would examine services such as human resources, payroll, mail, janitorial duties, purchasing and printing, as well as other state spending. House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Nov, said the governor's husband, Dan Mulhern, has three staffers while Granholm has proposed laying off state police troopers.

Now? You are doing this now? You have known about this problem for three months, and you are now going to look at small potatoes like printing? Did you think there was $1 billion dollars sitting there in the janitor's closet?

My God. What an idiot.

Boyd said Republicans are simply not opening their eyes to the impending crisis.

"The Republicans have not taken steps to resolve the problem responsibly. The governor has said to force cuts that would hurt people is not acceptable," Boyd said. "We have said that every day we don't resolve it, the situation becomes more dire."

Well, Liz, better get those reports ready. If the Republicans are going to continue to look at the small picture and focus on their personal vendetta against the Governor, this will never get solved.

UPDATE 2: 3:49PM- This is breaking in a big way- and Rick Albin thought he would be bored hanging around Lansing.

Detroit News story here.

Detroit Free Press story here.

Both have different angles, check 'em out along with that AP story.

Granholm rallies UAW workers at Cobo Center

Another great speech.

Governor Jennifer Granholm received a 30-second standing ovation this morning from 1,500 United Auto Workers union delegates during a speech in which she attacked Republicans' "backward strategy" of slashing costs with what she contends is little investment in American workers.

Another rock star moment.

As the crowd at Cobo Center rose to its feet and cheered, Granholm screamed. "We have massive battle of philosophies occurring inside of business, inside of government, inside of states.

"When we face in 2008 the choice of a presidential candidate, I've repeatedly said I don't care where you come from, I'm not going to be supporting anyone who is not talking about universal health care, fair trade, investment in our workers," she said.

Edwards, so far. I'm sure the rest will pick up on this theme soon.

More cheering.

To cheers so loud that she could barely be heard above the roar, the governor charged: "Let's get leadership in this country that will support our struggles and fight for the American middle class way of life!"

Unless Albin is there, I'll never see it. Sounds like another made-for-YouTube moment missed, just like the speech to the educators Monday.

Speaking at the state’s annual education summit in Lansing, a noticeably frustrated Gov. Jennifer Granholm implored school administrators and local school board members to lobby legislators to fight what she called a “mindless” cut in education funding passed by the state Senate last week.

“For those of you who have already looked your legislators in the eye, I need you to do it again,” she told a group of more than 200 educators gathered at the Lansing Center. “Write letters, send e-mails. The kids need you, the state needs you.’”

Granholm declined to characterize the state’s current budget impasse. “I won’t go blow-by-blow -- I don’t have the patience.”

Darn. I would love to hear a blow-by-blow account.

“I urge you to suit up, jump in, fight like the future of Michigan depends on you,’” she said. “They need to hear how it’s going to affect local schools.”

Rumor has it the speech at the MDP convention was excellent, too.

Sure would be great to get this stuff up where everyone could see it... I know y'all have the place. Get us the clips!

(Detroit News photos can be found here. One thing I give the DN major credit for- they have some awesome photographers, and they display their pictures on the web very well- great color and clarity. The spring training pictures of the Tigers have been fantastic.

They are the best in the state. So, if you are ever looking for photos of a major event- check there first.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Republican Cuts Likely to Increase Medicaid Spending

A little birdy alerted me to this story- it fits with the theory that drastic cuts actually end up costing us more.

The Michigan Senate’s decision to slash home care funding last week will likely lead to increased Medicaid costs in the long run, based on a recent report by the Anderson Economic Group.

Moving funds away from a program that provides quality long-term care at lower cost than other options does nothing to help solve the state’s structural deficit problem. In fact, it will likely worsen the state’s budget problems as more expensive Medicaid programs must expand to take care of beneficiaries who could be served by Michigan’s Home Help program.

The Michigan Quality Home Care Campaign commissioned Anderson Economic Group to analyze the impact of increasing the wages of home care workers in Michigan. The Anderson Economic Group report found that pay increases for Home Help workers – which the Senate voted to eliminate on March 22 – would save at least $276 million in Medicaid costs over the next six years.

You might remember Patrick Anderson from such hits as "The Mackinac Center & Me" and "I Was Endorsed by the Extreme Right and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt". Hardly your flaming lefty.

Patrick had this to say about cutting home health care-

Patrick Anderson of Anderson Economic Group (AEG) said that the nearly $8 million in proposed cuts to Michigan’s Home Help program will actually end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars more by preventing seniors from staying in their own homes and instead pushing them into more costly nursing facilities.

“Underpaying home care workers is likely to worsen the structural budget deficit because it leads to the substitution of nursing home care that is more expensive for taxpayers. This is not a smart thing to do,” Anderson said of the Senate’s proposed home care cuts. “We should be putting more money into home care – not less.”

Well, Patrick, call up your Republican friends and tell them that, would you, please?

Thanks. Much appreciated.

No Comcast, No Cry

Comcast decided to come and "fix" something outside my house yesterday, and in the process they took out my internet connection. As a result, I have no clue what is going on in the world, except that Meredith Vieira fell on the ice and bumped her head.

TV news is absolutely horrible, but you knew that.

Another note- my heart was literally racing as I plugged back in.

This IS addiction. I know the signs.


Off to catch up.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sak: Cuts would take more than half million from GR schools

What's this? Signs of life from a House Dem?

Go, Michael, go.

GRAND RAPIDS - Cuts passed by the state senate would pull more than half a million dollars from Grand Rapids schools. A West Michigan lawmaker says he will not support the plan to cut school funding.

Senate lawmakers in Lansing passed the cuts Thursday, calling for $34 to be taken per student from the schools.

Here in Grand Rapids, Representative Michael Sak says that equals $718,000.

Press conferences! Yes! More of that!

Monday, State Speaker Pro Tem Michael Sak will hold a press conference to officially announce his opposition to the state senate's plan.

I hope this is happening all over the state today. I will calm down on the criticism of the Dems if they step up to the plate.

One problem bloggers have is that we live on "internet time"- we tend to move a lot faster than the rest of the world. Things that we know about and react to don't hit the general public until hours or even days after they actually happen.

