Saturday, June 30, 2007

Freep: Don't play hostage with the state



I really can't add anything to this. Go read the whole thing.



State Senate Republicans are trying to hold Michigan hostage. How else to explain issuing a list of demands to be met before they will vote on any tax increase proposals?



Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop ought to stop making demands and start dealing with reality. The state is hurting and, by extension, so is every university, school district, local government and service agency that depends on money from Lansing. A realistic state budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 must be enacted as soon as possible. That's going to require some give and take -- not demands and refusals and a lot of primping for the anti-tax crowd in advance of the 2008 elections.



Bishop's demands are particularly silly given that, at the beginning of the week, he was insisting that Gov. Jennifer Granholm could not force the Legislature to do anything. Just days later, he's trying to force the governor and the Democratric-controlled House to do things by threatening to withhold Senate action.



I believe that when Dillon didn't back up his team on the agreement, that gave Bishop the green light to go ahead and make his demands.



Looks like he overplayed his hand. Oops.



Glad the Freep sees it the same way I did.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Michigan lawmakers cut back vacation, Granholm asks for pay concession



Major shift in the universe today.



Alright, what's going on here? Everybody have a little too much champagne last night? ;-)



Lawmakers begin a one-week summer break next week, scaled back from a two-week recess they originally planned.



Good for them. With the 4th falling on a Wednesday, next week is shot anyway- so, this is about all we really can ask them to do.



The battle over the state employee raises begins.



Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester issued a statement Thursday that said the Senate won't vote to raise taxes unless the governor solicits a give-back from state employees, who are in line to receive 2 percent pay hikes in each of the next two years.



Not solicits. He demanded she do it.



Does anyone find it odd that the Republicans screech and howl about "suffering Michigan families" when it comes to taxes, but yet they don't seem to care about the families of state employees? Or the caregivers of people on Medicaid? Or the low income people who should forfeit a tax credit?



Why is that?



Granholm fired back that the Legislature had the hammer to rescind the pay increases within 60 days of the negotiated agreement with state employees but they failed to do that.



"The constitution provides a way to stop those increases through the Legislature, but they did not even vote," Granholm said. "There's no way for the governor to do it unilaterally."



And then the truth comes out.



Bishop acknowledged to reporters that Granholm cannot solely cancel pay raises but urged her to try and renegotiate existing contracts, particularly with corrections officers who are paid more than the national average, he said. Boyd said the administration will ask for "additional reforms" when it negotiates the next round of contracts with employees.



Moving on, Granholm called for lawmakers to take a 5% cut in pay.



In a Capitol press conference, Granholm said each year she returns 5% of her $177,000 salary after taxes, and that lawmakers should do the same before they demand state employees to give more wage concessions.



Thought they already did that- but no matter. It would be a goodwill gesture.



Matter of fact, if they are really serious about "government savings", maybe they should consider a steeper cut. Show us how much you care, legislators. C'mon. Step up to the plate.



Do I hear 10%? Maybe 15%?



Republicans keep harping on the phrase "neighboring states"; how the people on assistance should receive the same rates and benefits as those in the states around us.



If that is their criteria, then it is only fair that they do the same, right?



According to USA today- here are the yearly salaries of legislators in neighboring states.



Ohio- $58,933


Illinois- $57,619


Wisconsin- $47,413



And, is this for real? Indiana- $11,600 per year.



Compare to Michigan- $79,650



So, what say you, legislators? Going to get in line with our "neighboring states", as you ask the poorest amongst us to do?



We will be waiting for your answer. Have a swell vacation.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

State lawmakers finalize MBT



OK. I've been beating on them so much I guess I have to congratulate them when they finally do something good.



Congratulations everyone!



State lawmakers on Thursday completed a replacement plan for Michigan's main business tax.



The Republican-led Senate voted 32-3 for the main bill detailing the new Michigan Business Tax, while the Democrat-led House approved it by a 75-34 vote. The bill now goes to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who was in the House chamber and applauding with other Democrats when the final vote was announced.



Must feel great to finally have this done after a year of frustration and headaches. Good on you Governor. Very happy for you tonight.



Tricia isn't happy though. Uh-oh.



But Tricia Kinley of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce doubted whether the replacement plan would be revenue neutral, adding there could be "backdoor tax increases on job providers."



"We have to tell our members it just doesn't meet the standards they were expecting," Kinley said.



Let the lobbying begin. I'm sure there will be changes as time goes on, just like there was with the SBT. But for now, most businesses will see some tax relief.



House Democrats and Senate Republicans say the plan will reduce tax liability for more than 70 percent of Michigan businesses. Tax credits could be available for several businesses including large sports complexes, such Michigan International Speedway and the Palace of Auburn Hills, and for large Michigan-based retailers such as Meijer.



The agreement includes incentives that reward businesses for investing in Michigan and creating jobs, with out-of-state companies that have sales in Michigan paying more taxes. The bill could help domestic automakers and large manufacturers by lowering personal property taxes on machinery and equipment by about two-thirds.



The new tax is based on a company's income and modified gross receipts. It also includes provisions aimed at helping small firms grow.



Every penny Dick!



Two down, one big one to go...

Senate Republicans release list of demands



More of what the Republicans call "working together"- demanding that your agenda be passed and people be sacrificed.



I can think of another group of folks who operate in the same way. Can you?



From the AP-



The top Republican in the state Legislature on Thursday said he will not allow a vote on a tax increase until Gov. Jennifer Granholm halts a pay raise that state employees are scheduled to get in September.



Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, also said Michigan should freeze tax breaks for low-income workers that are set to take effect in 2008.



More to come, I'm sure. Lots more.



Damn. I hate being right all the time. I really do.

It's all about the Legislature



Not you. Them.



Today's Bonehead Statement award goes to Michael Sak. Watch him play right into the GOP's hand.



State Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, said he "respectfully disagrees" with Granholm.



"With all due respect to the governor, the Legislature is a separate branch of government," he said, adding there is enough time to complete the next fiscal year budget before it begins Sept. 30.



With all due respect to Mr. Sak, this isn't about the governor, although Mike Bishop and the Republicans sure would like it be. That is why he went screaming to the media once again about that big bully in the governor's office.



It is a diversion. And you all fall for it. Again.



With this statement, Mr. Sak, you have just reinforced and rewarded what Bishop does every. single. time. you guys want to dodge your responsibility to the people of this state.



