Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today is National Earned Income Tax Credit Day in Michigan

Surprised they gave this its own "day", but it is a great way to raise awareness that it's out there and lower income folks should be encouraged to take this credit on their tax returns.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has proclaimed Jan. 31 as Earned Income Tax Credit Day in Michigan.

"The Internal Revenue Services estimates that more than $300 million in Earned Income Tax Credits goes unclaimed by low-income taxpayers in Michigan," DHS Director Ismael Ahmed said. "The Earned Income Tax Credit is a proven anti-poverty tool that makes the difference for Michigan's working families.

For the 2007 tax season - depending on a person's income and number of dependents - the federal EITC can reach a maximum of:

-$4,716 for families with two or more children.
-$2,853 for families with one child.
-$428 for taxpayers with no children.

And don't forget Michigan's new EITC that gives back based on a percentage of the federal.

Michigan enacted a state earned income tax credit in 2006 that becomes effective during the 2008 tax season. Under the agreement, working families are eligible to receive a percentage of the federal EITC, starting with 10 percent for 2008 and increasing to up to 20 percent in 2009.

Yes, this is the credit that Nancy Cassis threw a fit about, but apparently Nancy has had a change of heart. Bet you never thought you would hear her say something like this-

"With the Legislature giving tax check rebates to some of our biggest corporations, among them the Big Three, it seems only fair and right to give credit checks to the other end of the spectrum, our working poor," she said.

Hell has officially frozen over. Honest, that was Nancy Cassis when the MCC pointed out that it would cost the state far less than previously indicated.

Here's Mark Schauer's statement of support of EITC Day-

"These are exactly the type of targeted tax incentives that reward and encourage hard work and we should make sure everyone who qualifies takes advantage of them," said Schauer, who fought for the recently enacted state version of the EITC. "At a time when Washington is finally waking up to the plight of struggling workers and considering an economic stimulus package, we must make the most of this powerful economic tool."

Go to this webpage for information on how to claim the credit, or you can call 211 and ask for assistance.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pictures and text from the State of the State Address

I've haven't written about the speech I heard last night because quite frankly, I haven't absorbed it all yet. Lots of intriguing proposals were mentioned during the address, and I'm getting slammed with information from the media - but this outbreak of bipartisan love has really thrown me. I keep thinking- "Well, if I can't yell at Mike Bishop, my work here is done, right?"

It's a switch, as you probably know. :-)

Also, when I'm looking at/working on these pictures, my mind is in a totally different space from trying to write about alternative energy or whatever. I'm thinking about color (red on a green background, thanks Governor) and lighting and noise levels and all that jazz. So, I spent most of today working on the pics, wondering what to write, and finally got the bright idea to wrap the text around them about two hours ago.

If you want to see just the pictures, go to this Flickr set; I'll probably be adding more as time goes on.

There is no rhyme or reason to the picture placement in the text, except for the first and the last- and I like that last one better than anything else I've seen today. Other than that, it was just random. I'm not quite sure on the spacing because I'm working on this widescreen monitor now. Let me know if it's too obnoxious.

Over the jump is the entire text of the State of the State 2008...

State of the State 2008 - Granholm 2

Lieutenant Governor Cherry, Speaker Dillon, Majority Leader Bishop, distinguished leaders, fellow citizens, my beloved family: good evening.

Let us begin this evening by putting first things first. Let us recognize the courage and commitment of our service men and women who put themselves at risk so that we may enjoy the rewards of freedom. In a moment, I'll introduce a remarkable young hero, Michelle Rudzitis, of the Michigan National Guard who lost her left leg a year ago while deployed in Iraq. I'd like to ask Sgt. Rudzitis to give us the privilege of honoring her and all of our service men and women.

And may we let a moment of silence salute the sacrifices of their comrades who have fallen.

Thank you.

Tonight as we gather in this Chamber, the world is changing at a rate unimaginable just a decade ago. No state has borne the brunt of that change like Michigan.

With our state battling a protracted economic crisis, the challenge we face as leaders could not be more clear. We must guide our state from one era to another - all the while preserving a way of life that has always defined Michigan. Hard work. Strong families. Proud communities. And most of all, good jobs.

To create new, good jobs, we have set a bold course of action to diversify our economy and to give our people the skills and education they need to not only cope in a changing world but to thrive in it. Our commitment to diversifying our economy and educating our citizens must be strong and unwavering, because my friends, there simply is no other course.

Inside the Dome

And while we are confident that this course will lead to better days, on this day, our fellow citizens are angry. For the past decade they've watched our major industries shed jobs by the hundreds of thousands.

And while our state struggles, our nation's economy is slowing. The threat of recession is real. Across our nation and here in Michigan, families are seeing their homes foreclosed. Gas prices have soared. Insurance rates are up. The cost of sending a child to college is rising every year.

And people are angry. Angry at the oil companies. Angry at the con men who stoked the sub-prime crisis. Angry at a government in Washington that refuses to enforce trade laws and stands idly by as our jobs disappear.

Many of us in this Chamber understand that anger, because we feel it too. I know I do. But let's be honest - that anger is aimed at us, too.

Last year, people wanted decisive action on jobs, on healthcare, on schools. What they got was partisan rancor over a budget.

So, when we listen to the people of Michigan, we'll hear their anger. But we will also hear their hopes for this great state. They love Michigan. They not only want to live here. They hope their children will live here and hope to see their grandchildren born here. Work here. Thrive here. That hope is not a Democratic hope or a Republican hope - it's a Michigan hope.

People Before Profits

Our challenge, then, is to give our people the tools they need to realize those hopes and come out on top in this new era. In the year ahead, this will require swift action and relentless focus. In these tough times, government cannot be all things to all people - we have to focus on four things:

A job for every worker.
Affordable health care for every family.
Safe places to live and work for all of us.
Quality education for our citizens - kids and adults.

If we focus on these four things - if we say no to distractions and divisions, and if we commit to urgent action - we will emerge from this challenging decade with a leaner, smarter, stronger, and more entrepreneurial Michigan.

The reason I'm confident we can work together on the things that matter most is that we have done it before. Together, Democrats and Republicans launched the $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund - the largest in the nation - to diversify our economy to create new jobs.

We replaced the dreaded Single Business Tax and enacted the most sweeping reform of business taxes in thirty years.

We put in place among the most rigorous high school graduation requirements in the nation to make sure our kids can compete with anyone.

We created the $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarship so that every single child has the opportunity to go to college.

We adopted the earned income tax credit, which puts money into the hands of working families who are most likely to spend it. And we raised the minimum wage.

Dillon Listens to the Guv

Democrats and Republicans did these things together, because they were the right things to do to create jobs and prepare our citizens for this changing world. To do the right thing in the coming year, we have to be singularly focused on what's important to our people: jobs, health care, education, and protecting their families. The basics.

Tonight, I'm calling on you to join me in an era of unprecedented cooperation for historic progress. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are already making a commitment to work together.

For example, we agree that we must significantly increase our advertising of this beautiful state to attract tourists and businesses. We are eager to pass what will be the largest investment in marketing Michigan in our history, expanding to new markets, trumpeting our virtues across the nation and around the world. Thank you Senator Allen and Representative Ebli.

We agree that we must pass the most robust incentives in the nation to spur growth of the film industry in Michigan. Thank you Representatives Meisner and Huizenga and Senators Allen and Hunter.

We agree that we must spur the cultural life that makes cities attractive places to live and visit. Thank you Senators Allen and Clarke for your legislation that stokes the growth of downtowns.

Legislators from both parties agree that we must pass laws that protect our great blue jewels, our Great Lakes, from water diversion. Thank you Senator Birkholz and Representative Warren.

Obligatory Dome Ceiling Shot

I will sign every one of those bills the moment you pass them.

Even though we'll certainly have our disagreements this election year, we agree that we must make progress for Michigan. Thank you Majority Leader Bishop and Speaker Dillon for your leadership and commitment to all of us working together this year.

We all agree on this too: our top priority must be jobs. Good-paying jobs. A job for every Michigan worker. This year, I'll continue to go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs to Michigan.

