Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bishop obstructs progress - again

As I've noted here before, Mike Bishop seems to have some real deep issues with Granholm. Now he purposely held back on an agreement on the MBT that makes us all look bad at the business conference at Mackinac, costing time and perhaps jobs, just to paint a picture that the leadership of the state cannot get anything accomplished.

With Michigan in a fiscal crisis and our future on the line, it is imperative that the Republicans put someone forward who can look past their obvious personal vendetta and do what is best for the citizens of our state.

That person is not Mike Bishop.

The frequency of these direct attacks really shouldn't be ignored anymore. Yesterday there was yet another telling statement about where Bishop's head is at- he is more concerned with denying Granholm some perceived "victory" than he is with getting the people's work done.

"This is a very complex task," Bishop said. "It's not something we can roll out at a moment's notice" so Granholm can make a big splash with announcement of an agreement at the Regional Detroit Chamber of Commerce policy conference on Mackinac Island, which starts today, he said.

It's not about the condition of the state for Mike. It's not about presenting a good face to the business community at the big party at Mackinac. It's not even about his own party's goals.

It's all about obstruction with Mike, ususally directed right at the governor. And it's getting beyond the usual partisan fighting- it creates the perception of "no leadership", and therefore no confidence in our state, for business and citizens alike.

We might have had a buisness tax deal yesterday if not for Bishop's problem, and one Democrat finally calls him out. From the Free Press this morning-

Rep. Paul Condino, D-Southfield, said a deal was within grasp when Senate Republicans backtracked on agreements after meeting privately with Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. Condino is a member of a bipartisan group negotiating a new business tax.


"We made a lot of progress. The Senate didn't want to sit at the table," said Condino, majority vice chairman of the House Tax Policy Committee. "My feeling is Sen. Bishop did not want to cut a deal before going to Mackinac.

"Had we stayed at the table we might have reached an agreement. It was bad faith dealing by Mike Bishop who wanted to put his own ego on the line at Mackinac rather than do what businesses want him to do, which is put together a business tax plan."

This makes the thought that there was any sort of compromise on next year seem remote. Even if a "deal" was struck, can you trust him to keep it?

All Democrats need to stand up and point out this behavior. If Dillon won't do it, find people who will- or the whole party will take the blame for the failure to get this settled. It won't just fall on Granholm; he will take you all down.

Because of his ongoing problem with talking to the governor, last Friday she sent John Cherry in to deal with him on the budget talks.

Good for her. You can't negotiate with someone who obviously doesn't have any respect for the office.

Word around the Capitol was that Granholm's relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, is so strained that Cherry, as Granholm's representative, offered some relief to an already tense situation.

Perhaps Mr. Bishop should be called on to step down from his leadership position so he can have some time to work on his "issues". Holding up progress for everyone so you can settle some personal score is not going to help the people of Michigan- and Democrats allowing it to continue won't help us, either.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Save Our Services rally in Grand Rapids

Even after the budget "agreement" last Friday, hundreds of people came out to Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids last night, wallets in hand, ready to pay for the services we so desperately need.

Are you seeing this, Lansing?

WOOD has the video here, the story is from WZZM.

Grand Rapids - Residents, city employees and city officials rallied at Calder Plaza Tuesday sending a message to state lawmakers.

Trouble in Lansing is costing communities across Michigan. "We work as hard as we can with what we've got to maintain the level of services. We're not going to be able to do it anymore if we don't keep the people we've got now," said Phil Pakiela of the Grand Rapids Employees Independent Union.

Heartwell talks of revenue sharing cuts- not sure if that was from the original budget or is part of this new agreement- the Detroit News claimed no cuts to cities, which makes me think it comes from the original.

Doesn't matter. If we don't get some big concessions from city employees, we lose cops and firefighters.

"Revenue sharing cuts will total $9-million for this fiscal year,” according to Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. The commission must not only balance the budget but the needs of residents along with employees.

This year's operating budget is $297-million. Balancing the budget relies on two tactics. Dipping into savings from the general fund and negotiating 6.4% in cuts from union workers. If they don't Mayor Heartwell eluded to a drastic outcome.

"On January 1st we'll have to cut 59 positions in city government. Sixteen of those are fire fighters. Twenty one are police officers, another 14 or 15 come from our independent union employees. It will be disastrous, it will be a bloodbath if we have to do that."

Which legislator wants to be responsible for that? Hmmm? Step right up, people.

The campaign ads are writing themselves right here, right now. "Representative X voted to cut police and firefighters from our community". Doesn't sound very good, does it. Can you see that running over and over on the TV, fliers in the mailbox? Would you like me to dig out some from last year?

And God help you if some tragedy does occur; you can guarantee that it will be used against you because you did not come up with the money to save some cop's job.

So, if you can't be persuaded to do the right thing and protect your constituents from this happening to your city, perhaps you can be persuaded to save your own hide in the next election.

Whatever it takes.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

Memorial Day 2007 Oakhill Cemetery version 2

Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Oakhill Cemetery lies on what was the 1850 original border of the city of Grand Rapids- in other words, at one time it was the edge of town. Many of the families of the fathers of city commerce are located here; the Steketees, the Herpolshimers, the Berkeys, others that I'm forgetting at the moment. All are marked elaborate crypts and vaults and obelisks, but sadly, a lack of flags on this day...