This, Mr. Sak, is about your constituents. This is about your schools. Your cities. All these people you have left hanging, all these lives in the balance, waiting for you to do your job.



You think that it is OK to drag this out until Sept. 30th? Really?



That is quite amazing.



"Just because you're not in session doesn't mean you're not working," he said. "We are ongoing. We are continuing to work."



Another Republican talking point.



OK, Mike. Tell you what. When you get back, why don't you provide us a list of all the things you have accomplished on your vacation then. Let's see the details of what "work" you got done. Sound good?



Didn't think so.



A cheer for Robert Dean.



But State Rep. Robert Dean, a freshman Democrat from Grand Rapids, agrees with Granholm.



"It should have been done. There have been some agreements made and there have been some agreements broken," he said. "Until those guys get together on the top, we can't vote on it."



Dean is ready to vote. Has been for awhile. Waiting on the Democratic leadership of the House, which, by the way, Sak is a part of.



That should explain everything.



And here's Bill Hardiman, also missing the point of what this is all about. He, too, turns it on the governor, and ignores the people.



Remember, it's all about them. Not you.



"Of course, we want to get the budget done and that means all of us working together, and her taking unwarranted shots at the Legislature doesn't help that," state Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, said this morning.



All of us working together?



Is that when the Republicans change the rules of the Senate and have the audacity and arrogance to come right out and admit that it was only to benefit them?



Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the rule change is in the GOP's best interest.



"When you're in the majority, you have a right to change the rules," Marsden said.



Right out of the George Bush playbook. If you don't like they way the game is played, you just use your power to change the rules.



That is the Republican definition of "working together".



You would think the Democrats would have learned this lesson by now. You would also think that the media would point these things out, but they, too, fail to see the point and get caught up in the drama.



And that, my friends, is why we are where we are today.



Nationwide, statewide, it doesn't matter.



I'm with Albin. (God help me) Go on vacation then. Please. Just go.



Maybe you need some time to remember just exactly who it is you are working for.



Because at this point, it sure as hell isn't the people of the state of Michigan.

Perfect World - Indigo Girls

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And the truth comes out...



House Democrats admit what has been whispered all along.



Well, at least Cushingberry did. He has a bit of a mouth on him.



Canceling vacations to force action on the tax hikes would be a waste of time now, Cushingberry said, because Democrats don't have the votes to pass a tax hike anyway.



"I don't know what the point is," he said.



Here's a clue.



First of all, this is not just "tax hikes", but thanks for playing right into the Republican rhetoric.



The point is, George, the Republicans know that the House Democrats don't have the votes and are now exploiting that for all they can get.



And, because the House Democrats lack the courage to take swift and decisive action, the opposition grows stronger and bolder every day. Democratic ideals are taking a beating.



Any and every target the Republicans ever dreamed of, from the unions, to the poor, to the working class of this state, you name it, are now being served up in Senate bills within hours of any action the governor takes to try to motivate you guys to do your job.



She leads, the Senate Republicans immediately start calling her and her administration names in the press, and then they run back to the chamber and pass legislation that has no chance of approval in the House. This has happened time and time again this year. It happened again yesterday.



The Senate began voting mostly along party lines for government changes they say are a must if they're to support a tax increase.



Waste of time? On one hand, yes, it is. But on the other, by doing these things, they rally their supporters and solidify their "bargaining" position with every step they take.



They actually do something to further their agenda.



The governor, fellow Democrats, and the citizens of this state end up paying the price.



The House Democrats have "no comment", except to say that they need bipartisan approval for all of their plans.



Dillon, who says productive negotiations are ongoing, wants a broad bipartisan agreement on the budget and the taxes to fund it so his members don't become sitting ducks in 2008, or sooner through threatened recall campaigns.



Ask yourself why the Republicans have no fear of this; after all, their position on taxes is now in the minority. You don't see them waiting for bipartisan support. Ever.



Makes you wonder, doesn't it?



Big enough clue for you guys? Why aren't you seeing this pattern?



Kudos to the governor for starting to point this out. It can't be easy for her to have to whip her own party, the party that rode to power on her coattails, but apparently it must be done.



In her strongest statement this year on the budget -- in part because she's criticizing fellow Democrats -- Granholm said failing to act breaks faith "with the citizens who pay our salaries and rightfully expect work to come before pleasure. Vacation is not an option until our work is done."



No, vacation comes first, replied Mike and Andy. The statement from Dillon-



House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, declined to discuss the subject Tuesday, issuing a statement through a spokesman that he didn't want to "comment on ongoing negotiations. We're not going to stop working until the budget crisis is resolved," Dillon said.



We won't stop working, but we will go on vacation. Doesn't make much sense. They claim that the leaders will be available, but do you think anything will actually get done? Of course not. So the response to Granholm's request-



Neither leader said Tuesday they intended to comply.



Didn't think so, but it was a nice try.



And her point has been made.



Another point that should be made is that the Senate Democrats are standing up. Compare and contrast these statements with the one who has "no comment".



Watch the video from Mark Schauer on the legislation the Republicans rammed through the Senate-



But what we have before us is not a serious effort to comprehensively solve our budget crisis. Unfortunately, it's a knee-jerk reaction to being told that we should do the job that we've been sent here to do. We can work out a real solution that includes reforms and revenues, and we can get it done this week. We are a full-time Legislature after all. But this my-way-or-the-highway legislating isn't the solution and it needs to stop.



And this statement from Gretchen Whitmer, who is always standing up on the floor and speaking her mind, somebody please get this woman some more press soon, 'cause she's really, really good-



Instead, today you are discharging bills in a retaliatory manner that doesn't get us any closer to a solution. We had a deal--a deal that envisioned compromise on both sides--but today you've made it clear that your word doesn't count anymore inside the Senate than it does outside of it. We agreed to address reforms, but these are not reforms. These are purely political posturing intended to paint Democrats as unwilling to look at changes. That's just not true. I've told the sponsor, the good Senator from the 30th District, that there are many of us who are willing and ready and open to work on these very reforms as part of the solution.



I don't know about you, but if we break for summer without solving the long-term problems facing our constituents, I'm not going to have a relaxing vacation. You may be able to take a nap in a hammock while Michigan's working class are stuck with their hand out, but I can't. You might be able to tan on the beach while passing policies that burn Michigan citizens, but I won't. And you might be willing to take a dip in the pool while leaving Michigan drowning in debt, but I absolutely will not stand for it.



Watch the video of Whitmer's statement here.



Love those fightin' Senate Dems.