Fingers crossed that a groundswell of public backlash hits the Republicans hard for their "plan".

It still leaves us with a huge problem. No one wants to raise taxes. No one wants to make cuts. And this is moving so slow that we will hit the wall before a solution is found.

Jon Corzine to the courtesy phone, please.

It just might come to that.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Living within our means"

The thieves came in the night Thursday, disabling your security system, robbing your home and family so they could justify their tax cut crack binges, paying off their dealers who think nothing of taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and in the process sabotaged your future so they could satiate their greed now.

After they stole from your children’s education fund, took medicine from your cabinet and food from your fridge, and passed the bill for the damages on to your community, literally decimating your local resources, they had the audacity to run to the press and brag about it, proclaiming with glee that they were going to do it again the next time around, too.

Not only are they thieves, they are brazen thieves.

In the past few days, we have established the MI GOP's talking points. The army of automatons spread out across the state, repeating the mantra to any paper that would listen. “Aww, shucks,” they said, “we didn’t want to do this, but, hey, be glad it wasn’t more!”

We are just "living within our means". We have some "hard decisions" about which group of vulnerable people we decide to devastate next. Anything to avoid the responsibility of paying the bills, right?

Republican family values in action. Apparently when you "tighten your belt" in a Republican family, the first thing you do is cut off your grandma's food.

A $97,400 cut to Meals-On-Wheels in Metro Detroit means that some seniors may get a phone call saying services have been canceled, rather than hot meals delivered to their homes, said Mary Alban, director of the Area Agencies on Aging Association.

"The cuts may represent a small piece of the total program, but when it's your grandmother or mother not getting a hot meal, it's important," Alban said.

Next, cut the quality of her care. Throw in other disabled family members, too. Low-wage, high turnover help is the answer here. Pay no mind to the theft and abuse this situation can generate.

A 2 percent wage hike for home health service workers would be rolled back under the Senate plan.

"We already have trouble getting people to do the work and this is going to make it even more difficult," said Dohn Hoyle, executive director of The Arc Michigan, which has 38 agencies around the state that advocate for the mentally impaired.

He said the $11 million cut won't be a money-saver for Michigan because it'll force people into more expensive nursing home facilities.

See? You can just shuffle your elderly family member or your impaired sister off to a home. Better hurry before they cut those, too.

Go after the elderly and disabled first, after all, they don't put up much of a fight.

When you are done socking it to grandma, the next thing on the list of Republican family values is to steal from your children! "Living within our means" stands for your needs, not your kids. Heck, they don't bring in any money. Forget the future. It won't be you in the low-wage nursing home if you steal everything you can now.

Jim Ryan, superintendent of the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, said his district has cut $8 million the past five years, and is trying to slash $5.5 million from next year's budget.

Now, a $34-per-student school aid cut passed by the Senate would take another $600,000 with only a few months left in the school year.

"We're cutting into basic education now. There are no frills here, I don't care what anybody says," Ryan said.

Added Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards: "I'm ticked off. There's no courage in Lansing. There needs to be a discussion about quality of life, not just tax cuts and budget cuts. I expect more of the people I elect than to wait around for the next crisis."

Seems to me someone ran around the state to the TV stations and the newspapers and had that discussion about "quality of life", but apparently no one pays attention until they get smacked upside the head with the reality that life is expensive.

Next up on the Republican family values list is to trash the place where you live. What do you need cops or a fire department for? Tragedy will never touch your home out in the gated community, right? You can continue to leach off the core city like the parasite that you are.

A $40 million cut to municipal revenue sharing could mean fewer services and public safety cuts in cities and villages, said Arnold Weinfeld, director of public policy and federal affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.

He said cuts of $2 billion in the past five years have already resulted in 1,600 fewer police officers and 2,400 fewer firefighters in the state.

"If this goes through, we will see less public safety officers on the street," he said.

"Living within our means".

To the Republicans, that entails cutting off the elderly, the children, the sick, their community, anybody else beside themselves. No sacrifice is too great, as long as somebody else is doing the sacrificing.

A couple of meta notes here.

First- I dropped the title "for my amusement only". Why? Number one- I'm rarely amused these days, and, two; this doesn't feel like "my blog" anymore. I could have changed the title to "for Lansing's amusement only" (25% of my hits on Friday were from Lansing) just to be a smart-ass, but that didn't seem right, either. So, for better or for worse, I'll just go with "wizardkitten". I've become a brand name in the eyes of some, which is still baffling to me on many levels. I'm just one person out of 10 million, these are my opinions. Big deal. So, change your blogrolls or don't- it really doesn't matter because the address is still the same.

Second- the only thing more disgusting to me than the Republican actions of the past week is the seeming lack of Democratic response. Don't get me wrong, the Senate Democrats have been great, go check that link and see, but- I'm just going to come out and say this- the lack of support for the Governor on the part of the MDP, the House Dems and Andy Dillon is disturbing me to the core.

Granholm has said she would veto these cuts- I haven't heard much out of the House Dems, except to say they didn't support her tax proposal and are looking at "fresh ideas", including some kind of income tax increase.

Way to back up the play, there, guys. Sorry, but Dillon strikes me as an evasive DINO. Too many times he has passed on being direct about where he is coming from, too many times he has repeated Republican talking points. I did not work my ass off last year for Dems to be led around by the nose by the likes of a punk like Mike Bishop. If Democrats are too afraid to stand up and do the right thing because they are so concerned about keeping their majority- what is the point of all of this?

I hope I'm wrong about that. I really do. I hope they surprise me. But so far the indication is the Dems, especially the MDP, are more worried about the races in '08, rather than paying attention to the real crisis we face now. Bishop just handed them all a big stick to beat the Republicans with, both with the stunt on Monday and the stunt on Thursday- and nothing was said. Very disturbing.

Where does that leave me? I honestly don't know. More and more I think about walking away from all of this... but you know I won't. ( better, Zack? ;-) )

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring 22

Spring 22
Crocuses in the neighbor's yard.

Just tell me one thing-

Why is it the Republicans can make hay out the Governor going to the frickin' Olive Garden for lunch, but a complete and total, dead-of-the-night mugging of the children, the sick, the elderly and public safety rates no mention on the MDP website?