Tucked away in the corner of the cemetery grounds is a section for the true fathers of our city- those that fought the wars that made all of this possible.

Although some stones carry the names, more than a few are simply marked "US Soldier".

That inscription seems to say it all.

To all our veterans today- thank you.

Memorial Day 2007 Alto

Bowne Center Cemetery, Alto, Michigan

5th3rd Memorial Day

5th3rd. Pretty low key out there today.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Let's Make a Deal: Lesson 3- Bargaining

So, you want to be a Democrat.

As you know, being a Democrat or even following the Democrats requires all kinds of mental gymnastics just to stay on an even keel. Usually the Democrats will pull some move that will leave you dumbfounded and off-balance- that is the time these lessons can be applied so as to avoid any sort of cognitive dissonance explosion in your brain. Those aren't pretty. People have been known to require hospitalization in severe cases. By following a few simple steps, you will be on your way to cushioning the repeated blows and finding a place of acceptance for their behavior- which is your ultimate goal.

Take the '07 state budget for example. Just when you figure that they have to finally take a stand- wham!- they seemingly back down in the face of Republican threats.

Or did they?

Here starts your lesson.

After shaking that numbness you get when you feel that you have been emotionally sucker-punched, start the search for clues that what has happened isn't really what is happening at all- that it's all part of a larger plan, a larger agreement that will put us back on solid ground.

Yes, that's it. That must be it. The Democrats have an end-deal worked out, sure they do, one that will secure the funding that we need to even get back to normal, and perhaps even... dare I say it... move forward. Could it be?

If this thought has entered your realm of consciousness, you are on your way. Lesson 3 in our ongoing series deals with the act of bargaining. It requires you to have completed Lesson 1- Denial, so, if you haven't finished that part yet, turn back now!

It's an enormous leap of faith to think that there might be a bigger agreement happening on the future of the state's revenue. When it seems that they have gone out of their way to avoid doing any of the bipartisan commission's recommendations for future growth- they have even done some of the things they were explicitly told not to do- it makes it hard to believe that they are serious about is to come next.

Make that leap anyway. If you learn these lessons well, they can be applied to every single crisis, time and time again, no matter what happens you will have the capability to keep the faith that they know what they are doing.

While the bold headlines on Saturday screamed "Budget deal reached", when you read the fine print, you realize that they really haven't solved anything at all. They have only delayed paying some bills until October, borrowed against our future income, put the hurt on public universities, effectively raising the cost of tuition at a time when college education is crucial to our state's future economic growth, and chipped away at the quality of life programs that serve to strengthen our core cities and save us money by promoting health in our citizens, two more areas of the economy that are also vital to our ultimate success.

Even after all of that, they still come up $300 million short, more than a third of the current deficit. Threats of more cuts to come next week. Or more shifts. Or borrowing. Or whatever. What's $300 million amongst friends?

Don't let all of that bother you. Shake it off. First, take stock of what was accomplished. Make sure all the big pieces are still there.

On the plus side, and there is a significant plus side, they have managed to save the "core" and proffered themselves protection from the mass of the harshest public critics- that being K-12, health care providers, people who would have been devastated by a government shutdown, and, virtually overlooked in all of this, the happy news that they didn't cut revenue sharing to cities. Mayors, cops, doctors, educators are still wary, but have to be feeling better about life at this point.

All of that is an extremely good thing. Be grateful for what you get- it's part of the lesson of bargaining.

Hey, it could have been a lot worse. Always keep that in mind. It comes in handy. It gets you through the night, anyway.

Through the fog of it all, hints of salvation are on the horizon, hints that we really don't have to feel the inevitable pain of continuing down this course, hints that tell us we will be alright in the end, the cavalry is coming, there is no possible way they can continue to stall and deny the harsh truth of our situation.

They are just hints at this point, but what else do you have to grasp at? This is your next step in the bargaining process, finding the tools you need that will lead you to believe that "everything will be OK."

Peter Luke gives us the strongest indication. After giving a rundown that shows how these guys have simply delayed doing the hard work until the '08 budget, he comes up with this-

As a result of using that one-time money, the 2008 deficit could exceed $1.8 billion, a gap Republicans say they could close by agreeing to raise taxes. Which taxes would be raised were talked about Friday, but remain the subject of negotiations.

Republicans. Agreeing to raise taxes. Stop and think about that for a minute. They get to save face now by sticking to the promise that they would solve '07 by making "cuts", and Granholm gets to keep her promise of not cutting schools in the middle of the year. Everyone is happy. They are masters at bargaining. It's part of the job.

And when you read the stories, the new conventional wisdom is that this deal was all part of the bigger picture. It simply has to be. Even the jaded reporters think so. You can too. Search the clues.

From the AP-

Bishop appeared to leave the door open to voting on a possible tax increase for next fiscal year. But the House hasn't sent the Senate a plan. A proposal to raise the income tax has been introduced, although it's not clear if there is enough support in either chamber to pass it.

The Detroit News-

While this year's problem will be addressed without a major tax increase, the same cannot be said for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, when spending is expected to exceed revenues by at least $1.6 billion. Chances are that income and sales tax increases will be needed to close that gaping hole; economists don't expect a turnaround in Michigan's economic fortunes until sometime in 2008.