We can only dream of what could be accomplished if we saw that kind of action in the House.



Any way we can get you guys to switch sides? No?



Well, maybe we should consider that in the next election then. There has to be people out there willing to fight for their leader, their colleagues, their party, and their fellow citizens.



There has to be.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Granholm throws rock at legislators, crowd cheers



OK, it wasn't a rock. It was a letter.



Darn.



Gov. Jennifer Granholm, in a confidential letter to legislative leaders that arrived today, strongly urged them to cancel the two-week summer break slated to start next week and remain in town to address the state's growing budget deficit, in part by raising $1.5 billion in new taxes.



Cue the Drama Club.



"The Senate will not be bullied into making rash decisions that will affect Michigan for decades to come," said spokesman Matt Marsden, who said the break will proceed as planned.



Geez, Matt. Overreact much? Decades to come? Or until next year when we get to do this dance all over again?



Granholm is such a bully. Asking them to do their jobs. How horrible is that. Especially since she's so "disengaged" and all.



You guys really need to settle on what names you are going to call her, because you are all over the board at this point.



Next, they basically said she's lying.



Granholm's letter also said there was an agreement to increase the sales tax from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent and to expand the state sales tax to services currently exempt.



"That's completely false," Marsden said. "How do we know how much we need to raise if we don't know how much can be saved through the reforms the Senate is pursuing?"



And from Bishop.



"There's not any truth in the letter," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told reporters. "There was no agreement, nothing close to an agreement. For her to suggest otherwise is just an outright mistruth."



Really? Nothing even close? They just rolled right over for everything you wanted? Wonder why you didn't crow about that at the time, Mike.



Cue Liz Boyd.



Liz Boyd, press secretary to the governor, said the legislative leaders all signed onto the agreement -- including new taxes -- in late May when an agreement was announced to plug an $800 million hole in the current budget. She said with a shortfall of at least $1.6 billion in the budget year starting Oct. 1, the governor would never have agreed to a current year budget fix that didn't also include actions to deal with the upcoming budget problem.



Seems right. A certain blogger even said so back in May, citing numerous press articles. Peter Luke said it just recently, too. Gongwer said it just last week.



So, how did all these people come to this conclusion that the Republicans now claim is "completely false"?



Yeah. Right. We're all just crazy.



Or perhaps it's the Republicans now doing the lying, trying to drag this on for as long as they possibly can. That explains the overreaction from Marsden.



It also seems that there were three people involved here.



Mr. Dillon, would you care to comment? Was there a deal or not?



Andy? Hello?



Going to back up your governor? Going to back up your party? Or are you going to sell us all down the river for your Republican friends?



Stay tuned...



UPDATE: From MIRS (sub only) tonight- another witness, John Cherry. Forgot that she sent him in to deal with Bishop.



"I've been negotiating reforms for three weeks now, and now I read in MIRS this morning that the Senate is going to spend the summer putting a list of reforms together," Cherry said. "It makes me wonder what I've been negotiating on for the last three weeks. It makes me wonder how disingenuous this whole process has been."



And on the agreement, in a teleconference with reporters-



I kind of want to reiterate that the agreement is as she described it and I clearly want to be available to you for questions if you have them.



And from the AP- we finally get this from Dillon.

A spokesman for Dillon said he won't comment on ongoing negotiations.



You're a real pal, Andy. Thanks for all your support.



So. Is it possible to remove him as House Leader? How do we go about doing that?

Budget? Vacation! Schools left in limbo by legislature's inaction



Cancel that July 1st deadline on the budget. I guess it's a little too much to expect that these guys get their job done. They have another vacation coming up. Besides, we can push this right up to Sept. 30th if we want. Who cares if other people can't make their plans?



State law requires school districts to have their budget in place by June 30 - the end of the week. That's a problem, because the state budget for next fiscal year isn't done, and may not be for another 90 days.



90 days? Sounds about right. They left business up in the air for a year, and it took them five months to take care of the shortfall on '07. Why should the public schools expect any different this time around? Right back into the fire with you!



The Grand Rapids Public Schools will wipe out their contingency funds. Makes you wonder what the smaller districts who might not have those resources are doing.



GRPS has around $10 million in their "rainy day" fund, but they're planning on spending more than 80 percent of that to pay for the next school year. The problem is, when the next fiscal year rolls around, the fund balance will be less than $2 million and the school is not guaranteed any windfall from the state.



Apparently we are waiting on the list of demands from Mike Bishop, who wants to push this into August. From MIRS, subscription only so I can't link, and pretty much gossip, but that is all we have to go on for now, comes this-



Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester) seems to be anticipating the nuts and bolts of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget coming to a head in August. Meanwhile, word has it that House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) is now in a mood to wait and see what Bishop's reform proposals are before pushing ahead with any steps toward a tax hike.



This source said that Dillon has come around to the belief that pushing a tax hike without knowing specifically what Bishop wants could well prove to be a "losing" political game for the House Democrats.



Sure. It can be just like budget '07. Letting the Republicans call the shots went so well. We can push this right up to the deadline so we are forced into making bad decisions like selling our future tobacco money for 50¢ on the dollar. Or maybe taking another whack at higher education, an act which produced huge tuition increases at colleges across the state. That's called a back door tax increase, friends and neighbors. Or how about just pushing the debt into '09? Delay those payments and call it "reform".



Or maybe we can just get that tax increase closer to that election year.... and it will be used against the Democrats then.



Losing political game? You guys checked the mood of the electorate lately?





P.S.- yes, I've tipped right back over into "shrill" again. Hard not to for anyone who is paying attention.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't want to raise taxes? Let's see the alternative



The Detroit News had an interesting bit of information yesterday about the upcoming showdown on the budget-



Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has proposed $1.8 billion in cuts and reforms, which would allow the budget to be balanced without a tax hike.



He has? Where? Why aren't the Republicans out touting this miraculous idea? Why hasn't the Senate rammed a vote through and called their job done, as they did before?



Because even the Detroit News thinks it's a bad idea. And that is saying something.



While that ultimately may not be the most practical solution, there must be a point between his position and the governor's that will work for Michigan.



The Detroit News just conceded a tax increase. Did you get that? The News. Tax increase.



Toto, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.



The News goes on the insist that we look at "reforms" first, which is turning into code for "throw the working people and the poor under the bus", especially if those people are huge voting blocs of Democratic supporters.



Among the reforms Bishop is offering is the much-talked-about revamping of school teacher health care benefits, which would save $225 million a year.