Why is that?


Because I'm drawing some conclusions here that are pretty unsettling...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cheers for the Senate Democrats

... who stood up in protest of the Republican rush job last night.

Go read some of the statements here. Really good stuff.

I'm going to highlight Mark Schauer-

So this is how the Republican-controlled Senate makes public policy? I think it's interesting. A bill, a shell bill, is introduced a month ago. A secret plan that, for good reason, the Republican Party, or the Republican majority, doesn't want to reveal, is kept secret, and a bill was discharged to the floor, a negative supplemental budget bill that makes devastating cuts to people, communities, our state, and jeopardizes our future as put forward.

So just like your Republican cuts to our schools, this set of Republican cuts from the infamous secret plan are, thank goodness, dead on arrival. No wonder this plan was secret for so long. And no wonder the Republican majority limited debate. And no wonder the Republican majority, most of them, left the floor to spin the press about what they've done here today. No wonder.

Thank goodness the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and our Democratic Governor will kill these cuts--cuts that hurt our people, sacrifice our communities, and jeopardize our future. Let's be clear, colleagues and public, we have enacted cuts here today--$340 million worth of cuts. Certainly, we have a long way to go. Republicans today have chosen a strategy of a race to the bottom, rather than of investing our people, healthy vibrant communities, and a strong, diversified economy.

These cuts are DOA, a waste of time, but it is great to get the difference in philosophy out in the open.

Republicans would hurt children, seniors, sick people, cities and communities across Michigan that would have to cut public safety services and quality of life- all of which would cost us more money in the long run, maybe even get a few people killed in the process. And yes, one Senator came right out and said that.

Back to Schauer, who spells it out very eloquently-

The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats support a comprehensive solution of cuts, real reforms--which you have offered none of here today--and revenues that allow us to invest in our people, invest in our communities, and invest in Michigan's future. You have done a disservice to the people of each of your districts. You have done a disservice to your state. I am proud of the Democratic Caucus here today in voting "no." I hope that you will be serious about real solutions that move Michigan forward. This is a disinvestment in our state. You have chosen to go backwards, rather than forward. I am proud that Democrats today rejected your $255 million of cuts that will weaken Michigan.

The other reason I am proud to vote "no" is that you think we work in this little bubble here in the Capitol. Wall Street is watching. The rating agencies are watching. These are reckless, dangerous cuts and you have passed them. The Democrats have not. Thank goodness, they are dead on arrival.

Now we need him to run across the hall and tell the House Democrats to stand up for us, too.

The lines have been drawn, time to show the public where they are.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Senate Republicans = Cowards

They know their "plan" couldn't survive under the public eye, so they are rushing these cuts through in the dead of night before anyone could have a chance to review or discuss them.

Republican "leadership" in action.

Senate Republicans on Thursday passed a $34-per-student cut for schools, then proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to local governments, community corrections, health care and other programs after deciding Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed spending rollbacks didn't go far enough.

They wrote these bills on the spot.

Senate Republicans didn't come out with their final list of $255.3 million in cuts and other changes until 7:30 p.m. Thursday, drawing the ire of Democrats who said they were being given no time to study the cuts before being forced to vote on them.

And what was that about Bishop being "happy to share" his plan?

It was the first time Senate Republicans had revealed their entire list of cuts after insisting that the shortfall be dealt with through spending cuts and other changes. The Democratic governor criticized Republicans for relying only on cuts and accounting changes to fill the gap, a criticism echoed Thursday night by Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor.

"I'm not surprised it took you so long to unveil these cuts," she told GOP senators. "I'd be embarrassed, too."

This is just another stunt, and a complete waste of time. There is no way these cuts make it through the House or the Governor. So, not only was this a cowardly way of doing the people's business, it was pretty pointless, too.

(Note- Sorry I'm not writing more; I'm thoroughly disgusted with these guys at this point. Beyond anger. Very sad, too, for my state. We deserve better. My only hope is the Democrats, the public, and the media take them to task for behaving like this.

My thanks go to the Governor and the Senate Democrats for hanging tough- stay strong everyone. This is going to be a very, very long year.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Coming Soon....

Waterfall at 5th3rd

Waterfall at Fifth Third Ballpark

Whitecaps get championship rings, hope for more

COMSTOCK PARK -- Denny Baxter, co-founder of the West Michigan Whitecaps minor-league baseball franchise, stood in front of the full staff Monday afternoon, held up his right hand and pointed to his thumb.

He still has room for a ring on it.

"I never get tired of winning," Baxter said after slipping on a gold championship ring to commemorate the team's 2006 Midwest League title.

He's got enough bling for all but one finger.

The Whitecaps won their second MWL title in three seasons and fourth overall last summer. The club also captured championships in 1996, 1998 and 2004.

It just takes one more for the thumb.

"I'm really proud of everybody," CEO and managing partner Lew Chamberlin told the staff after participating in a champagne toast.

"We want to win that (fifth) championship."

I can't wait. April 4th, exhibition game against Grand Valley, April 9th, home opener against the Lugnuts.

Life will be a wonderful thing.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bishop: "We need to get this job done yesterday"

Yes. He actually said that.

No, I couldn't believe it, either.

Talks are happening, but I'm not sure how you even begin to talk with someone who behaves like this.

As he headed into the meeting at 11 a.m., Bishop said the Republican-controlled Senate has no intention of bridging the gap with a tax increase, pledging to fill it with "cuts and reforms alone."

"We have got to dramatically downsize government, and we have to do it today," he said.

Because yesterday he was too busy.

You do that, Mikey. You go tell your schools and cities and hospitals that you are going to cut them off at the knees. Can't wait to see the response.

Republicans haven't made their spending cuts public. But a spokesman for Bishop has said that, besides the $167 million in cuts proposed in Granholm's first executive order, Republicans would slice another $700 million. The state also would save $100 million through accounting changes.

Both Dillon and Bishop said Tuesday that there's no time to waste.

"Everyone knows that time is of the essence," Dillon said. "Every day we wait, the problem grows."

Agreed Bishop: "We need to get this job done yesterday."

Yes, yes we did. And where were you, Mike?

Wait. Don't answer that. I think I've heard enough for one day. Maybe one lifetime.