Last year, I hounded CEOs on the phone. I got on planes to shake their hands and look them in the eye and tell them how Michigan can give them the upper hand.

In the last five years, I've traveled across the globe. Five trips. Brought home 35 businesses, 7,000 new jobs in Michigan. This year I'll go again to bring back jobs.

And tonight, I'm announcing two major initiatives to grow new jobs in Michigan. When combined with our 21st Century Jobs Fund and our other unique incentives, these new initiatives will make Michigan the state with the most aggressive job creation strategy in the nation.

First: the Michigan Job Creation Tax Credit - a one time offer for businesses in the 50 fastest-growing industries in the country. Whether your business is in Michigan today or you'll come here tomorrow, if you grow jobs in Michigan, we'll cut or altogether eliminate your taxes. Along with new Michigan Business Tax, this is the first time in Michigan history where businesses will be broadly rewarded for hiring people.

Second: I will create the Michigan Invests! Fund - a fund that will put Michigan money to work building Michigan's economic future. Young companies that want to grow in Michigan are instead being uprooted by their investors who live in California or New York. Invest Michigan! will give high-growth companies the investment capital they need if they grow right here.

The Michigan pension fund and other major Michigan funds will combine to amass a pool of at least $300 million dollars to create this win-win: pensioners and investors will get a good return on these sound investments. Michigan gets cutting-edge businesses and jobs. Michigan will now be in the top three states in the nation for making investment capital available to successful entrepreneurs who create jobs here.

A strong economy also demands a stable state budget. Last year, we made difficult decisions to get our fiscal house in order. The process was anything but pretty. But in the end, we made cuts, added new revenues, and we enacted money-saving reforms… all to protect the things we deeply care about: healthcare, education, and public safety.

State of the State 2008 - Granholm 3

Last year followed four years in which we resolved more than $4 billion in budget deficits and cut more from state government than any administration in the history of Michigan. The budget I'll present to the Legislature next month will contain: $200 million in additional cuts and reforms, a $100 million deposit in the state's rainy day fund, every new initiative I'm proposing will be paid for, no new fees, and no new taxes.

And we must continue to reform government. There are three major reforms I want to underscore: first, we can achieve significant savings in our Corrections Department by adopting changes that save money but do not compromise public safety. Money that we save from adopting corrections policies similar to those of other Midwestern states can be used to hire more police officers in our neighborhoods to prevent crimes. Thank you for committing to work with us to achieve these common sense changes.

A second reform is this: after tough negotiations, just last month our state employees entered into a three-year contract, giving significant concessions in health care and benefits to save the state $170 million dollars. Our budget is easier to resolve this year, and you can give credit to our state employees. I ask you to stand and join me in thanking them for their commitment to excellence and their sacrifice during these extraordinary times.

The House and Senate have each introduced bills for legislators to follow the lead of state employees. I thank you for your commitment to follow through and do your part to save taxpayer dollars as well.

A third reform: we must continue to streamline government's interactions with the business community. We are partnering with business to create a One Stop Shop for businesses, a single web portal and one number to call to cut the red tape. And we're pursuing further regulatory and business permitting reform to make our state government lean and nimble. You'll hear more about this in the weeks to come.

Along with the budget I'll present next week, I'm proposing a Michigan economic stimulus package - nearly a billion dollars for needed infrastructure and building improvements, creating upwards of 28,000 construction and other jobs over the next two years. This stimulus package is made possible by refinancing and lower interest rates - not new taxes.

Lean government. Pro-job tax cuts, as never before. More capital as never before. Marketing Michigan as never before. A billion dollars in economic stimulus from new construction. Those powerful tools will help us bring and keep all kinds of businesses here. But let me talk for a moment about one sector that has blockbuster potential for Michigan: alternative energy.

Why alternative energy? Because - to borrow a line from Wayne Gretzky - if you want to win, "don't skate to where the puck is - skate to where the puck is going."

The puck is going to alternative energy.

Full House

Any time you pick up a newspaper from here on out and see the terms "climate change" or "global warming," just think: "jobs for Michigan."

Because of the need to reduce global warming and end our dependence on expensive foreign oil, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries will create millions of good paying jobs.

There's no question that these jobs are coming to our nation. The only question is, where?

I say we will win these jobs for Michigan and replace the lost manufacturing jobs with a whole new, growing sector.

Why us? Because, no other state - indeed few places in the world - have what we have to offer: our wind, our water, our woods - and thanks to the working men and women of Michigan - our skilled workforce.

Look at each of these resources.

The unique geography of our peninsulas makes us windy. Experts have said that we have the second best potential for wind generation and production in the country. In fact, the wind turbines we'd use to capture that power can be built right here in Michigan, because we have what's needed: manufacturing infrastructure; available factory space; a skilled workforce. And water - the Great Lakes - are one of the best ways to ship these huge turbines.

That Pure Michigan water will do even more for us. The natural movement, the waves of our Great Lakes waters, creates enormous energy. We are talking with businesses right now about coming to Michigan to convert water currents into electric currents.

And wood! The wood waste from the pulp and paper industry is being used to produce the next generation of biofuels. Cutting-edge companies like Mascoma, Chemrec, NewPage, and others are turning wood waste into fuel for your vehicles, and they want to come here because of our vast sustainable forests.

Our automotive base is also a huge asset: we are the automotive research capital of the world, and we are building the engines of the future - hybrids, clean diesel, electric, fuel cells, flexfuel - all of that is being, and will continue to be, researched, designed, and produced right here in Michigan.

There may be one or two other states that are sunnier than we are, but we are already a huge player in the solar energy industry. We have in Michigan the world's largest producer of the stuff that makes solar panels work. Polycrystalline silicon. Made by Hemlock Semiconductor right here in Michigan. They are in the middle of a billion dollar expansion, hiring 500 people in the Saginaw area. They have even bigger plans. And just last week, Dow Solar Solutions announced it was locating a new $52 million manufacturing facility in Midland, focusing on solar energy generating building materials. Saginaw Valley can be the Silicon Valley for the alternative energy business!

House Appropriations Room

Even waste is being used: companies are taking household trash in landfills and converting it to green energy - the Lansing Board of Water and Light is doing it right now. Farms are turning animal waste into methane gas. Opportunities are everywhere in Michigan to create green energy.

Michigan must do as any successful business does. To compete, we need to capitalize on our natural advantages. For us, it's our geography and our history. Auto ingenuity. And our solar edge. Wind. Woods. Water. Workforce. Even waste. If we do this right, Michigan can be the alternative energy capital of North America, and create thousands and thousands of jobs.

But, for Michigan to win the race for those high-paying jobs, we have to out-hustle the competition. How?

First, we must commit as a state to use alternative energy to meet our own energy needs.

To understand the connection between renewable energy and jobs, just look at Sweden - a country with striking resemblances to our state: the same size population, similar geography with two-thirds of their land covered by forests, a strong automotive sector. Sweden set high goals for their use of renewable energy. The result? They created over 2,000 businesses and 400,000 jobs in their renewable energy sector. 400,000 jobs!

Alternative energy companies have watched closely as 25 other states have set aggressive goals for their alternative energy use. We have to meet and beat other states' goals here in Michigan if we are going to attract those companies here. That's why I am asking the Legislature to set ambitious alternative energy goals for Michigan - produce 10 percent of our electrical energy from renewable sources by the year 2015 and a full 25 percent by the year 2025. Thank you Sen. Patterson and Representative Accavitti for working to craft the bipartisan legislation that will transform our state.

There is no way to overestimate the importance of setting state renewable energy use goals when it comes to creating jobs.

Tonight, I'm announcing that our state's largest utilities are poised to make one of the world's largest investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency, creating upwards of 17,000 jobs in Michigan.

As soon as this Legislature acts on a comprehensive energy package, Consumers Energy and DTE will begin to jointly invest up to $6 billion in Michigan - much of it to build wind turbines and wind farms to produce electricity and to help businesses and homeowners install energy saving technologies. $6 billion. 17,000 jobs.