There seems to be agreement that benefits need to be looked at- but suddenly what was the cause of all of our ills in the eyes of the Republicans and the Detroit News only adds up to $225 million.



For the sake of argument, let's play along. Around $1.6 billion to go.



Bishop also proposes other necessary measures, including the deferral of a $110 million pay hike for state employees.



So we have now pissed off the two biggest Dem blocs - the MEA and the UAW. Sound like a good idea, Democrats? Doubtful. And we are down to around $1.5 billion in cuts left.



...contracting out $100 million in services for the Corrections Department...



That's code for "giving Republican donors huge state contracts". Too much to go into here. While in some areas privatization might be an idea to look at, in reality we only need to point to the problems that CMS (prison health care) and the failed private "punk prison" in Baldwin have caused us to give this idea pause. Would contracting out services actually save us money? Questionable.



Let's be generous and round down- $1.3 to go.



...suspending the prevailing wage provision on public works projects to save $150 million...



More working folks are made to pay. $1.1. Still being generous.



...reforms in Medicaid and welfare to bring eligibility and services in line with surrounding states, for a savings of $90 million.



Ah, yes, and then we are down to the ultimate be-all, end-all of Republican policy, "get the poor". We will ignore the exploding costs and growing need in that area that over-ran the budget in '07. We will also ignore that tossing people off of Medicaid and other services really amounts to a back door tax increase as those costs are shifted to you anyway in the form of higher insurance bills and in other ways.



The News got us down to approximately $1 billion to go- less than halfway there.



Let's see the rest. Let's see the consequences.



All the cuts we talked of before-, to the schools, to the cities, to public safety, those realities that had everyone up in arms a short while ago, calling the governor a big meanie for even mentioning them- all still on the table.



Even the Republicans can't swallow that, and increasingly they are the ones talking about an increase.



"Nobody likes to raise taxes. Nobody really looks forward to paying taxes," said Rep. Richard Ball, a Republican from Laingsburg. "But without revenue, there's no services. And all of us count on a number of services from the state."



So, Republicans basically agree. They want the Democrats to sacrifice all their supporters first, but they will vote. You would hope the Democrats might take issue with most of that, trading the bulk of their donors to appease only one small part of the Republican base, but so far they haven't said much.



And who represents that one small part? Everyone is afraid of the big man, pig man, ha, ha, charade you are, Leon Drolet.



But some legislators who support the tax hike could end up in the crosshairs of former state lawmaker Leon Drolet, a Republican who served in the House for six years and is now a Macomb County commissioner and leader of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He travels with a half-ton, hardened foam pig named Mr. Perks to rally opposition.



"I will have the resources to put some heads on the wall," Drolet said. "We will end the careers of some of those people who vote for a tax increase."



Drolet said more than 400 individuals have sent his group financial contributions. He figures it would take more than $50,000 to set up a recall election in a House district and more than $100,000 for a Senate seat.



Wow. A whole 400 people and a foam pig are now controlling the destiny of millions.



What to neutralize Mr. Drolet, lawmakers? Show the alternative.



Let's see the rest of Mr. Bishop's proposal. Once again, all the cards need to be on the table.



Democrats have done a horrible job of framing this argument so far- from the silence of the MDP, to the abandonment of the governor, to the running in fear from a giant pig, to even entertaining the thought of sacrificing their biggest supporters- it needs to stop.



Time to stand up for your state, for your people.



It's simple. You have only two choices.



Raise taxes and face the consequences. On one hand, you have saved your schools, taken care of your people, provided public safety for your community, preserved quality of life which promotes investment and growth, but you might have to face a battle with the giant pig.



Or, you can make more cuts, devastating the lives of thousands, destroying our ability to promote Michigan as an attractive place to live, selling out our future for your safety today, and still face the possibility of losing your career when the impact of those cuts becomes apparent.



Whatever you choose, please do it soon. The longer you delay, the stronger the illusion of the power of the pig man grows.



Show the alternative to the public now, and you win this argument.





UPDATE: A little birdie slipped me the list of Pub cuts from MIRS, and oh my God, I was not wrong about "get the poor". Or the working people. Or any of it.



It's everything Dick DeVos ever dreamed of. We will see if it comes out to the general public; I don't know how much of that I can use here.



But I do know one thing- Democrats delaying on this vote has now given the Senate Pubs time to react and draw up a "plan". It's an unacceptable plan, to be sure, but still it's something they can wave around to the pig-man supporters and rally that small but vocal base.



That's a bad thing. A real bad thing. It gains traction in the media, and you are screwed. Check that- we are screwed.

Thanks, Andy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dragonfly Reflection



Dragonfly Reflection

Pond in front of Aquinas College





Happy Summer Solstice!





Baby Ducks Hiding Out

Ducklings in Wilcox Park





Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You know I couldn't resist this one...



From Gongwer tonight-

NEXT WEEK SHAPING UP AS MAJOR WEEK FOR TAXES



It appears legislative leaders have signed off on $1.5 billion in new revenues to settle out the 2007-2008 budget, although officially both camps are denying an agreement was hashed out Wednesday afternoon.



What did Peter know, and when did he know it? It appears he may be right.



Now it's not the "leaders" we have to worry about- it's the yahoos they lead.



Could this mean this will get done by July 1st?



Sweet.

Geese in the Mist



Geese in the Mist



I've received some compliments on this one so I thought I would post it...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer commits blogicide



State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer tragically committed blogicide today, declaring his support for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to a group of vehement anti-Clinton liberals who immediately beat him to death with their keyboards. He was 45, and leaves behind a wife and three children.



"We didn't see this coming", his tearful wife told reporters later, "Mark seemed to be in good spirits lately, what with the agreement on that business tax thing and all. We never knew that deep inside he was harboring these thoughts of blog self-destruction."



Colleagues in the Senate praised Schauer's courage. One Democrat, who refused to be identified for this story, tried to warn the Senator before he boldly proclaimed his support for Clinton.



"Those liberals, man, they will tear you right up. Nobody gets them going like Hillary does. It's like throwing raw meat to a pack of hungry wolves. But secretly, we are all glad Mark went first to see what their reaction would be. Now we know to hang back until her nomination is inevitable and they'll have to leave us alone".



Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said he was "comfortable" with Schauer's actions.



"Mark Schauer is a great friend and colleague, and as a Republican I'm comfortable with Hillary Clinton being nominated. As you know, there is nothing us Republicans want more than to see Hillary as the Democrat nominee. But if the governor supports her, then I reserve the right to change my statement."