The Free Press-

The breakthrough came after months of often rancorous debate and set the stage for a showdown on a major income tax increase, possibly as early as next week, to address an even larger deficit in 2008 and beyond. But there will be no major tax increase before Oct. 1.


The size of an income tax increase proposal remained unclear Friday as lawmakers delved into new ways to raise money to balance the state's growing deficit.

Bishop's statement to Gongwer was very telling, as if he would offer protection to those Republicans that do vote for an increase. That should take the wind out of Drolet's sails.

By that definition, Mr. Bishop said no Republican member of the 94th Legislature will have acted irresponsibly if he or she votes for a tax increase because they did look at other options first.

And from Liz Boyd, on the cuts to the universities-

Liz Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman, said the budget cuts are a painful compromise and that restoring some of the money to universities is one reason the governor has called for a tax increase.

"We agree that higher education requires more investment, and that is why revenues must be part of the solution for 2008," Boyd said.

The cuts are called "temporary", indicating that they believe this money will be restored by the '08 budget. Wishful thinking? Or do they know something that we don't? Time will tell.

And there you have it. Major media outlets are all saying that revenue is inevitable, and by looking at all the clues, you have bargained your way back to hope.

If it all comes crashing down again in the next round, just go back to Lesson 1 and start all over.

Congratulations. You have now learned the secret of supporting the Democrats in this day and age. And who knows, maybe one of these days your persistence will pay off, they will do the right thing, and these lessons will become obsolete. Until then, hope for the best, and learn how to bargain.

It works every time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's May 2007. DeVos STILL won't tell us what he would do.

Dick continues his campaign. Maybe someday he will tell us what his plan is.

Nah. Never happen.

A short shot from Gongwer that cracked me up-

In an email message sent across the state, former Republican gubernatorial candidate said Governor Jennifer Granholm has failed to demonstrate leadership in handling the state's ongoing fiscal problems. But his message also did not advocate any proposals to resolve the crisis.

Serious deja vu. What, no commercials?

And from one year ago today- this quote from Ari Adler-

Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, said Granholm's willingness to negotiate is just what the campaign to eliminate the SBT intended -- force a discussion of a new business tax.

"The only way to start taking it seriously is to show the alternative, which is a $2-billion hole in the state budget," Adler said.

The more things change...

Friday, May 25, 2007

The state budget shuffle continues

Wait a minute. We've heard this song before.

State lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm today came to a tentative budget deal for the current year that will avoid shutting down government, cutting per-pupil state aid or enacting a major tax increase.

Legislative leaders and the governor and key aides huddled behind closed doors all day today. The House approved the deal on a 69-37 vote, without debate, an hour after it was announced at about 6 p.m. The Senate is expected to follow suit this evening on the pact, to cut $317 million from the budget.

The way Albin spun it at 6PM- the Republicans will get the cuts that they already passed earlier in the Senate, and they didn't have to agree on anything for next year. While the details have yet to come out- he made it sound like the Democrats have rolled over, looking to protect their "vulnerable" members from having to do the right thing vote for a tax increase. At least for now.

Since Bishop isn't crying to the press about the governor or running off to pass more insane cuts, it appears that assessment is correct.

Nothing is finished yet, though.

Lawmakers will return to work next week to complete action on dealing with the deficit, which was estimated at $800 million.

So when the media says "budget deal", they really should say "partial budget deal" at this point.

Besides the cuts, we will borrow from the tobacco money- the word "securitization" was brought up by the AP.

Part of the solution for fixing the current year deficit will come from tapping the state's share of a national settlement with big tobacco companies.

Under the agreement, the Senate will drop its proposal to take $290 million from the 21st Century Job Fund to deal with the deficit.

Well, since both the AP and the Freep said that move was illegal in the first place, it's hard to see how it was considered a real threat.

The real threat appears to be lack of backbone from some House Democrats on increasing revenues. From yesterday-

House Democrats still haven't voted on a tax increase proposal, raising questions about whether there is enough support to pass any one of several options under consideration. House Speaker Andy Dillon, a Democrat from Redford, has said he doesn't want to take a vote until enough pieces of an overall agreement are in place to ensure it would also be approved by the Senate and by Granholm.

Sounds like a cop-out. Always did. And the fact that they were supposed to do it "this week", which became "Thursday", which became "Friday", and still didn't do it, says quite a bit.

The AP story tells of more accounting gimmicks. Bet Wall Street will be happy about that. They keep adding details, so check here for updates.

The deal also would delay the remaining half of August payments to universities and community colleges until October.

Cuts would hit the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Legislature and other state departments. There also would be a series of one-time fixes such as transferring money from special funds to help balance the budget.

To sum it up- they made some cuts, borrowed some money, transferred some more from "special funds" (whatever THAT means), didn't finish the job, and blew town for the holiday weekend.

That's probably a good thing. If this initial spin is correct, it looks like we will be flinching at every scare tactic that Mike Bishop throws in our face.

The Freep hints at this being a deal towards a tax increase for next year. While I pray that is accurate, I don't trust the Republicans to keep their agreements. The way they held the Merit Scholarship hostage comes to mind.