Set Up

It's not often the Legislature gets to cast a vote that will create that many jobs. But you have that opportunity right now. For the sake of our people, I urge you to get it done.

A renewable energy goal is a powerful tool to attract alternative energy jobs, but there are other tools, too. We are going to create Centers of Excellence across the state to bring alternative energy companies and Michigan universities together to create new products and new jobs. I'm also asking you to pass tax incentives for anchor companies in the alternative energy sector that get their suppliers to also locate in Michigan.

And to make sure that ethanol is made here and sold here and is competitive with gasoline, I'm asking you once again to eliminate the gas tax for fuel purchases of ethanol and biodiesel at gas stations.

And we won't stop there. Michigan will do whatever it takes to compete and win those alternative energy jobs and replace those lost manufacturing jobs.

I said we had to focus on four things: jobs, protecting our citizens, health care, and education.

No one doubts that the best way to ensure that Michigan's people will succeed in the face of global economic change is to ensure a quality education for every child and training for every worker.

Our goal: double the number of college graduates to give Michigan the best-educated workforce in the nation. To reach that goal, we'll make progress throughout our education system, from preschool to grad school to on-the-job training.

Kids Clean the Floor

Next week, I'll introduce a budget that increases our investment in our K-12 schools and significantly expands early childhood education.

I'll also ask all of our school districts to begin offering full day kindergarten. Thank you Sen. Clark-Coleman. This simple step will make a dramatic difference in the lives of our children. We want all our students to have a great start in school, because we want them to have great opportunities in life.

There are extremely limited opportunities, though, for the students who drop out of high school. By some estimates, as many as a fourth of our high school students are at risk of dropping out before graduation day. This not acceptable in our Michigan.

In the weeks ahead, I urge this Legislature to pass Rep. Lemmons and Sen. Brater's bills to raise the drop-out age to 18. I also urge you to pass legislation that will give our state superintendent broader authority to close schools that consistently fail to meet academic goals.

But as important as those steps are, they're clearly not enough. That's why I have asked lawmakers from both parties and key education leaders to join me in solving our drop-out problem.

Senators Kuipers and Jelinek and Representatives Cushingberry and Melton, thank you for your wise counsel. Our work on this critical issue has just begun, but it has already helped to shape an important initiative.

My new budget will establish a 21st Century Schools Fund to replace large impersonal high schools that fail, with smaller schools that use firm discipline and strong personal relationships to help students reach high expectations.

Free from red tape and bureaucracy, these schools will deploy the new three Rs - rigor, relevance and relationships - to keep students in high school and then get them to college or technical training.

Our 21st Century Schools Fund will give school districts the resources they need to create high schools that work. A pioneering group of schools in Michigan is showing us today there is a better way.

In the past year, we created six early college high schools, which each partner with a major hospital in our state and a college or university.

Jalen Knox is here. He's 14. He's a freshman at Henry Ford Hospital's new school located in the hospital system in Detroit. In five years Jalen, and his classmates will graduate not just with a high school diploma but with a two-year college degree. That's right - in just five years.

When Jalen graduates with his specialty in respiratory therapy, Henry Ford Hospital will hire him at a salary of about $50,000 a year. Now that's a school that's relevant to the workplace!

Suit People

We have six of these schools in Michigan today - with our 21st Century Schools Fund, we could create 100 more tomorrow. We want every student in Michigan to leave high school with the skills it takes to succeed in college and the work place.

Thanks to the work of the Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth led by our Lt. Governor John Cherry, and bipartisan action by the Legislature, we are moving ever closer to our goal. We now have a record number of high school students in Michigan taking a college entrance exam, and a record number are eligible for our $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarship. This year, our state universities are reporting record enrollment.

And now we are stepping it up. We're going to follow Kalamazoo's lead. In that city, anonymous donors promised full college tuition for every high school graduate, and already Kalamazoo has more students staying in high school and more going to college. And there's greater parent participation in the K-12 schools and new investment in the community.

Senator Van Woerkom and Representative Melton have sponsored bipartisan legislation that will soon expand the vision of the Kalamazoo Promise to communities across our state. Senator, Representative - thank you - I look forward to signing your bills.

As much as we want our students to succeed in our K-12 schools, we also want them to succeed in college. Unfortunately, far too many of our students enter college but don't graduate. The higher education budget I propose will take aim at that problem by rewarding colleges and universities when their students complete degrees. We'll also reward them when they create opportunity for low-income students, and when they find ways to turn research ideas into businesses. We will invest more in higher education and we will expect more in return.

We will also invest more in training for adults already in the workforce. This past year, we took a giant step forward in workforce training when we launched the No Worker Left Behind initiative. Our goal is to give 100,000 workers displaced by changes in our economy access to college education and other training that prepares them for specific high demand jobs. We're offering free tuition for training in areas of need to the first 100,000 workers who sign up.

Within weeks of the program's launch, we saw a 300 percent increase in the number of people seeking training. Displaced workers like No Worker Left Behind, because it provides a ticket to a good-paying job. Employers like it, because it helps them hire employees with a strong Michigan work ethic and brand new skills.

No Worker Left Behind is training thousands of people for jobs that are open right now. Many of them are in medical fields like nursing. I'd like for you to meet John Sternhagen and his wife Andrea. John worked in manufacturing for 31 years, most recently at Electrolux in Greenville.

Capitol at Night

When Electrolux closed its doors and moved the jobs to Mexico, John and Andrea didn't know how they'd afford raising six kids with two in college. With the help of our workforce training efforts, John was able to go to Montcalm Community College through an accelerated program and get a nursing degree. Today, he's working full-time at Gratiot Medical Center as an RN, making almost double his old salary.

John made the transition. We have to make sure that others have that opportunity as well. Unfortunately, the huge demand we've seen for No Worker Left Behind will soon exhaust the federal funds we use to pay for this program. That means Michigan residents who want new skills are on waiting lists when they could be on payrolls.

I'm pleased to announce that the budget I propose next week will ensure that the thousands who need training are able to get it this year. And thank you Representative Hammel and Senator Jansen for working with us to find permanent funding for the job training Michigan workers and employers need.

Educating our citizens and diversifying our economy are the two most critical strategies for moving Michigan forward. But, as we work to transition Michigan from one economic era to the next, we must protect our citizens and their pocketbooks from the effects of that changing economy.

We've started by negotiating with leading mortgage companies to freeze increases in adjustable mortgage rates for up to five years to protect Michigan families from foreclosure. I'm increasing oversight of lenders to make sure people are not being scammed. And when the Legislature passes the "Save the Dream" home ownership protection package, we will have given citizens meaningful ways to refinance at low interest rates and save their homes from foreclosure. Thank you especially to Sen. Schauer for being so outspoken on this issue.

Next, consumers in every other state have the right to hold drug companies accountable when their products lead to injury and even death. Michigan consumers should have that right, too.

Third, we need to strengthen Michigan laws to stop gas pump ripoffs. This year, I'll ask the Legislature to amend our antitrust and consumer protection laws to give the attorney general and prosecutors broader authority to investigate price-fixing at the pump and gas-gouging by big oil.

Fourth, Michigan consumers are paying some of the highest home and auto insurance rates in the nation. It's unacceptable - especially in the state with the most challenged economy in the nation. This week, I will issue an executive order creating an insurance advocate whose sole responsibility will be to fight for fair and affordable rates for insurance ratepayers - no matter where they live.

Then, we must protect our neighborhoods. The Michigan State Police will continue to partner with local law enforcement in fugitive felon sweeps that have already put more than 5,000 sexual predators and other dangerous fugitives back behind bars.

Terri Lynn Land and Mike Cox

In my budget, by adding 100 new state troopers, we'll be able to expand our partnerships with local law enforcement in high crime areas. Since MSP's partnership with Flint law enforcement began, homicides have dropped a whopping 46 percent in that community. Tonight, I am offering to expand this same partnership to our highest crime areas.

We've also torn down blighted buildings to keep neighborhoods safe and to pave the way for new development and new jobs. Our goal is to tear down 1,500 of these crime havens by the end of this year.