House Majority Leader Andy Dillon echoed Bishop's praise.



"Did Mike say he was comfortable? Well, then I'm comfortable too. Because whatever Mike wants is OK with me. Are you sure he said that?"



Governor Granholm, who had actual meetings with actual constituents today, had only one thing to say about this development.



"Why aren't they working on the budget?", the governor questioned.



Services are pending, although sources tell us that they will happen sometime "next week".





(For the record, I really like Mark Schauer and hope he has a sense of humor.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Well, duh...



From the "It Should Have Been Obvious" Department comes this- just a few months too late.



Wait until the rest catch on.



Cuts alone aren't likely to balance next year's budget. Raising the state income tax to 4.4 percent from 3.9 percent, as some in Lansing have suggested, would pose additional hardship for Michigan families. And a graduated income tax, while more progressive, would require voter approval.



That said, we were lukewarm toward the governor's initial proposal to impose a sales tax on some services.



Increasingly, however, that tax looks like the better option. With the economy shifting from goods to services, a levy that relies more on services is inevitable. And unlike an income tax increase, a tax on services at least gives Michigan families options. Some of the services the state is talking about taxing are luxury expenses, such as tickets for entertainment, spa treatments or sporting events.



It's also easier to absorb a sales tax increase on services -- a few pennies at a time -- than an 0.5 percent income tax boost.



Is Connie Francis available?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kenny Rogers pitches for the Whitecaps



Kenny Rogers Warms Up

The money shot.





The Press has a nice write-up on the game here. Press photos here.



Hot. Humid. Really, really crowded.



But I had a good time. :-)



More of my pictures here.





Kenny Rogers





Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peter, are you sure about this?



I love Peter Luke, but something about this statement doesn't sound right...



Now Granholm, Dillon and Bishop have to agree on a 2008 state budget plan that is way behind schedule. The three have already agreed to some $1.5 billion in new revenue through an unspecified combination of income and sales tax increases and the elimination of some tax breaks.



The apparent goal is get those taxes approved by July 1 and then begin work on the spending plans of individual departments. The 2008 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.



They have? What was I going on about then?



Well. That makes life easier. My work here is done.



The governor insists on talking about this though- check her out at her new web site at JenniferGranholm.com. All the facts and figures you would ever need- so you don't have to listen to me or Peter Luke ever again. Although you should listen to Peter, 'cause he knows what he's talking about.



The web site is an excellent idea. Hmmmm, it does seem to me that I've heard that idea somewhere before....



;-)

Butterfly in June





Butterfly in June





Butterflies have been elusive this year. Maybe that's the way it should be.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And about those budget talks...



The Republicans, who ran around for months promoting cuts, are now complaining that they are being threatened with cuts.



Go figure.



A handful of House Republicans said they have been threatened by Democrats with individualized budget cuts to universities, community colleges and even K-12 schools in their own districts if they don't vote in favor of an income tax increase or a tax on some types of services.



The GOP members said they feel the pressure put on them by Democrats goes beyond politics as usual, crosses ethical lines and borders on blackmail.



And if anyone should know about going beyond politics as usual, crossing ethical lines, and blackmail, it would be the Republicans.



So, they can vote for devastating cuts to their districts on their own, but they want to make sure they take the Democrats down with them when they do. When they are called out, they run crying to the press.



If that even happened at all. Something about "individualized cuts" sounds vaguely illegal, and if it's not, it should be.



But the key House Democrat singled out for the criticism said his message has been consistent and that all institutions in Michigan could be threatened unless Michigan comes up with more cash to address its budget problems.



Rep. Matt Gillard, a Democrat from Alpena, called the Republican charges against him the "height of hypocrisy." He said some connected with the GOP have been threatening recall elections tied to the tax increase debate for weeks.



"I have been clear and consistent in my message. I think the majority of Democrats have been clear and consistent in their message," Gillard said. "It's a budget crisis. It threatens all of us. It threatens any institution that is dependent upon state funding. Anyone who doesn't realize that, I don't know what rock they're living under."



Don't think I want to know what rock the Republicans have been living under, thanks anyway.



This is going to be an.... interesting... debate, I can tell already.

It's official: Rogers will pitch at Fifth Third



The place is going to be a madhouse. Lucky for me I already had tickets for that night.



The Detroit Tigers confirmed Wednesday that left-handed pitcher Kenny Rogers will make his second rehabilitation start Friday night at Fifth Third Ballpark for the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps. He'll face the Dayton Dragons, an affiliate of the Cinicinnati Reds, in the 7 p.m. game.



Tickets are nearly sold out. All that remains are $5 lawn seats; box seats and reserved seats were sold out Tuesday.



The Whitecaps will open their gates at 4 p.m. -- two hours earlier than normal -- and are expected to sell a limited number of standing-room tickets at the box office.



Rogers, who has been on the disabled list since the start of the season after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder, will become the fifth Tiger to make a rehab appearance with the Whitecaps in the 14-year history of the franchise.



Will try to bring you some pictures, wish me luck... game is now sold-out.



Current capacity is listed at 10,071. It used to be higher, but they have made revisions to the stadium in the past few years that took it back down. Not sure what the record is. I know I have been there when there was over 10,000 people before... my suggestion is get there early.

BREAKING: Senate, House agree to new business tax



Wow. After Bishop's statements to the Freep, I thought for sure this would drag on to the last minute.



Negotiators for the state House and Senate have agreed on a new business tax plan, a key senator announced this morning.



Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, told the Senate the tentative deal would blend competing plans from the House and Senate. Without revealing details, Cassis said the plan would give domestic auto companies significant tax relief, help small businesses create jobs, and create a more fair and equitable business tax overall.



Good to hear. I'll stop making fun of you now.



About this, anyway.



How are those budget talks coming along?



The AP has a different take on this- let's hope Nancy wasn't just shooting off her mouth. Which she frequently does.



Sen. Nancy Cassis, a Republican from Novi and member of a workgroup that has been negotiating a compromise replacement tax, announced on the Senate floor: "Legislators from both chambers agreed in concept to the structure of Michigan's business tax. Thank you to everyone involved."



One GOP senator clapped, but leaders' staff stressed another meeting was expected Wednesday afternoon and talks were continuing.



And in the time I took to post this- the Freep changed the story and title. Bang, just like that- we get this instead (at original link above)-



But Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, cautioned that a final agreement may hinge today on data that shows how the plan would affect various groups of businesses.