The deal is believed to be linked to a vote on an income tax increase for the 2008 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Details of what form that tax might take were not immediately known.

They also have more specific details on the cuts.

The administration calls this a "good night" for schools and health care, and while that is true, the major showdown over revenue is still to come. Keep the hope that whatever deal was struck today leads to adequate future funding for our state.

Or, we can continue to do this year after year after year...

This works on many levels right now...

"Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend

Somewhere along in the bitterness

And I would have stayed up with you all night

Had I known how to save a life"

Just a moment of honesty here- feeling intense frustration at having a gift and not being able to access it, of wanting to create like I used to and finding that ability is gone right now... and being surprised at the grief that causes.

Take nothing for granted. My only comfort is that this, too, shall pass.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No help for this fiscal year?

Are you kidding me?

Some House Democrats said Wednesday night they were working on a preliminary understanding that they would try to balance this fiscal year's budget without a tax increase. That would mean a higher rate would not kick in until at least Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

That way, we can put schools, cities and health care providers through all kinds of grief now, listen to the complaints and deal with the fallout for months, and then push a tax increase closer to an election year so it's fresh in the voter's minds! It's like getting the worst of both worlds! And, we get to roll right over for Mike Bishop! Won't that be swell?

Democrats could have owned this conversation months ago, but they have let Bishop and the Republicans dictate and delay their actions and rhetoric. Instead of proclaiming themselves the saviors of schools and cities and standing up for people, they hide behind "bipartisanship", as if the Republicans will reciprocate. When will they learn the lesson that you have to stand up to the bullies at some point?

Please tell me they have a better plan than this. Someone. Anyone.

Another version of the tax increase plan calls for it to take effect as early as July 1. That version would boost the current income tax rate of 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent. Yet another version calls for temporarily raising the income tax to 4.6 percent at a date to be determined.

In the long term, the House Democrats' proposal could include a graduated income tax plan that would require voter approval.

Another possible option does not involve the income tax, but instead would put a sales tax on some types of services such as entertainment.

Graduated sounds great, but the timing is too far off. Plus, it will drive the anti-tax crowd out in a big way during a very important election year. But, it still would be a good way to go in the long run.

Movement on the MBT sounds promising.

Also Wednesday, the House took a vote that soon could send competing plans to replace Michigan's main business tax to a bipartisan committee that would resolve differences with a proposal favored by majority Republicans in the Senate. The state's current business tax expires at the end of the year.

The House Democrats' latest version of a Single Business Tax replacement contains many of the same elements of a proposal passed by the chamber earlier this year. Democrats say the plan would give credits to companies that invest in Michigan and would lower tax rates for most businesses. It would bring in about $1.9 billion a year, roughly the same as the current business tax.

And if I'm not mistaken, simply replacing that money leaves us over a billion in the hole overall, and the Republican plan calls for more cuts. Any kind of compromise on the total revenue from that will leave us short, again, somewhere else. Or, maybe we can just keep pushing the debt into future years- which is exactly what the Republicans want us to do, and was part of their plan for balancing this year's shortfall.

Wow, sure glad we won the House back.

Have a great day everyone.

(And if you are wondering who got me fired up, it was this guy right here. I loves me some Russ. I realized I can't keep "taking one for the team" when the team plays like shit. Heh.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

House decides on income tax increase

This working poor person gives them the finger. But whatever. Just get it done.

From Gongwer, and nowhere else at this point-

A supplemental budget bill incorporating the budget cuts of an earlier measure still in a House-Senate conference committee was approved by the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday as the House prepared to work during the evening session on reforms that are part of the negotiations to resolve the budget crisis. The new supplemental (HB 4492) contains a tie-bar to HB 4500, which increases the income tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.6 percent.

No word on whether or not this is temporary- but my guess is that it is. We can have this fight all over again in the future- or maybe even next week.

The fact that these guys won't go for a permanent funding solution is very disturbing. Infuriating, even.

2% on services would have been a MUCH better deal for someone like me, and a services/sales tax increase was preferred by most Michigan citizens. But, hey, that would have required some thought and courage, something that is in very short supply amongst Michigan legislators of BOTH parties.

Cowards. All of 'em.

No, not the Governor. She had the right idea all along. Too bad her colleagues are more concerned with playing politics rather than doing the right thing for our state.

Bishop is still saying "no" to an increase for this year- but a crack has developed in the armor. Also from Gongwer-

And Mr. Bishop said he could sign a petition to recall a legislator who voted for a tax increase if that legislator acted irresponsibly and supported a tax hike before looking at any budget cuts. By that definition, Mr. Bishop said no Republican member of the 94th Legislature will have acted irresponsibly if he or she votes for a tax increase because they did look at other options first.

This might free some Pubs to behave like sane, rational people, even if Bishop himself does not. Which he won't, obviously.

Crunch time is here. Who will stand up for our state? We are going to find out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cover shot

Scott Sizemore

Scott Sizemore

Despite the phenomenal hits on this blog in the past two days that really stroke my ego, I find that I am way too tired to deal with Lansing tonight. So, here is a picture instead.

They are back to talking- keep your fingers crossed that something good happens. This bit of information was a bit disturbing and makes me wonder- what are the House Democrats doing?