Just when I think things can't get any more absurd...

UPDATE 7:38 PM- WOOD has added a video and expanded the original story to include this-

Shortly before 4 p.m., the trio emerged to tell reporters that negotiations are continuing. But they declined to give any specifics.

"We're making progress," the governor said. "We have agreed to negotiate in confidence. And we are going to make sure we achieve the results of balancing the budget and moving the state forward. And we're not going to divulge any of the agreements that we've reached so far, and we'll continue to meet until we have an agreement."

The Republicans made it to the table without having to divulge their "plan" to the public, and whatever happens now becomes bipartisan.

Not happy about that.

Also not happy with Bishop taking a shot at the Governor over yesterday, but really not surprised by it either.

No justice. There seems to be no justice in that town, and tonight that really bothers me... why more than usual? I really don't know.

Bishop's failure to communicate sends wrong message to Michigan's citizens

Like that title? I stole it from Mike himself- a memo he issued almost a month ago.

The memo was a stunt.

The past two months have been a series of stunts by the Republicans, one after the other.

Michigan is in a "crisis", Mike has admitted it himself, but for whatever reason the Republicans still insist on playing games. Yesterday was just one more example.

On March 9th, the Governor said this, right before she left for Germany-

If this resolution doesn't happen by March 16, I'm asking leadership to meet nonstop with me until we have an agreement to resolve this crisis.

She restated it on the 13th-

"I'm going to demand that we sit in a room until we reach an agreement. I'm expecting people to clear their calendars until the end of the month, and that we are going to go into negotiations and come out only when we have an agreement," she said Tuesday in a telephone call from Germany.

So, they knew. They even replied.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, called Granholm's declaration "fantastic."

"I think the Senate majority leader has been asking the governor to come to the table for the last three weeks. We welcome the chance to sit down with the governor in the room," spokesman Matt Marsden said.

Then why would Bishop skip out on a meeting yesterday?

Because he wanted to pull yet another stunt.

We can only conclude their continued lack of communication with the Governor on serious issues is intentional.

Like that? I stole that from Bishop, too.

I can only conclude that it IS intentional. Yesterday was a show of blatant disrespect to the Governor, to his colleagues, to the process, to the citizens of Michigan, to our future.

You're expecting me to be outraged. I am. You're expecting me to say something witty. I can't. Today I'm just angry and saddened and disgusted by the whole thing- and I seem to be at a loss for words.

Good luck to the Governor with today's meeting. I sincerely hope something productive comes out of it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Time to show the consequences of the race to the bottom

She tried to do this the nice way. She tried to get you to take the high road, to get you to see that investment in our future is the way to go, that education and quality of life are the keys to our success.

She had the guts to put the plan on the table and take the shots for it, unlike her colleagues in that Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging we call the Michigan Legislature. While they hid behind closed door meetings and worked on secret plans and worried about their own careers, she was out in the streets trying to sell a vision to those who still refuse to see beyond next week. That took courage.

She tried to show the scope of the problem, that we have lost one third of our revenue for the General Fund in the past six or so years. That we already have resolved billions in cuts, shifts, whatever it took to keep this boat afloat with minimal pain to the citizens of Michigan.

Maybe she did her job a little too well in the past. Maybe we needed to feel that pain. Maybe we needed to suffer the consequences of endless tax cuts coupled with the loss of revenue from a diminishing manufacturing economy.

Unfortunately the great human motivator in this day and age is not altruism, it is fear. Good try, Governor, but it appears that people just. don't. get. it. yet. Especially when they are not shown the alternative.

A Freep poll this morning tells us that people don't support the service tax idea, but these are people that have not been shown the consequences of not raising some revenue. It would be nice to see a poll on the Republican plans for drastic cuts, wouldn't it? Bet they wouldn't like that, either, because on the flip side, they still want higher spending for health care and education by whopping margins.

They are going to get the opposite.

Time to get those cuts on the table. Now.

Peter Luke thinks we should start with education.

Whatever the source, Granholm had better get serious about raising new money or demonstrate to lawmakers in both parties the consequences of doing nothing. The latter would involve doing what the law requires her to do when state budgets are in deficit: Begin cutting, starting by informing local schools that with less than two months of school left, they'd better prepare to give back the $210 per pupil lawmakers gave them before last year's election.

That's OK fine by Nancy Cassis, the GOP poster child for stupid, irresponsible greed.

You might remember Nancy from her comments about all those Michigan cities that should "tighten their belts", as if they were just bleeding money out of the sewer drains or something. Or maybe you remember Nancy from her comments to WILX this week, bemoaning the fact that Granholm was gone for three whole days drumming up new jobs for the state, as if they would have actually gotten something done after months of screwing around if Mommy were there to hold their hand. Or throw their food at, one of the two.

Anyway, Nancy is ready to cut revenue to both cities and education. We don't want to be attractive to the new high tech economy if it means giving up a few pennies, do we? Nah. Better to forget the future and hoard that money now.

Republicans shouldn't mind. At a Senate Finance Committee meeting Thursday convened to pretty much trash the 2-percent tax, Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, echoed emerging conservative GOP talking points that maybe Michigan spends too much on education already, given high teacher pay.

OK. Let's do it. Let's play Nancy's game. Peter, show them what they have won!

A great way to achieve lower teacher pay and avoid an unpopular tax increase is to lay off a bunch of teachers and shut down programs.

Per-pupil funding cuts mandated by law when the school aid budget is in the red would cost public schools in Kalamazoo County $7.4 million this year; Kent County, $21.9 million; Muskegon County, $6.9 million; Saginaw County, $7.4 million; Bay County, $3.4 million; Jackson County, $5.7 million; and Washtenaw County, $10.3 million.

Lawmakers representing those counties who oppose or are afraid of a tax increase are by default supporting those education cuts. Granholm might want to start letting their constituents know that.

Bingo. Democrats are going to take the blame. They could avoid it by forcing the GOP's hand, but no, they would rather wait and fend off charges in the next election that they cut education and police and health care.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, pretty much dismissed Granholm's proposals for long-term funding for new education spending when he told a Detroit radio station that any tax increase could be temporary. Tax cuts worth billions of dollars would stay permanent.