Tearing down buildings is one way to fight crime; building up kids is another. I thank the 21,000 Michiganians who are giving their time to mentor the children who need their support the most. Tonight, I commit to recruiting 10,000 more mentors.

Clearly safety and economic development in our communities do go hand-in-hand. So we'll continue to partner on local economic development projects big and small, from Cobo Hall in Detroit to the Aviation Development Center in Houghton to the Pie Factory in Saugatuck.

The strength of Michigan's cities is critical to the strength of Michigan's future.

And finally, we must continue to push for accessible and affordable health care for all - another critical need in today's changing economy.

I'm proud that we stood strong and defended vulnerable people during our fiscal crisis last year. Thanks to so many of you, no senior, no person with a disability had their Medicaid coverage taken from them. And no child was cut off health care.

I personally take great pride - and you should too - in the fact that Michigan now has the highest rate of insured children in our nation.

Mike Bishop

But there is more to do. Today, every insured family pays more when uninsured families are forced to get basic health care in an expensive emergency room. When everyone has access to affordable healthcare, healthcare will become more affordable for everyone. We have asked for federal support for our Michigan First Health Care Plan to expand coverage to the uninsured in Michigan and haven't gotten it. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that as the administration in Washington prepares to leave office, they are unwilling to support states, including Michigan, in providing care for those who need it.

We won't stop fighting for fair treatment in Washington this year. And when a new president takes office next January, I guarantee we'll be first in line to provide affordable, accessible health care for all Michigan citizens.

Affordable health care for all.

Quality education and job training.

Safety for our homes and communities.

And a job for every worker eager to have one.

That is one tall order. Maybe you're thinking, that's more than I signed on for when I put my name on the ballot. Actually, you signed up at exactly the right time.

My friends, we have been elected to serve in a period of unprecedented change for Michigan. When history is written, it will say that this decade of economic turmoil was among the toughest any state had to face in generations. And we need to ask ourselves, how will that history judge us?

Let it read that we put people like John Sternhagen and Jalen Knox above all else. Let the story be that we did what was required and more to help John and Jalen and the thousands like them keep the promise of a good life in Michigan.

We have laid the right foundation to emerge from this period of economic restructuring as a more prosperous state. There are important, strong planks on that foundation: the most rigorous education standards ever, college scholarships for every child, the biggest diversification strategy in history, a major business tax rewrite, solving the fiscal crisis, training for every adult who needs it.


But there is so much more to do. Let's be frank: we didn't get into this overnight, we aren't going to get out of it overnight. All the more reason why we have to move quickly to add on to those planks, the foundation of our home.

So let's roll up our sleeves and continue building. Let's tune out the partisan voices to work side-by-side to diversify our economy. Let's draft the blueprint that makes Michigan a leader in alternative energy jobs.

Let's do the heavy lifting of replacing chronically failing schools with schools that work. Let's help all kids to go to college and giving every adult access to training. Let's hammer out a different health care system - one that gives every person access to affordable health insurance. And let's build a strong state that shelters our people through this economic hurricane - protecting their pocketbooks, their safety, and their hopes for a better Michigan.

This is not a time for procrastination or for partisan nonsense. It's a time for just one thing: for us to fight for Michigan's future. Period.

If there's one thing we showed the people of Michigan in the last year, it's that we know how to fight. Now we need to show them that we can fight for them. Together.

I'm ready, and I believe in my heart that you're ready too.

God bless you, and God bless the great state of Michigan.

State of the State 2008 - Granholm, Cherry and Bishop

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dawson's wishful thinking

This rumor has made the rounds ever since Granholm was re-elected in 2006. On the morning of the State of the State 2008, Dawson Bell revives it once again.

Fans of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's oratory should make a special point of tuning in tonight as she delivers her sixth State of the State address. It could be her last.

It could be mine too.

Speculation that Granholm might pull up stakes after 2008 and join a Hillary Clinton administration in Washington, D.C., has intensified in recent months as the presidential campaign season enters the late stages and Granholm nears the halfway point in her second and final term as governor.

The logic runs something like: For better or worse, the die is cast on Granholm's tenure; there's not much left for her to do. She remains a relatively young, charismatic asset to the Democratic Party who will have helped Clinton win a crucial state, and who needs and deserves a good job beyond the next two years.

Yeah. She does. And as someone who has lived and breathed and rode every emotional up and down following her these past two years, there is a huge part of me that hopes she does get offered something bigger, somthing better, something that gets her out of the bush leagues and away from the nasty, petty Republicans in this state, if only to go deal with the nasty, petty Republicans in Washington.

At least there she will have backup; from what I can tell when it comes to Michigan, she has been pretty much on her own. I've watched a crowd ride her coattails and then turn their backs as the cries of "lame duck" rang out about two seconds after the last vote was counted in 2006. I've watched a lot of things happen that have been a hell of a learning experience for me and make me think, "Gawd I miss the music business".

Maybe that's just the way it is. Politics is an ugly place filled with people who have to scramble to stay ahead, and they will do whatever it takes to position themselves for that. I wouldn't know; I'm not some expert, never had a desire to be part of the political scene, certainly never wanted a career in Lansing. I wish someone would have warned me.

But here I am. I don't like to run around bragging about this because 1)that just isn't me, and 2)it's not ABOUT me. I am but a messenger. She is the message.

And she's a damn good one. There is no other I would knock myself out for like this.

So, while I'm proud of the work I've done; not necessarily at the Governor's blog, but just everywhere in general these past few years, I don't like to focus on myself. It has been an amazing ride, one that I should write about someday when it's over. As far as I can tell, I'm the only one like me in the entire country, and I'm making small bits of history, whether anyone realizes it or not. That's pretty cool.

But lately, some things have happened that make me realize that I'm not going to stay in this after she goes. I might still blog on my own, pursue the photography for sure, but as far as the "community" aspect of it, well, it's just too draining. And me being pretty much a person who likes to be and create on my own- it just doesn't fit.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of doing great work and getting beat up for it. Some incredibly painful things have happened to me in this medium; I take the punches, I keep my mouth shut, I heal, they come back and punch me some more. Granted, that is probably the price you pay for being high profile and honest about who you are- but I've had enough of immature bullies. I'll tell the whole story someday, I promise. Am I too sensitive? Yes. Yes I am. I freely admit that. So what.

There is a sense of destiny that I have felt the past two years that I have never felt before. I can't describe it; I never really believed in a "destiny", per say. But things have happened that seemed to serve to show me that I had to be at this place; whether it is for the Governor, myself, the state, the blogosphere, all of the above, I don't know, but there was this underlying feeling that seemed to be controlling? directing? guiding? me.

Right now, that feeling is telling me this might be the last SotS that I experience in such a personal way. I could be wrong, I've been wrong about it before.

All I know is that this governor is magic, and I'm sure glad I could be along for the ride, however long that ride lasts. It has cost me dearly, but it has been well worth it.

Enjoy the SotS tonight. I know I will.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A little history on the State of the State address

Dome Magazine had an interesting article about the SotS; for those of us who don't remember, turns out that it used to be not such a big deal. Today, my inbox is flooded with so many Google alerts on this you would think it was the SuperBowl or something.

First of all, I wanted to point out a fact of life that has always annoyed me about the SotS (and I've only been watching it the past few years), and this story mentions it right in the beginning-

Those who support the governor stand up and clap at the "applause lines." Those opposed remain seated, their plastic diplomacy smiles distracting the cameras from clenched jaws and rolling eyes.

Quite frankly, I have always found this juvenile. I wish they would all remain seated throughout and stand up at the end. Applaud? Sure. But this jack-in-the-box jumping up and down seems to emphasize this partisan divide that everyone claims needs to be healed this year. The visual reminder won't help.

Yeah, it's tradition, I know. But turns out that tradition used to be that the governor's "address" was a memo that was probably filed in a stack of papers on a legislator's desk- if it made it that far.

The state constitution requires the governor to give legislators some type of annual update. For years governors gave written updates that frequently went unnoticed.

Who turned it into the pomp and circumstance that it is today? That would be Governor Jim Blanchard.