Granholm said early Thursday that the House would pass a plan that day, but that idea was quickly dismissed by Democratic House leaders. Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said later Thursday there is a sense of urgency on budget issues but that the administration also supports efforts toward a bipartisan solution.

If there is a strategy there- I'm not seeing it. Bishop has been adamant on "cuts only", to the point of an illegal raid on the 21st Century Jobs Fund and other hack and slashes passed yesterday- what makes the Democrats think that he will agree to any kind of solution for this year that includes revenue?

Beats me.

Good luck everyone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bishop abandons budget talks, goes renegade

Bishop refuses to compromise and puts people and schools in jeopardy with his actions.

State budget talks were cancelled this afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who called on Gov. Jennifer Granholm and House Democrats to take action on an agreement to cut $337 million out of the deficit.

And this video from WOOD has Bishop directly blaming the Governor for backing out of this so-called "deal". Not the Democrats in general, just her. Mike really needs to make this personal for some reason.

What deal? Who knows. Bishop is real good at saying "no", but apparently has a problem when he hears it.

Mikey throws a fit and decides to waste more of the taxpayer's time.

Meanwhile, Democrats on a House-Senate conference committee rejected the bill that would cut the current year deficit through accounting shifts and some actual spending reductions. The Senate planned to work into the evening to fashion a new budget cut plan that is certain to be dismissed by Granholm and legislative Democrats.

"The Senate will not go home tonight until we have a solution," said Bishop, R-Rochester said.

Wait a minute here. The cuts on the table were already rejected, so Bishop decides to make more? In what world does that make any sense?

Total stunt. Republicans are going to pull the same maneuver they did before- make a bunch of horrific cuts and call their job done.

For some reason, Bishop feels the need every once in a while to explode and just act absolutely like a child. From Liz Boyd-

"We are disappointed that Sen. Bishop chose to cancel budget negotiations. We know how difficult this is. But we are close. We have reached a compromise on so much including budget cuts and reforms. But we need a comprehensive solution to the problem."

And Granholm came right out and threw the cards on the table in one gutsy move.

Granholm also stepped up the rhetoric today when she told the Michigan State Medical Society at a meeting in Lansing that unless the state increases revenues, access to Medicaid will be curbed and "people will die."

Once again- two different quotes here. The AP reads like this-

"If people do not have access to health care, particularly vulnerable people, then certainly lives are being put in jeopardy," Granholm told reporters afterward.

Telling it like it is.

As I write this at 5:49PM- the Senate is busy wasting your time and your dime on something that has no chance of succeeding, and Bishop knows it, and is doing it anyway.

Your Michigan Republican Party in action, acting out of spite alone and obstructing progress for everyone.

But what else is new.

UPDATE 6:50PM- Well, that didn't take long. The Pubs decided to take money that has already been spent? Now I'm really confused.

Republicans said their new plan, approved along party lines, would fill the budget hole without a tax increase. Democrats criticized the GOP plan for taking nearly $300 million from a new state investment fund for job creation.

"It's too bad the Republican majority refuses to listen to the public and their wishes," said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek. "These bills are irresponsible. They're reckless."

But Republicans said the 21st Century Jobs money would be better spent on avoiding deeper per-pupil cuts to education.

Why do Republicans hate jobs?

Besides, they just accused Bob Kleine of spending all of this fund. From May 11th-

The partisan bickering continued when Republicans who control the Senate said they were "outraged" that state Treasurer Robert Kleine on Tuesday successfully urged an administrative board to allocate remaining money in the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund. Kleine reportedly warned that the Legislature might take the money to help balance the budget.

"We can't resolve the issues of this economy by spending," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, calling Kleine's action "blatantly irresponsible."

Hope they got the checks in the mail.

Doesn't matter, the House and the Guv won't go for it, anyway.

Whew! Quite the day in Lansing today... and I feel like I'm just reacting, not really writing at this point. Too hard to keep up. But there you have it...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hey Mikey. Eat this.

From the mailbox-

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Speaker Andy Dillon today said they are committed to protecting kids and schools from draconian budget cuts this late in the school year and urged Senate Republicans to continue working on a comprehensive solution to the budget crisis facing the state.


“We are committed to a comprehensive solution that guarantees long-term stability for our state,” Granholm and Dillon added. “We are not willing to sign on to a three-day solution that puts us back to square-one on Friday. We encourage Senator Bishop to meet with us in the morning, as scheduled, and to continue meeting until a resolution is reached.”

There was no deal, although Bishop still says there was.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, the top Republican at the Capitol, had said the GOP and Democrats could sign an agreement at a conference committee held late Tuesday. But he adjourned the meeting because no agreement was reached.

"We had a deal," Bishop said.

Who is this "we"? And a deal on what?

Apparently the "deal" was that we give up everything to the Republicans now, and then they can jack us around again on next year's budget, too.

Uh, yeah, sounds like a great deal, Senator.

A source familiar with negotiations said Granholm asked Bishop to agree to a $1.8 billion tax increase for the budget year that starts Oct. 1 or she wouldn't sign off on a cuts-only solution to this year's budget. Bishop said no thanks, according to the source.

"We continue to push for a reasonable solution to our budget crisis that includes cuts, government reform, and revenue. We cannot cut our way out of this crisis, and we must make Michigan competitive, we must invest in the things that make Michigan great," Granholm and House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, said in a joint statement.