And those tax cuts have worked so well, haven't they? Bet Cassis wants more. Bet she wants you to pay for them.

Maybe Dillon has something up his sleeve, but indications are that he is willing to go along with the GOP plan of more cuts. Wonder if he and the Democrats are ready to bear the responsibility of what that really means.

Granholm will have a new executive order on that this week; we will see what she comes up with.

Time for a reality check. Time to let mayors, educators, police departments and hospital officials know exactly what Lansing has in mind for them. We will see how everyone feels about raising revenue after their schools are closed and their police and fire departments are cut to nothing.

It's a shame that it might take tragic circumstances to get people to understand what is at stake here, but sometimes that seems to be the only way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Democrats should call Bishop's bluff

Mike Bishop, today on the Senate floor-

"The Senate Republicans have come up with a proposal and we're happy to share it with you and have an open dialog about it."

If that were true, wouldn't Minority Leader Mark Schauer know about it?

Again, the Majority Leader talks about this proposal; that we've seen this proposal. I guess, I'm not sure if the word "proposal" is the same for "plan," but I guess the proposal is what you're talking about in solving this current year-the 2007 budget crisis. I haven't seen the proposal. Our appointee to this six-member workgroup hasn't seen the proposal. It's sort of this secret plan that is still out there.

What appears to be happening here is that rumors are leaking to both MIRS and Gongwer on the details of this proposal that Bishop is "happy to share", but yet no one has seen.

Bishop went on to claim that this "is not about politics right now", right before he pulled a very calculated political move.

Even though Republicans largely have come out against Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed 2 percent tax on services, they set it up for a possible Senate vote next week.

Majority Leader Mike Bishop decided Thursday to discharge the measure and bring it to the full Senate because he felt Democrats broke an agreement to keep details of negotiations secret until an agreement has been reached.

Already he is passing the buck on responsibility for his actions, blaming the Dems for forcing him to do this. Do you think he will stop there?

The Rochester Republican said he's bringing up the tax plan in the GOP-controlled Senate _ where it's almost sure to fail _ because the House has failed to act even though Democrats hold the majority there.

"You've got the governor's office and you've got an entire chamber of this Legislature and nothing has been done to move that plan forward," he said. "Why? Because you don't have the votes."

And if that happens and it doesn't make it out of the House, the spin will then become, "Democrats don't support the tax plan, therefore we have to make these cuts".

The responsibility for these nasty cuts can be placed right in the hands of the Democrats at that point. The Republicans will get a pass because the Dems didn't support getting the revenue.

See how that works?

Schauer had a few details for us on these cuts. Or rumors of cuts. Or whatever the hell is going on.

Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, said Republicans say they want to make up the entire shortfall with cuts, but won't say publicly what those spending decreases are. He heard Republicans may propose cutting the payments that communities get from the state for police, fire and other services by 20 percent, as well as cutting payments to K-12 schools.

Ouch. No one will want to be responsible for that.

"It could have devastating impacts on our communities," he said. "I don't think they've got the votes for it. ... That's why they've not been willing to put their plan on the table."

Both sides are claiming "you don't have the votes" at this point.

If that is the case, Dillon should instruct the House to go ahead and pass this. Bishop told Rick Albin "that tax has been dead for awhile in this chamber". Well, then the House has nothing to lose, right? Make the Senate be the body that obstructs progress. Put it all right back on Bishop. Make no mistake, he is playing "politics" here, better find the guts to play back, or you are going to get obstructed from here on out.

Force the Republicans to put these cuts on the table before you end up getting blamed for them.

UPDATE 3-16: Cropsey quoted MIRS as saying that an agreement had been reached. This is being reported on WOOD this morning as rumor, but the message being sent to the public is that there was an agreement on cuts.

The fact is, if you do go to the MIRS article today, on the very front page it says this, about the third paragraph from the bottom: "On another front, word from the negotiations between the Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and House Speaker Andy Dillon suggested they do have a plan to reduce the $850 million deficit with about $700 million in budget service cuts and the rest with accounting changes."

Sounds like a Republican plant. They can then turn around and say, "We had an agreement. The Governor insists on raising taxes". At least, Cropsey will. (Stop laughing Eric)

Wait and see.

All we can do is speculate since nothing concrete is being released to the public. Happy Sunshine Week to us all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Republican donors paid for ad that linked Hitler to Granholm

I know you're shocked. Take a moment to compose yourself.

The controversial Detroit-based group that funded a 2006 election ad comparing major Democratic politicians — including Gov. Jennifer Granholm — to Adolf Hitler was largely bankrolled by some of the most prominent Republican donors in the state.

In early July, Voice the Vote placed an ad in the Detroit-based Michigan Chronicle newspaper that featured photographs of Hitler, Granholm and former Democratic presidents, accusing the party of taking African-American voters for granted and urging voters to say no to Granholm. It was widely condemned, including by Granholm’s Republican challenger, Dick DeVos.

But a report filed this week disclosing the political action committee’s donors – some eight months after it was due – revealed that about two-thirds of the $29,000 raised by the group came from John and Terry Rakolta, Julie and Peter Cummings and Robert Liggett.

The Cummingses and the Rakoltas have given hundreds of thousands to Republican candidates or organizations. Liggett also is a major Republican Party donor.

John Rakolta was the "the no. 2 finance person at the state (Republican) party", according to this Washington Post interview with Saul Anuzis from May 1, 2006. Does that mean he worked for the MI GOP? That would explain the MI GOP's silence on the ad when it came out. From a MDP press release-

"The MIGOP’s silence on this issue is deafening. By not coming forward to condemn this malicious and disrespectful ad, the Michigan Republicans are saying this style of campaigning is acceptable and that they are not bothered by the message of the ad. The Michigan Republican Party and the Dick DeVos for Governor Campaign also must disclose any of their supporters who may have funded or are tied to the inflammatory ad," said Brewer.

Hmmmm. Might want to check into that.

For 2008, he has hooked up with Romney. Wonder if Mr. Romney approves of these tactics. Better ask.

You might remember Terry Rakolta from her fight against the TV show "Married... with Children" back in the late 80's. She successfully got a bunch of big name advertisers to pull their business from the show.