Those in the cheap seats, clap your hands. The rest of you, rattle your jewelry, over the flip...

The Blanchard administration realized the media could be useful.

“Pre electronic communication, the State of the State was a means of assuring that at least once a year the governor would give a report on the state’s progress and activity to the people paying the bills,” said Rick Cole, professor and chairperson of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing at Michigan State University and former press secretary and chief of staff for Governor Jim Blanchard. “Over time it has become more of a vehicle for announcing the future plans and unveiling the public relations part of the strategy for achieving new policy.”

Cole credits the Blanchard administration with jump-starting the State of the State PR movement.

“It occurred to me that the governor speaking to the people, and also giving projections of what they could expect to see in the future, was something that was worthy of statewide media coverage,” Cole said. In fact, it was Cole who put together an unprecedented statewide network of television stations — both public and commercial stations — to carry Blanchard’s addresses.

Then they started the tradition of leaking info on the contents in the weeks leading up to the speech in an effort to drum up interest in the Michigan media. What got their attention? Cole gave a blockbuster story to an out-of-state paper.

Before one of Blanchard’s State of the States, Cole gave a reporter from The New York Times a front page story about an innovative college savings plan Blanchard planned to roll out in his address (the plan became the groundbreaking MET program, still in existence). Michigan reporters went crazy, but Cole said it was worth getting a huge national story.

“Honestly, if we had given them (Michigan reporters) that story they would have said, ‘that’s just some bullshit political ploy,’” Cole said.

Engler's people played reporters and editors off of their competitors. Another smart move. (yes, I'm praising John Truscott, and that's painful)

“We always had major stories out on Saturday and Sunday,” said John Truscott, press secretary for former Governor John Engler. Truscott said they’d ask a paper’s editor, “If we give you a big issue, will you give us the front page?” If the answer was yes, the reporter got his or her story.

“Inevitably I’d get yelled at by another editor, but everyone knows that’s the way it works,” Truscott said. That may be the way it works, but press secretaries carefully weigh the backlash they might receive from a scorned news outlet.

With the media attention came the protestors as well. I vaguely remember this next story when it happened-

Good public relations strategy also includes avoiding disaster, be it a loose-lipped governor or State of the State night snowballs.

One year during Engler’s address, protestors threw snowballs at the Capitol windows. Another year, the media got a shot of protestors’ tents that were spread across the Capitol lawn.

If I recall correctly, that was all pre-9/11. (feel free to correct that if I'm wrong) Something tells me you couldn't get away with throwing snowballs, or anything else today, due to heightened security in and around the building. (so don't try it, Mr. Perks)

Now I must go clean out the inbox and see what will happen tomorrow. It must be hard to decide what/how much to release for any governor- you want to build support for your plans, but you don't want oppostion to take hold before you get the chance to roll them out.

Tune in tomorrow and see...

Call of the Senate Democrats

New blog from the Senate Democrats announced today. How very cool.

Today Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) announced the launch of the Senate Democratic Caucus’ blog, “Call of
the Senate Democrats.” This new forum will feature weekly posts from Senators and caucus staff, offering an insider perspective of the
Capitol and focusing on the Senate Democrats’ priorities for Michigan. Lansing’s first legislative caucus blog can be found at

Throughout the week following Governor Jennifer Granholm’s State of the State address, “Call of the Senate Democrats” will feature running commentary from members of the Senate Democratic Caucus about efforts to move Michigan forward in 2008. In the future, the blog will highlight weekly Senate business, legislation, committee meetings and other key issues affecting state government.

Does this mean we won't see Senator Schauer around here anymore? Gee, ya raise 'em up, and they run off and start their own blog... those legislators will break your heart every time.

Oh well. Guess I'll get to work on the House Democrats then. ;-)

Best of luck Senate Dems- looking forward to "borrowing liberally" from your site.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Look familiar?

Look Familiar?

This is about the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.

Mattingly at 2nd

Not the greatest of pictures, but still, it is now immortal. Hope I can get an actual card one of these days; the people at Donruss were supposed to send me one and still haven't, and I don't feel like paying a bunch of money to get it. (but I might end up doing that)

Can't wait for baseball season...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't want to pay the bills? Kiss the cops goodbye

Might be best to steer clear of Pontiac for awhile. Or maybe you can carry a taser instead.

Facing a $6.5 million deficit and a possible state takeover, Pontiac will lay off 25 more police officers, reducing the ranks to 64 sworn officers -- down from 170 just 2 1/2 years ago.

Sounds like the mayor's hand were tied.

Last week, city voters rejected a referendum that would have tossed out the charter wording and allowed the mayor to eventually lay off firefighters and restructure emergency rescue. Voters also failed to reauthorize tax increases approved in November 2006 that would have reopened youth centers and given the Police Department additional money. That money -- about $1.7 million had been collected -- will now be credited back to residents in their July tax bills.

So, residents will get that money back- and the city will rely on OTHER people's money for their public safety. The News calls it "free" help- but as we know, some taxpayer somewhere will be forced to foot the bill for this, namely the county and the state. Even with the "free" help offered, the city will still see fallout in the form of reduced response times.

Chief Valard Gross said that he will require all officers, including supervisors, to work road patrol in an effort to maintain their six-minute response time for emergencies such as shootings, major assaults and calls on breaking and entering.

Lesser crimes such as larceny and vandalism could now take up to six hours for police response, he said.

"I'm asking the citizens of Pontiac to be patient," he said.

Gross and city officials will meet with Michigan State Police next week to discuss free help to the department.

On Thursday night, the City Council accepted an offer from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office for help with traffic enforcement within Pontiac's borders. For at least the next 90 days, patrols will roam the city and issue tickets to traffic violators and respond to accidents.

The impatient part of me says "let them live with their decision; no extra patrols, no making other people pay" and let Pontiac turn into the Wild, Wild West if that is road they want to choose.

The human part of me realizes that doesn't work either, and innocent people will get hurt.

So, what do we do when faced with this sort of dilemma?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lansing's Summer of Conditional Love

Rumor has it that Governor Granholm and Mike Bishop will be singing the duet "Whenever I Call You Friend" during the State of the State address next Tuesday night. Be sure and tip your waiter.

Senate Republicans extended an olive branch to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democrats on Thursday, promising more cooperation.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said last year's tumult over the state budget and taxes harmed the reputation of the Legislature. He said Republicans will work to restore the public's confidence.

"While we continue to zealously advocate on behalf of those things that represent our core principles, I can assure you of the many lessons we have learned over the past year that will assist us in the future and working better together," Bishop said.

Not exactly a Valentine, but it's a start.

Let's call it "Friends With Conditions". Gongwer tells us that as long as the Governor behaves herself and follows Republican orders, everything will be fine.

As he and members of his caucus outlined their priorities for the upcoming year, Mr. Bishop also praised the newfound sense of bipartisanship and said the effort to work together is critical for government to regain the respect of the public.

But that attitude could be strained if Ms. Granholm calls for new programs and new spending, Mr. Bishop said. He urged Ms. Granholm to "show strength and good judgment and not call for new programs" that could only complicate the legislative/executive cooperative attitude.

Republicans have a list of demands that need to be met first, you see. Bipartisanship means that you do as they say while they get to "zealously advocate" that it's all the Democrats fault that taxes were raised last year. Sanborn's resolution passed yesterday, adding the names of everyone in the Senate as co-sponsors (wasn't that nice?) and he took that opportunity to make more demands on the Governor. Come see over the flip...

As an added bonus, he shifted the blame for the tax increase right onto her- pay no attention to the fact that it wouldn't have happened without votes from the Republican Senate. We won't mention that. Maybe the public will forget.

That is why my resolution, which just passed, calls for the Governor to openly and honestly discuss the continued economic decline of Michigan in her upcoming State of the State address. The challenges we face as a state are real and they are staggering. As a result, the time for platitudes and pipe dreams are gone. The Governor must recognize that she has no excuse for continuing to ignore the plight of Michigan’s families who want jobs rather than handouts and tax increases to pay for them.