Whatever happens, there is also this to consider. From WOOD-



Even if legislative leaders and Granholm's administration sign off on the tentative replacement deal, lawmakers in both the House and Senate must approve it. Votes could come as early as next week.



Yes, of course they will. ;-)



This time, please let it be true.



UPDATE 12:13PM: The News now says it's a done (tentative) deal-



LANSING -- Leaders have struck a tentative deal to replace the state's expiring business tax that raises the same $1.9 billion as the current tax, cuts levies on equipment by two-thirds and provides tax relief to three-quarters of businesses in Michigan, according to sources familiar with the accord.



The tax will be based on a company's profits and gross receipts proposed by the Republican-controlled Senate and maintains research and development and investment credits put forth by the Democratic-controlled House.



For the record, Christoff at the Freep broke this first and then backed off, Hornbeck at the News went for the sure bet even after everyone else reported their caveats. Since the News has some sort of hotline to the Republican leadership, and the Pubs would be the ones doing any obstructing, I'll go with Hornbeck's story and say we are good to go...



UPDATE 2- 6:15PM: Now we can say it-



EVERY PENNY DEVOS!



The agreement would replace all of the roughly $1.9 billion a year now raised by the Single Business Tax, which expires at the end of this year. The revenue neutrality of the plan is considered important to help Michigan tread water during its ongoing state government budget crisis.



Video of a smiling governor here.



Two down, one to go...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'll hold the football, Charlie Brown...



ROFLMAO.



While talks continue on developing a replacement tax to the Single Business Tax, lawmakers are being told there is a good chance they will have a measure to vote on next week.



Stop it. Just stop it. You guys are killin' me here.

Bishop "comfortable" with obstructing job creation



Hey, no rush, take your time, guys. Don't worry about that 7.1 unemployment rate. You still have a job, right?



But next year, when you run around and complain about how bad our economy is here in Michigan, and you point the finger at the Democrats and the governor as being the reason, let's hope that voters remember how Republicans put on a full court stall when it came to making the moves that might help alleviate our problems.



While ever-the-optimist Granholm was telling Gongwer that an agreement was possible this week on a deal with the business tax, in another part of the state Mike Bishop indicated it might be just a wee bit longer.



Bishop had no time to work on the MBT yesterday, but he did have plenty of time to sit down with the Free Press and opine on the things he would do if "he were governor".



"There is a real hesitation on my part to agree to something that isn't right," he said. "As long as we get it done by July, I feel comfortable we've done the right thing."



The "right thing", according to Bishop, is taking nearly a full year to tell business what their tax liability will be here in Michigan, costing us jobs, investment, and drawing the negative attention of the national media. Tim Martin's AP story was picked up by Forbes, letting the whole country know that we just can't seem to get it together.



Business recruiters in Michigan say they are hamstrung by uncertainty surrounding the state's tax structure.



Out-of-state companies are hesitant to commit to Michigan without knowing their future tax liability. Even some in-state companies are gun-shy about completing plans while the state Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm continue their months-long squabble over replacing a business tax that expires at the end of this year.



"We are seeing companies in a holding pattern because they have no idea what their tax liability will be," said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc., a regional nonprofit economic development organization based in Grand Rapids.



Klohs worries her region and the state may have lost out on a potential 400-job, $8 million operation because of state government's inaction on replacing the Single Business Tax. A leader of the out-of-state company has followed the issue on the Internet. Klohs said the company official e-mailed her recently, basically saying don't bother to contact the company again until the state gets its act together on the business tax.



Mike is comfortable with that. That's the kind of governor we all want, right? One that lets the competition eat our lunch?



Michigan's uncertainty over tax bills may give other states and foreign countries a competitive edge.



"Every day we're competing with 49 other states," said Mike Shore, a spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public part of state government that partners with local communities to attract jobs. "They can talk with certainty about what the tax structure will be. We can't."



And while Mike is denying new job creation, he also wants large groups of currently employed people to jump in on the race to the bottom. Especially if those people are part of a union.



As long as someone is giving up their pay and benefits, the Republicans are happy.



Dumping the 4% raise for state employees would save an estimated $109.9 million for fiscal 2007-08.



The Legislature can rescind or reduce a pay increase with two-thirds-majority votes in the House and Senate, but a Senate effort earlier this year to block the pay increase failed to generate enough support, and no vote was held. The state constitution requires that such a vote take place within a certain time frame, which expired in April.



Earlier in Granholm's tenure, employees agreed to concessions, including banked leave time, in which they received more time off in exchange for reduced pay, and worked some days without pay.



Sandra Parker, president of UAW Local 6000, the largest state employee union, said workers should not be punished for bad decisions by state policy makers.



"For them to come back now, once again, and have their hands out -- to me, that's unconscionable," she said.



Granholm's press secretary, Liz Boyd, questioned Bishop's comments because he never ordered a Senate vote to reject the pay increase.



That's because this is yet another stall tactic, Liz.



First they complained incessantly about teachers, now we will hear about government employees. Anything to push a budget agreement off until the very last minute- killing an entire year in the process and so they can turn around next year and say that nothing ever gets done under Democratic leadership, and, lookee here, they raised your taxes, too.



Republicans need things to be bad here in Michigan. They have nothing else to run on.



The scary thing is the Democrats seem "comfortable" with this, too. Dillon, on the progress of the '07 talks a couple of weeks ago, used the same words. And look how that turned out.



"I can tell you we're comfortable with where we're at," Mr. Dillon said.



Further proof these two spend too much time together; they are using the same talking points.



Sure glad everyone is "comfortable" with this. Hard to imagine why the rest of us are upset.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Morning at Riverside



Morning at Riverside 60

This had a bit of a blur that took on a painted quality.








Riverside Bridge

Someone got me thinking about B & W again...







Just a couple. Maybe more later.



Saturday, June 09, 2007

Presenting the "Not Ready for Next Week Players"



Wasn't this week next week? Or was that last week?



MIRS 6/8-



An agreement on the basic structure for a Single Business Tax (SBT) replacement could come as soon as early next week, and the legislation representing the form of the agreement could begin moving in the House next week as well.



Where have we heard this before? Oh yeah, it was the week before this week. Making this past week next week.



Detroit News 6/1



Both sides and Granholm spokeswoman Boyd said they are near enough to reach an SBT agreement next week.