Asked whether the governor attempted to extract a promise from him to agree to a tax increase next year in exchange for a deal on cuts for the current year, Bishop said: "That was part of an internal discussion."

But Bishop said after the conference committee meeting: "I simply refuse to be held hostage to a threat from the governor who has said she can't allow her members to sign this report because she can't get a tax increase."

And it looks like Granholm simply refuses to let our state be held hostage by a lying punk like Bishop.


Stick to your guns, people.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bishop says budget deal reached

... but no confirmation from the Democrats. From the Detroit News-

LANSING -- Legislative leaders have reached agreement on balancing this year's state budget that doesn't raise taxes but cuts the state aid that schools had expected by $36 per student, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said today.

Bishop, R-Rochester, did not comment on other details or cuts contained in the budget agreement. But aides said most of the cutbacks approved by the Senate in March are in the accord. Those cuts included a 10 percent or $40 million reduction in revenue sharing with local governments, as well as reductions in community health programs, arts and cultural grants, and the Legislature's own spending.

Sounds like the Dems might have caved, but then again this is only one side of the story.

Matt Marsden, a spokesman for Bishop, said the deal was struck between Senate Republicans and House Democrats. But House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, declined to confirm that an agreement has been reached.

"The Speaker does not want to negotiate in the press. Discussions on resolving Michigan's budget crisis are ongoing," said Dan Farough, spokesman for Dillon.

Yes, God forbid that Dillon would want to get his two six cents into the press. Better to let Bishop get all the ink. That way, only Republican talking points get out to the public, and the Democrats are never heard from.

Maybe we should send Andy to the Craig DeRoche School of Media Relations- Craig never met a camera he didn't like.

The AP confirms this story, too, but they add that this "agreement" doesn't take into account the new numbers that will come out later this week.

But fixing the deficit in the budget year that ends Sept. 30 with spending cuts doesn't factor in the likelihood that state government economists on Friday will again lower their revenue projections because of Michigan's poor economy.

Mitch Bean, director of the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency, estimated Monday that the state's school aid fund will fall another $80 million to $140 million short of earlier projections. The general fund, which pays for prisons, universities and other programs, could fall short by an extra $50 million to $100 million, Bean said.

"We won’t think about that now. We'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!", said the Republicans.

Bishop spokesman Matt Marsden acknowledged that a budget shortfall could re-emerge after Friday's revenue-estimating conference.

"It's possible. But we're dealing with the problems that are directly in front of us right now," he said. "We will cross that bridge when we get to it."

Bishop scheduled a conference committee meeting for Tuesday afternoon to sign an agreement. Both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-led House have approved spending cuts, though they have clashed over cutting state payments to schools and to local communities for services such as police and fire.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE 8:37PM: Now we have Granholm and Dillon denying a deal has been reached.

In a joint statement, Granholm and Dillon noted that progress had been made but said no deal had been struck.

"No agreements have been reached on the 2007 general fund or School Aid fund budgets," they said, including whether to cut funding for K-12 schools.

At ease, soldier. Looks like Bishop just couldn't wait to run to the press and get his side of the story out. Wonder why Dillon let Mike's statement slide in the first place.

UPDATE 2 5:03AM: Bishop's office continues to insist that an agreement has been reached.

Matt Marsden, a spokesman for Bishop, told of the statement by Granholm and Dillon, insisted that there is indeed an agreement. "We're not real clear what they're referring to when they say there is no deal."

Why would they do that? Probably so they say this...

"We intend to sign the conference committee report as early as (Tuesday) that will balance the 2007 budget without a tax increase on Michigan citizens," Bishop said in a statement.

... even though the budget will be out of balance again as early as this Friday.

Is seems as if the Republicans are lying about this agreement so they can continue to claim they balanced the budget without raising taxes (they haven't) and put the blame back on Granholm and the Democrats if this falls through. Or, someone did agree to something without the backing of someone else and Bishop ran with it.

Something strange going on here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Day at 5th3rd

A special Mother's Day at the ballpark.

Tom Brookens Mother's Day

Manager Tom Brookens

COMSTOCK PARK -- Every Mother's Day, West Michigan Whitecaps manager Tom Brookens experiences a wide range of emotions.

He smiles at the thought of his mom.

It was Margaret Brookens, who, regardless of the outcome, approached her son after innumerable sandlot baseball games in his childhood and never once failed to offer unconditional love and support to him.

"It was tough to get a compliment from my dad. He just didn't express himself in that way," said Brookens, who grew up on a dairy farm in rural Fayetteville, Pa. "My mom was always the one to come up to me afterward and say, 'Nice game!' She was very inspirational. That meant a lot to me."

It's also why he still misses her so much.

There's a whisper of sadness in the 53-year-old Brookens while recalling some fond memories of his mom before she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.

His mom died at age 63 from the disease.

The Whitecaps will wear pink jerseys to support breast cancer awareness during their 2 p.m. contest at Fifth Third Ballpark this afternoon.

His mom never got to see him help the Detroit Tigers win the 1984 World Series championship, however, nor finish his career with the Yankees.