I guess this means that the Bundys are somehow more offensive to the Rakoltas than Hitler. Go figure.

For a really bizarre take on this, let's turn to John Truscott.

John Truscott, who was spokesman for the DeVos campaign, said, as he has in the past, that the campaign had no connection to Voice the Vote, and never discussed the organization with anyone.

“Had we been involved, you’d see a lot more contributors,” he said.

So, John, are you are telling us that, had you been involved, you would have had a lot of people lined up to sponsor an ad that linked prominent Democrats to Hitler?


Be interesting to see how this information on Rakolta plays out down the road.

UPDATE 3/15: Outrage all around that their names made it to the paper money was used in such a fashion. The time to denounce such tactics only comes after it is exposed that you were a part of them.

The wild rocking horses of Spring

Wild Rocking Horse

70 degrees here yesterday. Snow be almost all gone bye bye!

Notes from the MI Senate session yesterday tell me that we are in some big trouble.

The Republicans are yammering on about this $70 million like it was the end of the world, Cropsey and Bishop (mostly Cropsey) going so far as to implicitly charge the Governor/administration with conspiracy and corruption.

Wow. That's a mighty big accusation. Doesn't sound like a promising start to negotiations.

Once again, the Republicans are choosing to focus on some bullshit "scandal" from the figment of their imagination rather than address the problems of the state.

You can read it here. Or not.

Me, I'm going to go find some other playground today. The kids on this one seem to have some impulse control issues that need to be addressed before it is safe to be around them.

Cassis- "Bring it on."

Well. Now we know which bully she takes her talking points from.

Gotta go.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Republicans ignore Wall Street warning, still insist on cuts alone to solve budget crisis

It appears we are headed for a showdown.

Standard & Poor's (reg req) threw a little gasoline on the fire yesterday with an ominous but hardly unforeseen report that our credit rating will be downgraded if we don't get our act together soon.

Time is of the essence for Michigan, currently the only state with a negative credit outlook, to address its budget woes, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says today in an article titled "Credit FAQ: Prompt Action Is Key To Improving Michigan’s Credit Outlook."


"From a credit perspective, this is probably the most important legislative session in more than a decade," says Managing Director James Wiemken, who adds that "Michigan's credit outlook could be revised to stable if the legislature passes a tax reform package and addresses the remainder of the structural imbalance in the fiscal 2008 budget."

Basically, Wall Street wants our finances on stable footing. Right now. They see a brighter future, but only if we address the uncertainty of the revenue stream. "Growth" alone, that magical thing promised by the Republicans if we just throw those folks off of Medicaid and give more tax cuts to the rich, won't do it.

Observing that "Michigan's economy remains soft," the article notes that "long-term forecasts for the state remain stable to somewhat encouraging."

"Michigan cannot simply grow its way out of this fiscal crisis," says Mr. Wiemken.

Granholm's proposal is the only thing keeping us from being downgraded right now, according to the AP.

It notes that the ratings company has not downgraded the state even further in the face of a $900 million shortfall in the current budget and a $1 billion deficit in the next because the Granholm proposal addresses the state's structural deficit in the next budget year and "moves the state's revenue base over a broader and more stable part of the economy."

"If the state passes a tax reform and budget package that addresses the current imbalance in a timely manner, the outlook could return to stable," the report said. "By failing to place the service tax (or some other measure that creates sustainable balance) in working order by June 1, the state could render substantial parts of the two-year recovery plan insufficient."

Get some money coming in. By June. Or face the consequences.

Everyone get that? How about you, Mr. Bishop?

"This Standard & Poor's report is a reminder that the governor should take very seriously our idea that 2007 should be balanced with cuts, and then we can turn our attention to 2008," the budget year that starts Oct. 1, Marsden said. "It's another reminder that we need to act now and that every day further jeopardizes our bond rating."

Perhaps Bishop's mouthpiece Matt Marsden can't read. The report clearly said "sustainable balance". According to the Detroit News, the report says that cuts alone won't turn the trick.

The report says if Granholm's tax increase plan isn't adopted soon, substantial budget cuts would be necessary.


If such a large amount of cuts that late in the year is even possible, they aren't likely to be very palatable and they may not be sustainable," according to the report.

"Cutting taxes or providing economic incentives for businesses is not going to create revenue to address the current shortfall."

Republicans are misrepresenting this report as they still insist on cuts, even in the face of their own big business allies, that being Wall Street, telling them otherwise.

At this point it starts to look like purposeful obstruction, obstruction that will cost the state an untold amount of money. How else can you explain it? They know what needs to be done, they refuse to do it, even in the face having to spend more money, something they claim they are trying to prevent.

The state borrows slightly more than $1 billion each year because of cash flow difficulties that usually crop up in late summer. Treasury officials said they can't estimate how much a credit downgrade would drive up borrowing costs.

So, let's add up the Republican response to our very real crisis.

They ignore the warnings of Wall Street, which might cost us a fortune. They are afraid to produce this list of cuts which might have a catastrophic impact on schools, health care or public safety. Apparently they will not compromise on these cuts, insisting they happen before they even consider the budget for 2008. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Realtors are running a commercial that looks like it came straight out of the leftovers from the DeVos campaign; childish graphics and the same 'ol out of context clips of Granholm speeches, so eerie that it might produce flashbacks among the people who were traumatized by all the advertising last year. (Ed. note- like me)

And to top it all off, Craig DeRoche is going to try a little stunt in the House.

The tax plan may get its first test today in the Legislature, where House Republicans hope to force a vote on whether it should be taken up immediately. Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said he doesn't believe it has enough support from Democrats to be approved.

Dan Farough, a spokesman for majority Democrats in the House, said DeRoche's move was "political theater designed to cover the fact that they don't have a plan."

Apparently the only plan they have is to delay, deny, play games and obstruct any progress that we might hope to achieve.

Hope the Governor and the Democrats stand tough and start calling them out. Republicans are running around trashing this plan, trashing the Democrats, trashing our very future while refusing to take any responsibility for the mess they created or present any of their own plans for solving this crisis.

It's time to point that out. If we let them get away with this behavior this time, they will keep pulling this trick and it will be a very long four years indeed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A resolution by the 16th?