After insinuating that the Governor has been ignoring the state while she dreams her "pipe dreams", Alan followed that up with more of "the Governor must" do such and such and so and so, and wound up right back at the tax issue. Everybody see where this is going?

People, we are still getting it wrong by raising taxes in a recession. It is the task that she promised the citizens of Michigan that she would undertake in exchange for their vote. I hope that she takes this task seriously and that she offers us truthful and realistic set of proposals that we can consider in the near future in her State of the State address.

Just like Bishop's implication that she hasn't shown "good judgment" in the past, Sanborn's words are a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to denigrate and dismiss everything she has proposed before, even if those ideas were sound and the Republicans plan on stealing them later.

So, what do the Republicans offer up in return if the Governor meets their demands? Well, they don't have any details, of course, except that their focus will be on business interests, "less government", and zero fiscal responsibility.

Senate Republicans' 2008 agenda offered few specifics but called for developing renewable energy industries, smaller government with less red tape for businesses, revitalizing city downtowns and fixing roads without higher taxes.

In other words, they get to carry on with their previous do-nothing agenda while they beat the Democrats over the head with "taxes" this election year. Bishop and the Senate Republicans will obstruct job-creating ideas and use subtle threats that ”bipartisanship” will fall apart if the Governor doesn't do as they say, Saul will cause more potholes in the roads as he drags the jobs clock “tax check” all over the state, and DeRoche will continue to use inflammatory rhetoric as he runs screeching to the press with wild accusations that Bishop has to correct later.

Actually, this might be a good thing. Keep it up, Craig. Especially if you’re going to confess later. Looks like the Skubick Method works.

DeRoche, though, contends his rebate news conference was not 100 percent about regaining a majority in the House, but also had to do with avoiding a structural budget deficit.

Under intense questioning, he finally conceded that "It absolutely had to do with connecting with the voters and it's an issue for the campaign."

In strong contrast to DeRoche, Bishop issued a release concerning the $350 million surplus without a peep about a tax give-back.

And he remained silent on the DeRoche rebate until he showed up at a recent conference with House Speaker Any Dillon, D-Redford Township.

"The reality is ... there is not a surplus at all," Bishop conceded. If there was, he quickly adds, he would give the money back, too.

Oops. Craig was being an idiot. And better yet, Bishop admits this is just the start.

Finally, Bishop gave a little ground: "I can't tell you that was a political statement or not, but I will tell you that this is an election year and you'll see a lot better stuff than that."

Are ya feeling the conditional love yet?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sanborn Resolution No. 143

A resolution in response to Senate Resolution No. 143, to urge the Alan Sanborn and the Republican Obstructionist Players in the Michigan Senate to focus attention throughout the remainder of their tenure upon the losses that have taken place in employment, manufacturing jobs, and personal income growth in Michigan; to stop insisting on taking long vacations, blowing off meetings, crying to the press, hiding in the bathroom, working on divisive legislation that they know will not pass, and to stop the endless name-calling and pointing their fingers at the Governor and/or the Democrats for the above losses when they know darn good and well that most of this is beyond our control, which they have graciously admitted to in SR 143, and, to acknowledge that the people of the State of Michigan are onto their game as reflected by numerous newspaper editorials and dismal approval ratings of the Legislature, or have you forgotten that already ; and

Whereas, The admonishment to the Governor in SR 143 to focus her attention on “jobs” proves that the Senate Republicans have been sitting on their hands, sleeping, or waiting for punch lines they can boo under the breath during previous State of the State addresses, and indicates that if they actually had been paying attention they would know that practically all the Governor talks about is “jobs”, so much so that she appears to be obsessed and might require treatment, and, how the Senate Republicans have missed this fact is well beyond the scope of this resolution, suggests that they are hopelessly obtuse or willfully ignorant, and therefore requires they shall be made to listen to all the previous State of the State addresses until they can successfully score above 90% on a quiz of the contents; and

Whereas, In light of the worthless, waste of time, and redundant SR 143 introduced by Senator Sanborn, which the people of Michigan had to pay someone to print and record while he and the Senate Republicans could have focused on “jobs” instead, and, in light of his previous behavior on the floor of the Senate as reported in the Senate Journals, let it be known that the Senator has moved up in order on the Senate Whipping Boy Chart past Nancy Cassis, and any further incidents of obstructionist behavior such as name-calling, wasting the taxpayers time, and needless resolutions and legislation shall be met with scorn and ridicule; and

Whereas, The gravity of the economic obstacles facing our state makes it clear that virtually all policy efforts--from members on both sides of the political aisle--must be focused on the creation of jobs and the development of policies that strengthen the economic security of Michigan's families and businesses, and, yes, this means the Senate Republicans as well; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by me, That I respectfully urge the Senate Republicans to focus attention on the content of the State of the State address this year and actually listen to what the Governor has to say this time, and, throughout the remainder of their tenure, focus upon the losses that have taken place in employment, manufacturing jobs, and personal income growth in Michigan, and to stop wasting everyone’s time and money with further attempts at obstruction, blame, and divisive election year legislation, lest the poll ratings plummet to new record lows; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to whoever wants to read it.

Drolet wastes more of the taxpayer dollar

Gee, for a guy who claims he wants to reduce the size of government, he sure does lean on it an awful lot.

The group trying to recall State Rep. Robert Dean is trying to overturn a state law that bars non-residents of his district from collecting recall petition signatures.

The group, which has targeted the Grand Rapids Democrat and 10 other legislators because they voted for a tax increase last fall, said the restriction violates the 1st Amendment rights of people who live outside the district and want to participate in the recall drive.

During last week's presidential primary election, the group tried to collect the required 8,714 signatures by hiring college students who live in the district to stake out the polls.

This comes after Drolet's people called the cops on primary day to claim harassment. Wonder why they don't hire private security if they are so against paying for the police. Also wonder just how much Leon's escapades are costing the taxpayer that he claims he is trying to protect.

They also have fliers hanging in my local grocery store looking for paid signature gatherers. Guess the local citizens aren't all that bothered by Rep. Dean, and now Drolet is forced to hire out of district thugs to do his bidding. Kind of tells you how "outraged" the people of the 75th really are.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

They fall for it every time

How can you tell it's an election year in Michigan? Simply by the extremist, sensationalist, waste of time legislation that is written soley to drive a wedge in the population, inflame emotions, and get the suckers on the Radical Right to open their checkbooks once again and give to the candidate who promises, no, really, they mean it this time, that they will finally outlaw abortion once and for all, all those wanton women will have to get married before they have sex, there won't be any need for birth control, either, because sex is only for procreation, right?, (we'll legislate that next, don't worry), and your mailbox will be safe from the horrible fliers with the gruesome pictures, and we can all get back to work on denying gay folk their civil rights. (What, are the gays busy this year? Or are we just waiting until summer to use them to drive the money into the campaign coffers?)

By now you have heard that the Republican Senate followed through on their promise to be the Good Dogs for the Right to Life of Michigan by passing the partial birth abortion ban (which is a political term only, designed to mess with your mind, has no meaning in the medical world). Not going to argue the merits here of a redundant law that is already on the federal books- but we do need to look at how the Republicans are using this as a tool against Democrats.

Republicans don't give a damn about "life" and we all know it. What the do give a damn about is gaining political power, getting people to give them money, and using whatever measures they can in the goal of obtaining the two. How can you tell? The ink wasn't even dry on the bill when the MRP released an attack on Mark Schauer for his vote. From MIRS-

The Michigan Republican Party (MRP) wasted no time in taking aim at Senate Minority Leader Mark SCHAUER (D-Battle Creek), who voted against the partial birth abortion ban.


"Mark Schauer is out-of-step with the majority of Americans and Michiganians who believe this practice is both barbaric and dangerous," said MRP Chair Saul ANUZIS. "My guess is that he is spending too much time running for office and too little time listening to the people he was elected to represent."

We can hazard a guess that the people that Schauer was "elected to represent" probably didn't even have this issue on the radar. Jobs and the economy are first and foremost on everyone's mind. But still, that won't stop Saul and the MRP from distorting the issue, of course.