Freep 5/31



House Democrats and Senate Republicans have offered competing business tax plans. At the start of talks Wednesday, Granholm said the two sides were close, though she did not expect final votes to occur until next week.



Detroit News 5/30



House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, said the closed-door negotiations could lead to an accord in the next couple days that lawmakers could vote on next week.



Freep 5/30-



House Democratic leaders said an agreement on the business tax is possible this week, but action likely won't happen until next week.



Freep/WZZM 5/26



Still to be resolved is a new business tax to replace the expiring Single Business Tax. A bill with support from major business groups has passed the House and awaits Senate action, which could come next week.



Now remember, we are dealing with three separate major issues here: the '07 budget, the '08 budget, and the replacement for the SBT. There are quite a few things that need to be put off until next week. It gets confusing. So give them a break. They probably don't know what, exactly, they aren't taking care of at any given moment.



Granted, they did "fix" the '07 budget. That wasn't complete when they announced it Memorial Day weekend; more votes were expected this past week. Not sure if it got done or not. Something got signed, Republicans complained, so maybe it did.



We've moved on now, but let's briefly revisit what they said the week before last week on the agreement for '07.



Right after Memorial Day- Freep 5/30-



The House today approved two measures to dip into two large funds to plug more than half of an $800 million deficit this fiscal year. Both are expected to be passed by the Senate next week as part of a budget-balancing agreement struck last week.



Before Memorial Day- Peter Luke 5/26



Assuming completion of the package next week, the agreement meets deadlines for avoiding a $116-per-pupil cut to local schools, a 6-percent cut to hospitals and doctors who treat Medicaid patients and the layoff of more than two dozen Michigan State Police troopers.



AP/WOOD 5/26-



Other votes are expected next week. The Legislature adjourned for the Memorial Day weekend on Friday night.



And while they were busy not completing the budget for '07, they jumped forward to not completing the budget for '08. Bet that hurt some heads. Nobody was sure what to put off next.



Freep 5/26



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.



Rep. George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the Legislature's leading proponent of the income tax hike, said he thinks there is a 70% chance for a vote to raise taxes next week, and that it will have broad, bipartisan support.



And before the budget '07 deal, it was "maybe this week". This was apparently before they learned how to say "next week".



Freep 5/23



Dillon gave 50-50 odds that the House would vote on the tax increase this week, as he and fellow Democrats continued to woo Republicans, partly by showing a willingness to support new laws designed to rein in government costs.



Detroit News 5/23



House Democrats, meanwhile, said there's a good chance the House will vote this week on a tax increase to help erase $800 million in red ink this year and more than double that next year.



"We want an understanding with Bishop and the governor about what we're going to do," said House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. "I think that's very possible this week."



Peter Luke 5/22



But before the House moves any tax bills this week, Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, said he needs a "commitment" on an overall budget agreement from Republicans who control the Senate and from Gov. Jennifer Granholm.



We could go back further, but let's not. You get the idea.



Back to next week. Which is now last week. We still have the MBT and budget '08 to procrastinate on.



Peter Luke 6/1



House Democrats said the tax votes could come next week. Granholm suggested the income tax rate could be brought back down once Michigan's economy improves and the unemployment rate falls to the national average.



Democrats gave themselves some breathing room in the Freep 5/31, budget '08 again, dealing with the aftermath of '07.



"You'll see us moving quickly in the next couple weeks to avoid this kind of thing in the future," Dillon said.



Andy's caught on. Now he's saying "two weeks", and then next week they can say "next week". Which, since that was two weeks ago, makes this coming week next week.



Bishop joins in the fun, this time it was with the MBT.



Detroit News 5/31



Both sides and Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said they are "very close" to a resolution which could come next week. But, Bishop added, "We've said that before; we keep saying next week, next week."



This was right after Mike made "next week" essential by presenting yet another change to the business tax plan when other lawmakers had already left town. Doh!



That maverick Mark Schauer apparently didn't get the "next week" memo- he kicked the can way down the road. From MIRS 6/7-



Senate Minority Leader Mark SCHAUER (D-Battle Creek) set July 1 as the new deadline for the Legislature to finish a business tax replacement and complete a Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget agreement."



We'll have to talk to him about that.



Next week.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sometimes It Rains



Sometimes It Rains

Rainout on June 3rd.





And here's to hoping that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.



Because I can't wait much longer.



My thanks go out to those that remembered. :-)

"Michigan's Clintons"



Tom Walsh hits the nail on the head, and he doesn't even know it.



Walsh reports that the gossip making the rounds at the parties was that Mulhern was pulling the strings behind the scenes.



Last week on Mackinac Island at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual schmoozefest, the pundits were making sport of the governor's failure to engineer a budget-tax deal.



WJR-AM (760) talk show host Paul W. Smith was referring to Granholm and Mulhern as "Michigan's Clintons" -- repeating, he said, buzz that was making the rounds on the island that Mulhern might run for governor when his term-limited wife leaves office.



The gossip vine also included a story line that Granholm reneged on a bipartisan budget deal last month, changing her mind at home under the influence of a Rasputin-like Mulhern pulling her puppet strings.



Mulhern said this week that such gossip is clearly "somewhat sexist" -- in other words, would people be jumping to the same conclusion about a male Michigan governor being manipulated by a spouse?



They might, Dan. If you recall, we have seen this movie before. You are Hillary in this scenario. Don't laugh; it's true.



The media is finally catching on to the game, slowly but surely.



His name was Bill, the Republicans threw everything but a book at him, using both personal attacks on him, his wife, and frivolous legal investigations, in an attempt to undermine his leadership.



In a way, it worked. When all was said and done, we got George Bush. There was a lot more that went into it, of course, but the constant drumbeat of negative on Clinton, and Hillary too, took it's toll.



We are seeing the same thing happen here. The Republicans mouthpieces, namely Mike Bishop, Saul Anuzis, and Nolan Finley of the Detroit News, are constantly attacking Granholm in a game called, "Take Out the Leader".



It's working. "Lack of leadership" is the new standard talking point. If Walsh is right about the chatterfest at Mackinac, that proves it.



After months of nasty, daily attacks on Granholm, the Detroit News finally crossed the line when they attributed a quote to Andy Dillon that was actually uttered by Mike Bishop. The News loves Dillon; he and Bishop are BFF, and they frequently cite Andy as proof positive that this is all "Granholm's fault".