Tucked away in the Governor's radio address was this bit of information that has escaped the notice of the press so far.

A legislative team is working with the administration on a resolution. If this resolution doesn't happen by March 16, I'm asking leadership to meet nonstop with me until we have an agreement to resolve this crisis.

Makes me wonder what kind of wheeling and dealing these guys will do to avoid giving up their precious weekend time, but my guess is they are all running for some sort of bipartisan cover at this point- whether it be for severe cuts to schools, health care or public safety, or an agreement to raise revenues, or a combination of both.

Sure wish we knew what was going on, don't you?

Peter Luke raised an excellent point in his column yesterday.

The basic conceit in Lansing these days is that the arguments elected officials make about the economy are considered more important to their constituents' well-being than the actual decisions voters are paying them to make. Otherwise, they would be arguing less and deciding more.

Time for arguing is over. Time for deciding is here. And if they reject this offer to meet "nonstop", we will know that they are more interested in pontificating on ideology rather than solving this problem.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It's March 11, 2007. Do you know what your business taxes are?

215 days.

It's been 7 months and 3 days since our previous Legislature voted to eliminate the SBT, with promises to address the issue "after the election".

They, of course, did not.

Let's take a nostalgic stroll down Memory Lane shall we? Time to revisit what was said way back in those thrilling days of early August 2006.

The GR Press urged a quick replacement...

Either way, employers -- including prospective investors -- are left in doubt about the state's course. Michigan, which already ranks at or near the bottom of 50 states' economic rankings, doesn't need to add tax uncertainty to the list of deterrents to investment here. -GR Press 8/11/2006

As did the Detroit Free Press...

Their (buisness) ability to plan will suffer each day that the Legislature sits on its heels without deciding how to replace the SBT revenue -- or how much of it to replace. And how can the state recruit companies to come to Michigan, or even to expand here, in a tax limbo? -DFP 8/9/2006

The Detroit News was ecstatic about the decision, but the very last sentence should give them pause now.

Surely the sight of a state working to reform its heavy business tax burden would be more enticing than seeing still more dithering and delay on that burden. -DN 8/9/06

The Toledo Blade was adamant about an answer, but we didn't listen because they are in Ohio, or something.

Michigan voters should demand that their politicians tell them -- right now, before the election -- exactly what they plan to do as far as replacing this tax. -TB 8/17/2006

From "The More Things Change, The More Things Stay The Same" Department, the Lansing State Journal had this now very familiar refrain...

Legislative Republicans on the brink of repealing the state's Single Business Tax have the same problem they did last week, last month, last year: They don't have a tax and budget plan they're willing to share with Michigan voters. -LSJ 8/9/06

And by the end of the month...

Unfortunately, the SBT repealers don't think voters are entitled to know what they'll do - a display of irresponsibility that should shock citizens of any ideological persuasion. -LSJ 8/27/06

We are beyond shock at this point. More like a coma. But seven months later, we all can agree on this statement from the now departed Ken Sikkema...

"The greatest risk is (in) doing nothing." -Ken Sikkema 8/10/2006

And this statement from now Minority Leader Craig DeRoche...

"Michigan deserves better, and we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't ... start to move Michigan in a new direction." -Craig DeRoche 8/9/06

Apparently that direction was uncertainty and chaos. If you remember, immediately following the repeal Wall Street wagged its finger at us.

In response to the repeal, Standard & Poor's on Wednesday lowered the state's rating on general obligation bonds to "AA." "Wall Street has sent the signal that the Republicans' actions today are a bad business decision for Michigan," said Liz Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman.

But Republicans say the move is based on an already struggling economy. "The repeal ... is a signal to the entire country that Michigan is serious about reforming our economy and bringing jobs back to the state, which will only serve to improve our bond rating," said Matt Resch, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Craig DeRoche of Novi. -DN 8/10/06

How is that working out for you, Craig? Anyone checked with Wall Street recently?

Wait. Better not.

OK, how about businesses looking to locate here? What are they saying now, Craig?

A House committee was told this week that the uncertainty about a replacement for Michigan's Single Business Tax has driven away business.

The CEO of a Kalamazoo-based economic development group told the panel three manufacturing firms have looked elsewhere in the last two months, reports the Gongwer News Service.


Ron Kitchens told the House Commerce Committee: "It isn't about the amount of taxes. ... They have gone elsewhere because of a lack of tax code - because they can't define their tax liability."

Amazingly enough, Craig made the case for his own dismissal this week. In a not-so-transparent Republican attempt at diversion from the real issues, DeRoche had this to say...

"If you mismanaged $70 million of your boss's money, you'd be fired," DeRoche said.

Wow. Wonder what happens when you mismanage $2 billion. It can't be good.

Back to counting the days...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Boston lead singer Brad Delp dies at 55

The eternal 12 year old in me is heartbroken tonight.

ATKINSON, N.H. -- Brad Delp, the lead singer for the band Boston, was found dead Friday in his home in southern New Hampshire. He was 55. Atkinson police responded to a call for help at 1:20 p.m. and found Delp dead. Police Lt. William Baldwin said in a statement the death was "untimely" and that there was no indication of foul play.

Delp apparently was alone at the time of his death, Baldwin said.

The cause of his death remained under investigation by the Atkinson police and the New Hampshire Medical Examiner's office. Police said an incident report would not be available until Monday.

Delp sang vocals on Boston's 1976 hits "More than a Feeling" and "Longtime." He also sang on Boston's most recent album, "Corporate America," released in 2002.

"All I want is to have my peace of mind."

True then, true now.

Thanks for the music.

Anti-tax groups target Lansing with ads

Business groups who complain about paying more taxes can somehow find the money to launch a propaganda war. Imagine that.

Two large business organizations will launch a TV ad campaign in Lansing attacking Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposal to impose a 2% excise tax on services.

The ad will be limited to cable TV stations in the Lansing area for several days next week. But it’s sure to heighten the public relations war between Granholm and critics of her tax plan.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Association of Realtors will launch the 30-second ad Monday. It will point out the kinds of services that would be taxed, according to the two groups.