So now that Saul has tipped his hand on where this is going to go, we turn to the House, where already the Republicans are accusing the Democrats of "blocking" this vote. Hadn't even hit committee yet and the talking points are being set, using the underhanded tactic of citing legislation already introduced, just waiting to capitalize on the Senate vote. Watch as they turn this into a wedge issue on the House Democrats.

Today, MIRS asked House Judiciary Chair Paul CONDINO (D-Southfield) what he expects to happen to the bill when it reaches his committee.

"The first thing we'll look for is whether or not the legislation is constitutional," Condino said. "Just because Rep. Brian PALMER (R-Romeo) says it's constitutional, doesn't mean we're not going to do our own checking."

Condino's reference to Palmer was in regard to a House Republican news release today that was titled: "House Republicans fight to protect unborn children." The news release was about efforts by Palmer and Rep. Kim MELTZER (R-Clinton Twp.) to have the House move Palmer's HB 4613, which is the same as SB 776. Palmer had the bill drafted last April right after the Court's ruling.

The GOP news release opened with: "House Democrats today dealt a serious blow to Michigan's unborn children as they blocked efforts by state Reps. Brian Palmer and Kim Meltzer to ban partial birth abortions."

Will House Democrats subject their colleagues to the same treatment that Schauer is now receiving? That brings us to Andy Dillon, the recall hanging over his head, and shadowy references to promises that Andy may or may not have made. Follow over the flip...

First we bring up the recall effort- political terrorism at it's finest. The Radical Right will hold this over Dillon's head as long as they possibly can in an effort to get him to do their bidding.

That seems to be the thinking of Ed RIVET, spokesman for Right to Life of Michigan (RTL). MIRS asked Rivet today if RTL would bring the issue up in connection with Dillon's recall, if the Speaker doesn't bring it up on the House floor.

"Right now, we're taking the Speaker at his word that he will bring it up," Rivet replied.

Regarding the recall efforts, Rivet added that RTL will "let people know when lawmakers are pro-life and should continue to be supported."

Rivet also insinuates that Andy made deals and is under RTL's control. How insulting. And arrogant.

Meanwhile, Dillon spokesman Greg BIRD said the Speaker has not made a commitment to put the ban up for a vote.

"We've been assured by Chairman Condino that the bill will receive thorough consideration," Bird said. "A commitment to move the bill has not been made by the Speaker."

In response to this Rivet said he's not sure Bird is privy to everything that Dillon may have committed to.

So RTL seems to think they have the House Democrats in their pocket and this will once again come down to Granholm, who probably will tell them to stuff it, given the language of the bill. She has always made the case that any bill should have a provision that includes the health/life of the mother, this one seems to go out of it's way to negate that. Faulty language was pointed out by Gretchen Whitmer yesterday-

Whitmer said the primary American organization representing obstetricians and gynecologists opposes the bill because they say it is unscientific and contains descriptions that don't match any procedure described in medical texts or journals -- leaving doctors with an unclear guideline.

And when you read it, it becomes clear that the bill insists that it's not about the health of the mother. Right at the top of SB 776 is confusing and contradictory language that begs for a veto.

The legislature finds all of the following:

(a) That partial-birth abortions pose serious risks to the health of a woman, no credible medical evidence exists that partial-birth abortions are safe, and partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary to preserve the health of the mother.

(b) That the state has a compelling interest in preserving and protecting the life of the mother and the child by prohibiting partial-birth abortions.

And it gets more convoluted from there. Was this done on purpose to force the Democrats in a corner and keep this issue alive the entire year? Given the tactics of the Republican Party, is it even possible to think otherwise?

Don't be fooled Democrats. Don't let them use this to divide the party, or your colleagues will be faced with the same treatment that Schauer is receiving. Bury this bill in committee and let them yell about blocking. After all, the Republican Senate has turned that into its forte'- no reason you can't as well, especially when anything you do in this regard will be used against you.

And for good measure, why don't you stand up and call this political stunt out for what it is, and then proclaim that you are going to work on the issues that really matter to Michigan citizens. Sounds like a plan.

No helipad for DeVos

One.. two... three... everybody say, "Awwwww, poor Dick".

It seems unlikely that Dick DeVos will get a helipad near his house anytime soon.

Ada Township planning director Jim Ferro told 24 Hour News 8 the township will recommend modifying regulations that heliports can only be allowed in agricultural or industrial districts. If accepted, those modifications would prevent DeVos from building a private helipad.

Guess Dick will have to make the 10 minute trip down the road and use the one at Amway. Sad, isn't it?

UPDATE: The GR Press has more details.

Senate Republicans to block renewable portfolio standard?

You have got to be kidding me with this. Why would Senate Republicans want to deny job growth and hold Michigan back when the rest of the country is moving forward?

Oh, wait a minute. Now I remember what the Senate Republicans are all about- making sure there is absolutely no progress in this state. On anything. Ever.

First the good news- the House Energy and Technology Committee has passed a target on renewable energy.

Within eight years, 10 percent of the electricity sold to Michigan consumers would have to come from renewable energy sources such as wind under bipartisan legislation passed Wednesday by a state House committee.

The standard would be nearly triple by 2015 the amount of renewable energy now being sold by utilities and other power producers in the state.

And now the bad news.

More than 25 other states already have renewable energy standards for energy companies, but the issue is far from settled in Michigan.

Although some House Republicans back the proposal, Senate Republicans say it's an unacceptable government mandate. They favor giving tax credits to people who renewable green energy and making only state government - not the utilities - purchase a certain amount of clean power.

Senate Republicans want to deny Michigan job creation. It really is that simple.

Over the flip is a diary I wrote back on Dec. 6th of last year entitled "Hey Michigan. Want jobs?"- filled with all kinds of linky goodness showing that if Michigan adopts a RPS, we will create the demand that will bring us investment and jobs. So if you missed it the first time around- here is what the Senate Republicans would deny our state...


Three words. Renewable portfolio standard. Pass one. Now. The House is starting work on setting a renewable energy policy, holding hearings today - let's hope they get this done soon because we have very little time to waste. Almost half the country has already passed legislation for renewable portfolio standards. Michigan shouldn't be left behind.

When you wander into the world of renewable/alternative energy, you are hit with endless acronyms from endless coalitions that talk about endless percentages and it all gets very confusing very fast. Try to ignore all of that. Just know this- the one thing that comes up over and over if you have been paying attention to the governor's travels is the fact that having a RPS in Michigan will create jobs. Period.

This editorial from MI Energy Future has been published in both the Traverse City Record-Eagle and the Grand Rapids Press, and it's a good one. Go read it. They are pushing for 10% by 2015.

A 10 percent RES will attract good-paying jobs and new investments in the emerging energy field, strengthening Michigan's economy while reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses. A recent study by the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers shows that a renewable energy standard in Michigan can generate up to 35,000 good-paying jobs. Renewable energy can help put our manufacturing sector back to work and move Michigan's economy forward.

Another study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy comes to the same conclusion- lots of new jobs, savings and investment.

If the appropriate legislation is adopted, Michigan will see a net employment increase of between 3,900 and 10,000 jobs by 2023 because higher levels of energy efficiency investment by utilities produce greater job growth. That would be the equivalent of adding 25 to 75 small manufacturing plants to the state, according to the report. Furthermore, businesses and households would save more than $2.6 billion on energy bills because a number of expensive new power plants would be avoided.

And don't forget the American Solar Energy Society and their study that predicts that 1 out of 4 jobs will be connected with renewable energy by 2030, with 40 million jobs being produced altogether when you add in manufacturing, accounting, management and construction.

By the year 2030, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries could generate up to $4.5 trillion in revenue in the U.S., but only with the appropriate public policy, including a renewable portfolio standard, renewable energy incentives, public education, and R&D.

Many of the businesses and investors mentioned in all the stories on alternative energy have said that a renewable portfolio standard is crucial to the industry's growth in a state. Governor Granholm talked with some big name investors out in California...