"I got a call in spring training with the Tigers in 1982. She wasn't doing well. I left for a while to see her at the hospital," he said. "She'd had a breast removed, gone into remission, then the cancer came back in other parts of her body. I later returned to camp, but it wasn't much longer after that when she died."

He'll wear his pink jersey with pride this afternoon.

"I think it's great," Brookens said of raising awareness for breast cancer research through the simple gesture of wearing pink-sleeved uniform tops.

"Hey, let's face it: We're just ballplayers, but why can't a ballclub support this cause?," he added. "This cancer is so devastating for so many families."


Sea of Pink

Whitecaps sign autographs before the game.

Brookens' Whitecaps beat the Loons this afternoon, 12-5.

Skelton Clears the Bases

James Skelton clears the bases with this double.

COMSTOCK PARK – James Skelton went 4-for-5 with two doubles, including a three-run double to cap a 6-run second inning as the Whitecaps smashed Great Lakes, 12-5.

Every position player in the Whitecaps starting lineup scored as the ‘Caps posted season highs in runs and hits (16).

Laster Triple

Jeramy Laster slides in with a triple.

It was a beautiful day. More pictures can be found here.

Mother's Day Rose

For my friend Marybeth, who died in 2005 at age 42 from breast cancer. I still miss you so.

Hope every Mom out there had a Happy Mother's Day. I know my Mom did. She left town. ;-)

Thanks for the camera Mom. It's way cool.

Old Tigers Never Die...

Brookens & Parrish Ground Rules

Tom Brookens and Lance Parrish discuss the ground rules at 5th3rd Ballpark

... they end up managing in the Midwest League.

COMSTOCK PARK -- Old friends reunited.

Tom Brookens and Lance Parrish hadn't shared the same baseball field in more than two decades, but it seemed like old times when the former Detroit Tigers teammates and members of the 1984 World Series champions exchanged lineup cards at home plate before Saturday night's game at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The reunion marked their first meeting as minor-league managers, with Parrish guiding the Great Lakes Loons to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps in front of 7,562 fans.

I will have more pictures later today- click here for a few more from last night.


327 to right field

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sunset at Riverside Park

Sunset at Riverside

Caught this on the way home from the game last night...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Gorkys Tries for Third

Gorkys Hernandez

He was tagged out.

Beautiful day at the ballpark.

Beautiful morning in the news- the Senate Republicans are now in the minority on fixing the budget crisis.

Nearly two of three Michigan residents responding to a newspaper survey said the state should raise taxes and cut spending simultaneously to fix the state's budget crisis.

The survey showed 64 percent of respondents thought the state should raise taxes while also reducing spending. Another 23 percent favored only budget cuts, while 6 percent supported only tax increases and 7 percent didn't know.

More of those polled favored a higher sales tax than an income tax increase, according to the survey published in Monday editions of The Detroit News.

Service taxes. Where have I heard that before...

Asked to choose between extending the sales tax to services and raising the state income tax, 51 percent of voters preferred taxing services, 30 percent favored a higher income tax and 11 percent said they opposed any tax boost. Eight percent were undecided.

Hmmm. Looks like someone had it right in the first place, a long time ago.

Democrats have no excuse now. Stop being held hostage to the 23%, and let's get this done.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Only 600 million? Read the fine print

A little fact about the Senate Republican business tax cut that has been pretty much overlooked by everyone.

The expiring Single Business Tax raises $1.9 billion in state revenue. The Senate plan would generate $1.43 billion. A phased-in reduction in the personal property tax on business equipment would result in a $100 million tax cut next year and a larger break in future years.

Senator Switalski, yesterday-

The budgets we have been voting on and approving in Appropriations represent higher levels of spending over the current fiscal year '07 level. As we all know, the current budget is about a billion dollars in the hole. Now the majority is offering an SBT replacement plan today that cuts revenue by $500 million--according to the Senate Fiscal Agency--and also a PPT cut that starts at $100 million and grows to maybe $700 million, and a flurry of other recent amendments that cut bank taxes and other credits and add more red ink. In fact, Mr.President, I was very glad to see us stop the amendments because every time we did one, we lost more money.

So a reasonable person, like some nice young woman on Wall Street might ask, "Well, how does Michigan plan to pay for fiscal year '08 budgets that are higher than '07 levels, when '07 was a billion dollars in the hole and the Senate fixed the SBT problem by cutting another billion in revenue?"

Indeed. And while everyone is jumping up and down about the House plan, nobody seems to realize that simply replacing the SBT dollar for dollar is not going to take care of the problem.

We need more money. Right now. A little blip on MIRS tells us that the House Dems are going to release a plan to raise the income tax level back to 4.6 percent, with a sunset provision.

House Appropriations Committee Chair George CUSHINGBERRY (D-Detroit) gave notice today of a motion to discharge his bill (HB 4500) that would "reinstate" the state's income tax rate at 4.6 percent until 2012. The rate is currently 3.9 percent and would return to that rate after 2012.

Will this generate enough revenue? I honestly don't know, and I don't have the time to find out. But I do know that it is well past time for the Democrats to step up and do the right thing here. (Senate Dems excluded. They totally rock.)

If they don't make a move to raise revenue and stand up for our state, then they are just as culpable as the Republicans for the destruction of our schools and quality of life.