Tricia Kinley, a tax policy specialist for the state Chamber, said the public is unaware of how many services the proposed tax would affect. It would generate nearly $1.5 billion in additional revenue with a 2% tax on 132 services that range from haircuts, car washes and shoe repairs to plumbers and dry cleaning to accountants to entertainment tickets – including professional sports events.

This might be a good time revisit the list of things that Tricia wants from her government.

(Those of you who just read this down below, stick with me here. I want it to show up again in light of this news.)

Heard at a recent town hall meeting-

Granholm: The question is, for businesses, what is going to make them competitive. Yes, having a competitive tax structure is important, but they also want to have educated workers, do they not?

Kinley: They certainly do.

Granholm: Right. And they also want to make sure that when they pick up the phone to call the police, a police officer comes, don't they?

Kinley: They certainly do.

Granholm: Right. And they want to make sure that their health... that we're not subsidizing the cost of health care for seniors or children or people with disabilities... you don't want to have to have businesses pay for all that, right?

Kinley: That's certainly true.

Granholm: So there's a role for government in those things, and the question is can we work together on finding the most competitive business climate, as well as the ability to invest in our state.

Apparently the answer from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Realtors is, no, we cannot work together, we want to have all these things and not have to pay for them, now we are going to run campaign style ads designed to scare people to follow our agenda.

Obviously they want to influence the Legislature only with these ads- Tricia may say the "public is unaware", but most of the public lives in Detroit followed by Grand Rapids. Lansing is 6th on the list as far as population goes.

Now, why would Tricia say such a thing when they aren't targeting the bulk of the population? Because it's not about you, people of Michigan, it's about those who might touch that precious bottom line, those bought and paid-for stuffed suits put in place to protect the monied interests only.

Better that you pay more in your income taxes. Bet these guys would have no problem with that.

Granholm has favored the service tax because it would be paid by both residents and businesses while a higher income tax — another idea floating around the Capitol — would fall entirely on individuals.

Ironically, one reason they won't run the ads elsewhere- they don't want to pay for it.

Kinley said it’s not decided whether the TV ad will be aired outside of the Lansing area because of cost.

Maybe it's time for some ads that show what will happen if revenue isn't raised. Two can play at this game- and if you want some 30-second propaganda, severe cuts to the budget could paint some horrific pictures if you really think about it.

Where are the cops, teachers, mayors that are resistant to more cuts? Will they speak up again? Wonder what Stryker is up to these days. Wonder if you could get the MEA or the Municipal League to put something togther.

Wonder if anyone is going to stand up for our state. I'm having my doubts today.

Lansing legislators fiddle while Michigan burns

Pay no attention to those men (and women) behind the curtain. They are busy trying to save their own hides rather than make the tough decisions that will pull us out of the hole once and for all.

"Cuts" are becoming "shifts", different proposals are being raised, all are done out of the public eye, secret deals that may or may not reach down and touch you, who knows, how can you tell, do you really want to know?

No, you probably don't. Doesn't matter, they aren't going to tell you.

Watch them fiddle about as the flames grow higher.

Mike Bishop starts it off. According to the Freep on February 16th, the song was this-

The GOP plan will resolve this year's budget gap -- now pegged at $956 million -- by cuts alone, Bishop said. It's a mistake, he added, to fix the budget "by little cuts" that may or not fit into their plan.

At that time, he said the GOP would have their plan out in a "couple of weeks".

On March 9th, three weeks later, the story has changed, and we hear this-

Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, who was in the audience said Republicans will propose about $500 million in cuts and a similar amount in accounting shifts.

"Cuts alone" are out the window. While that is probably a good thing, more "accounting shifts" probably aren't the answer, either.

Rosin up your bow.

Gutless Republicans still won't show their hand on these cuts, whether it be the $900 million or the $500 million, whichever, take your pick.

"The Republican Party has to put out its cuts," (Granholm) said in the fourth stop on her statewide tour at Lansing's Pattengill Middle School to educate Michiganians about the budget crisis and promote her own solution. "Nobody has seen the list. I haven't seen the list."

This next scenario is so absurd one has a hard time believing the Pubs would even reach for it. Every reporter in the state is asking the $956 million dollar question, would fall all over themselves to get this scoop, and the Republicans are complaining they can't get a microphone.

"We're only hearing the administration's side of the story," Garcia said after the hour-long session, televised in the Lansing area.

They actually have the audacity to cry that their side of the story isn't being told while they refuse to tell it.

"I haven't made it public because I feel the proper thing to do is to have discussions with our legislative colleagues and the governor. This is an ongoing process of negotiations," said Bishop.


I'll say it again- there is a reason why we don't see the list. A Freep editorial this morning sums it up well.

A true blood-on-the-floor list of cuts may be the only way to communicate how much of a trashing the state will take without a tax increase. It will surely mean late-in-the-year cuts for K-12 schools, even higher college tuition rates in the fall, and lopping thousands of Michiganders off Medicaid or making a big reduction in the services they get -- which may threaten not only some people's health but also the solvency of hospitals around the state. Granholm will properly continue to downsize the prison population, but it would be best not to do that in the kind of rush she may be forced into if she has no other fiscal options.

No rock should be left unthrown at this point, and it seems the Democrats themselves might deserve a few tossed in their direction. From the "you-can't-afford-the-real-story" MIRS news service comes this little tidbit-

"House Democrats, reluctant to give the governor a vote on her excise service tax, will be given a choice next week between that, a temporary income tax increase or perhaps a third plan that remains under wraps. That's according to two Democratic caucus sources who confirmed the income tax idea has been discussed behind closed doors."

Yet another temporary fix and yet another secret plan to argue over. Good move, people.

Tick, tick, tick goes the clock, and it's killing us. Back to the Freep-

As discouraging as it is to watch companies such as Comerica move jobs out of the state because of the lack of economic growth here, Lansing's ongoing budget deadlock has got to be even more damaging to efforts to recruit new employers. No one can tell them what their taxes will look like, whether education will be fully funded, or even if state parks can be properly maintained. Companies expect to pay taxes; they cannot be expected to endure chaos.

And just think, we get to do it all over again when we "negotiate" the replacement on the SBT.

Yet more fiddling to come. Let's hope the state hasn't burned completely to the ground by the time this song and dance is done.