Dillon finally says something. Maybe all the other times he basked in the bipartisan praise, figuring that might enhance his chances for future aspirations. You have to question why it took so long for him to stand up. (Of course, you always have to question why it takes the Democrats so long to stand up for anything, but that is book waiting to be written.)



Was that of his own volition, or did this have something to do with it?



A major error in a Sunday column - that incorrectly cited House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) leveling leadership criticisms of Governor Jennifer Granholm that were actually made by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) - has sparked a call from the administration to the Detroit News to conduct an internal review of the column and standards used on the paper's editorial page.



Something tells me that the Guv has had just about enough of this shit, thank you very much, and took matters into her own hands.



Like Clinton before, the Democrats have spent their time worrying about their own future rather than attending to the events of today, and the events of today are undermining any kind of future they might have. Bishop is constantly attacking the governor in a personal way, as is Anuzis. The focus is turned on Granholm, and the Republicans play "run out on the clock" on the real issues.



Time for the Democrats to stand up for their leader, and for themselves. When they start taking a proactive stance, perhaps the public will be impressed.



Until then, this continuous drumbeat of negative press from the Republicans can and will take the toll here in Michigan, and hello Governor DeVos in 2010.



Didn't we learn our lesson with Bill?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Will the Republicans decide Michigan's future?



Already the Senate Republicans are taking charge of the argument over the size any tax increase.



But Cropsey said he could not see the Senate passing a $1.5-billion tax increase. A tax increase of that size would effectively maintain government as is, he said, adding a $1-billion tax increase might be possible.



Alan Cropsey just said a billion dollar tax increase is possible. Stop and think about that for a moment.



And back to the quote from Bishop-



Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop, R-Rochester, said a half-percent increase in the income tax rate was too high.



And Ron Jelinek, back in May



Senate Appropriations Chairman Ron Jelinek, a Republican from Three Oaks, told WOOD-TV for a Sunday show that a tax increase appears inevitable for next year's budget.



"I don't think we have any choice," he said. "We're going to have to increase revenues somewhere. My personal philosophy is I will stand for that. But I can't go to my constituents and say we're going to raise your taxes so we can add new programs. That's where I have a real problem."



And of course we had DeRoche calling for a gas tax increase long ago. Craig was the victim of bad timing on that one.



Does all of that even register on the radar? The sudden change from a "cuts only" stand to one where they are conceeding a tax increase? Hello? Anyone?



Watch from here on out. They will start to dictate the terms of what will happen next, and, given how the reviews of the '07 budget turned out, it won't be pretty.



Funny how the Republicans can talk about these things, take control of the conversation on every single issue, while the Democrats run from their own shadows.



Hey guys, it shows.



Just so you know.



Are you going to stand up this time, or are you going to let the Republicans tell us what Michigan's future is going to look like? Because if you are going for the latter, just to hide behind the guise of "bipartisanship" simply to cover your own ass, it's hard to fathom a reason why we elected you in the first place.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Whitecaps shots from last weekend



During a three game period (separated by a two week road trip, these should be illegal), the Whitecaps pounded out 52 hits and won 12-5, 10-2, and 11-5.



I attended all three games. And the weather was perfect. Needless to say, I'm a bit spoiled now...



Here are a few of the action shots-



Gorkys Break Up

Gorkys Hernandez tries to break up a double play.







Boesch Fly

Brennan Boesch just misses this hit.







Ed Clelland

Ed Clelland.







Boesch Double

Brennan Boesch, double up the gap.







Gorkys Safe at 2nd

Gorkys Hernandez safe at 2nd. Dude is always on base.







Now That's What I'm Talking About...

Now that's what I'm talking about...







More pics located here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

And so it begins...



The squabble over the '08 budget starts .... now. The magic number is $1.5 billion.



Lawmakers attending the conference said the $900 million raised by the tax hike could be combined with $300 million raised by applying a 6-percent sales tax on entertainment and other services. Another $300 million source of revenue could come through loophole closings.



The magic date is July 1st.



Expect the budget to be done on June 29th, sometime in the evening.



Why? Vacation starts the 1st. The wife and kids will be packed in the car in the parking lot, ready to go.



And there is this little statement that indicates that it will probably not be any sooner....



Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop, R-Rochester, said a half-percent increase in the income tax rate was too high.



Now starts the argument over the size of the income increase and which entertainment services have donated the most to lawmakers will face a new tax.



... aaaaand off we go, to a new round of "You Bet Your Life", where the stakes are much, much higher.



Mike pleads ignorance.



"I don't know if we truly understand what that would do to our state."



Let's think about this for a minute... what it would do to our state... well, it would maintain the public school funding, restore cuts to universities, protect public safety and abate the need for more local tax increases with revenue sharing to cities, provide health care so that burden doesn't fall on business and personal insurance premiums, keep the prison system functioning, restore Wall Street's confidence in us, restore investor's confidence in us, restore our own citizen's confidence in us, create a decent state to live in, and...



...oh yeah, this one small thing...



... help pay for all the BILLS YOU JUST GOT DONE PUTTING OFF to the '08 budget year.



Did I leave anything out?



Let's hope that Mike finally understands what this "would do" to our state.

Don't want to make the tough decisions?



Just write a law that says you don't have to!



Seems the Republicans don't like it when their fiscal irresponsibility causes them grief, so they will fix that. They will write laws saying that they don't have to deal with the problem. See how that works?



Schools should no longer be used as political pawns in intense bargaining over the state budget, Rep. John Moolenaar says.



That's one reason the Midland Republican this week introduced a bill that starting next year would prohibit school districts from having their state aid cut after March 1.



"This year the kids throughout Michigan were held hostage to negotiations over a tax increase. And that's wrong," Moolenaar said.



Let's hold cities revenue sharing hostage instead- makes it easier to just pass the problem on to them, make them have to raise the revenue to pay for their cops. Or how about those people who need health care. Just cut them off. Maybe we can just let all the prisoners go.



Anything but come up with a real solution.



"The goal is to prevent schools from being cut in the fourth quarter of the operating year," Moolenaar said. "This bill allows us to solve the problem before we get to a crisis."



Don't let the fact that they knew about this crisis in late December and still didn't address it until the last minute throw you here.



So, how do they fix this?



If the school aid fund runs a deficit after March 1, the money to cover the shortfall would come from the general fund, the state's main checkbook.



And if the general fund is also running a deficit, as it is this year? Does the money just magically appear out of nowhere?



The Republican solution is to write a law that says they don't have to come up with a solution. Perfect. And fitting for this bunch.