Keep your fingers crossed they finally get it right.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bishop tries to kill tax plan, insists on more cuts

Apparently Mike wants this state to collapse. Why? Because then he can turn around and say, "Democrats can't lead" and get major pats on the back from the anti-tax extremists that run the Republican party.

If you wonder why there is no progress in Lansing, look no further.

The House on Wednesday passed a new tax setup for Michigan businesses, but without the overwhelming backing its sponsors expected.

In fact, the action triggered more partisan acrimony in Lansing.

Why was there partisan acrimony on a plan that seemed to have widespread support? Someone called a meeting.

"This is the first step toward improving Michigan's business climate," Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, head of the House Tax Policy Committee, said after his committee approved the bill on a 13-2 bipartisan vote Wednesday morning.

But the bill drew only five Republican votes on the House floor. Democrats said an initial head count had more than 30 Republicans backing the tax package, but support fell off due to "disgusting partisan politics," Bieda said.


House Democrats said Republican support collapsed after a visit to the House GOP's closed caucus meeting by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. Republicans control the Senate.

"It smells of the Senate Majority Leader fighting for control instead of doing the right thing," said Rep. Paul Condino, D-Southfield.

Bishop said earlier in the day that the issue eventually will be decided in a joint House-Senate conference committee. His spokesman, Matt Marsden, said the purpose of Bishop's visit to the caucus was to explain the Senate Republicans' tax plan, not to persuade House Republicans to vote against the Democrats' version.

Right. That was his only purpose in the visit. Those House Republicans just didn't have a clue before he came over. That sentiment is a bit insulting to the House Pubs, actually.

The Senate plan includes more tax cuts. Maybe we can shut down a few more schools.

But the Republican-controlled Senate hasn't signed onto the plan. It was scheduled to vote today on its own SBT replacement plan, which provides a net tax cut for business in the $600 million range.

So, not only is Bishop still running around calling the governor names, pushing that wedge to divide Democrats, he is now trying to scuttle any deal that would bring us progress.

Makes you miss Ken Sikkema, doesn't it. What a thought.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

House passes new business tax

They finally did something! Woot!

Gee, now I feel bad for yelling at them this morning... (not really)

LANSING -- Michigan moved closer to an entirely new business tax setup today when the House passed a replacement plan for the expiring Single Business Tax.

On a 61-48 vote, the House approved the Michigan Business Tax, a plan crafted by House Democrats that would replace the $1.9 billion SBT that expires at the end of this year.

The new plan would tax business income and net worth, shift tax liability to out-of-state firms, slash state levies on business equipment and provide tax credits for companies that create jobs, build plants and other facilities or conduct research in Michigan.

And file this under the "payback is a bitch" department...

House Republicans objected to a vote being taken on the floor today without explanation of the bill or debate.

Hmmm. Where have I heard that before... oh, yeah. I remember now. Seems Mr. Bishop set a precedent when the Republicans did the same thing just recently. That's too bad.

Many groups found out details of the proposal for the first time Thursday night, when GOP Senate leaders made the cuts public in a supplemental budget bill that was quickly rammed through the Senate.

Senate Democrats had little opportunity to debate the cuts, since Republicans called for a vote on the measure soon after Democrats learned what the bill entailed.

So far, still no word on revenue increases... tick, tick, tick...

Further tales of the Do-Nothing Legislature

Ask yourself, what have these guys accomplished this year? Can you name anything significant?

If you want further proof that they are only concerned about their own careers rather than doing what is right for the public, you only have to look at this one symptom of the entire disease.


They won't even protect you from robo-calls, something that everyone hates.

So, not only are they letting the state careen towards fiscal disaster, they want the ability to blame their opponents for it with numerous annoying phone calls during the next election. Won't that be fun?

Lawmakers have been reluctant to regulate the phone calls very strictly because they are incredibly cheap -- about five cents a call -- and give politicians the ability to respond quickly when attacked.

State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, and his Democratic and Republican opponents used the calls constantly during the contentious primary and general election races last year. But Pappageorge said he would sign up for a do-not-call list if it were available.

"I don't like robo-calls, and I certainly don't like the anonymity currently allowed," Pappageorge said last week. "But the closer you get to the election, it's the only option left."

Sure. The Republicans want to be able to blame the Democrats for the consequences of what is happening now. Given that they have now bipartisan cover for the state's fiscal crisis, it can and will be used against the Dems next year.

Why, they have even been known to put the faces of tax cut victims on posters and blame the people in power for their demise. Have we forgotten that lesson, people? Do you think that you will escape it if it happens in your district?

There will be a phone call to remind you.

State Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Grand Rapids, introduced a bill that would create a do-not-call list, but it was rewritten to merely define a robo-call.

"I still think there is more to be done and I plan to reintroduce the bill," Hardiman said. "I know some don't want the legislation to be introduced, but it just makes basic sense."

State Sen. Michelle McManus, a Lake Leelenau Republican who chairs the Senate's Campaign and Election Oversight Committee, said she wants to hold statewide hearings to see if robo-calls need to be addressed more strictly.

"We want to be very deliberative," she said. "We need to keep the legislation very, very narrow."

I'll bet you do. It's all about you, isn't it. Never mind what the public wants and needs.

It becomes more apparent everyday.