Granholm said that while VC fund managers in her first few meetings were surprised and impressed by what they heard about Michigan’s efforts, they also made it clear that they will look favorably on states with aggressive public policy initiatives favoring the growth of renewable energy sources.

... and the businesses already here in Michigan working on making the switch to manufacturing components for the alternative energy field, wind turbines in particular. Jeff Metts, president of Dowding Machining-

Metts said the opportunities currently before the state legislature in the form of an RPS (renewable portfolio standards) agreement could be "huge" for Michigan's economy — if legislators don't miss the boat.

Jobs. We hear it all the time. Michigan needs jobs. Well, here you go.


And on the very day I published this diary, the AP also did a story on alternative energy, and it included yet another person telling us that a RPS is mandatory.

Glen Andersen, who focuses on renewable energy issues for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, said Michigan could be in an excellent position to build renewable energy systems and components given its manufacturing history.

States such as Colorado are trying to lure renewable energy manufacturers with incentives, but most of those companies will have to start from the ground up, he said. Michigan already has buildings and workers in place.

"If you have the skill and the expertise and especially a work force already trained in manufacturing, I would think that would be an advantage," Andersen said.

But he warned that companies won't be as willing to come to states that don't require the kinds of alternative energy products they'll be manufacturing, whether it's wind turbines or solar equipment.

"A lot of the industries think about, does the state have a strong renewable portfolio standard? Do we have a market in the state? That's one of the things that pushes this along," Andersen said.

The evidence of the need for this is overwhelming. The evidence that Senate Republicans would obstruct any progress in Michigan is also overwhelming. And tragic for our state.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CMS gives privatization a bad name

CMS (Correctional Medical Services) runs part of our prison health care here in Michigan, and a report released today found the system wanting, which was no surprise to anyone who watched us get dragged through the mud on 60 Minutes last year.

A year-long study of health care in Michigan's prisons paints a picture of an inefficient, overly bureaucratic system that is too costly and delivers inferior care.

The report by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, released today, lists 56 recommendations on how the Michigan Department of Corrections can improve the medical and mental health care of inmates. Corrections Director Patricia Caruso, in a separate response to the Legislature, said her department already is implementing many of the study's recommendations.

That's a good thing. More oversight is obviously needed here- but it appears that no one felt like they could do anything about the problems with CMS employees.

The report said one medical service provider employed by CMS appeared to have a problem with "cognitive functioning," did not seem to understand questions asked by those conducting the study and had problems operating the prison's electronic health records system.

"There were obvious implications for patient safety in this situation," the report said, noting that several staff members were aware of the provider's shortcomings but nothing was done about it.

"Apparently, it is not clear to the people in this system who is in charge and how change can be effectuated," the report found. "Any system can have, from time to time, an employee with a functional impairment ... What is frightening here, however, is that the system failed to self-correct. Part of the problem is that the providers are not employees. None of the supervisors our physician spoke with felt they had the power to correct this situation."

That is just one example, and there have been many other horror stories here and across the country concerning the (non) quality of care provided by this for-profit corporation.

CMS was supposed to get the boot in March as the state is looking to switch over to regional HMO-type care- a first in the nation if it works- but problems with bidding will delay that and we will have to extend our contract wiht them for six months. The Free Press has been all over this story from the start...

Unfortunately, because of the necessary rebidding, the state will now likely have to extend its contract with CMS by at least six months. CMS has compiled a dismal record here and around the country, taking up to $90 million a year from Michigan taxpayers while operating in near secrecy. Under the original bid proposal, only licensed HMOs qualified, which probably would have excluded CMS. But the state could now toss that requirement.

CMS has been part of the problem too long. The health care contract, assumed by CMS in 1998, has not been put out for bid since 1997. Based on past performance, CMS should not be awarded a new contract.

CMS shot back in a "not our fault" LTE to the Freep in early January. They claim that Corrections does have "comprehensive and thorough" oversight (which today's report proves otherwise), and lookee all the money they saved us, too!

CMS is not the "problem" that needs to be fixed. CMS is composed of dedicated men and women who provide compassionate and appropriate services to Michigan prisoners. CMS' services have been cost effective for the state; CMS saved Michigan more than $60 million over a six-year period by assembling a highly competent team of physicians and other professionals.

Yeah, about that money you saved us. Last November, the Muskegon Chronicle, while reporting on yet another inmate death caused by lack of medical attention, gave us some figures on the "savings" from CMS. Seems the bill was just a bit higher than anticipated. No wonder Corrections budgets are going through the roof.

A month later, payments made to CMS came under the scrutiny of a Senate subcommittee. State reimbursements to CMS for sending inmates to hospitals and medical specialists was predicted to rise 61 percent, from $58.8 million to nearly $95 million.

In all, it was estimated the state would spend $281 million on physical and mental health treatment of inmates in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

CMS officials said the increase in costs were due in part to an unexpected increase of 1,500 prisoners due to the murder spree of parolee Patrick Selepak, and more prisoner referrals for medical care following the widely-publicized dehydration death of a 21-year-old mentally ill inmate.

CMS also blamed rising health care costs in general and an increase in the number of inmates referred for specialty and hospital care.

61% increase? Perhaps when you actually have to start taking care of people it costs some money, eh? Better up that bill and protect that profit margin.

Remember CMS when Republicans start talking about privatization. Chances are we are going to see more of it this year as we face budget issues and "reforms". Privatization doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but when it comes to the care of people (and kids, they are talking privatization on foster care services)- there had better be some strong oversight in place to prevent companies like this from taking advantage of vulnerable people while they pocket our taxpayer dollars.
Granholm interview on WNEM Newsradio 1250

Great interview with TV5's Craig McMorris and Barrie Barber of the Saginaw News. Granholm talks about MLK Day, the primary, the Michigan economy, alternative energy... and she has an answer for the Republicans who complain about taxes.

Radio on video. What a concept. They cover a lot of ground in this interview and it's definitely worth a look.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mike Bishop promises to play nice this year

I want this stuff on record before it disappears into the netherworld of archived MLive and/or Detroit Free Press articles and I have to go search library records to find it. Like last year, it's probably best to have a handy dandy reference to the things Mike has said so we can remind him of it if he wanders off the path, right?

Bishop has been running around to the media proclaiming that things will be better in Lansing this year. Today the Freep chimes in on a moment in Michigan history that I really wish I could have seen- Granholm, Dillon and Bishop sitting down together over dinner and chatting about the year that was and the year to come.

There was no formal theme, but the principals agreed between courses that 2007 had been a tough, unfortunate and even embarrassing year for state government, and none of them wanted a repeat in 2008.

Bishop acknowledges the problem...

"There were times when the Legislature just looked very bad. It was chaos ... reminded me of a fraternity house," Bishop said during a meeting last week with the Free Press editorial board. "I remember walking through the Capitol during one of those sessions at 5 a.m., thinking, this is just not the way it's supposed to be."

... and apparently has been in talks with Dillon about finding some common ground right off the bat.

Democrat Dillon of Redford Township and Republican Bishop of Rochester agreed in the separate conversations that it makes sense for the leadership to find a significant issue with bipartisan support and get it taken care of early this year, to set the tone.

With the House up for election in the fall, Dillon acknowledged that "you can identify some people who would say that the worse we look, the better it will be for them in November." But Dillon said most of the Legislature appeared chastened by the reaction to their 2007 exploits and his caucus, at least, is ready to put bad blood behind and dig into its responsibilities.

Most? Care to name names of those who weren't? Probably not, but given some of the statements so far this year * coughDeRochecough * we can guess as to who the malcontents are.

Moving on, we've established that the Democrats are ready to go and get some work done. Bishop says he is too. From the Kalamazoo Gazette-

In regard to lawmakers' image, Bishop said, "There was agreement among all of us that we have to do a lot of rehabilitation with the public. The way to do that is to work together, and that is our commitment.

"Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and it is an election year."

And there was this-

"We know the public was not pleased by what they saw," Bishop said, speaking of 2007. "We want to be more communicative and less combative this year."

We will see if Bishop is serious about that. So far, we have seen that they are choosing to work on divisive legisaltion, planning on ignoring fiscal facts, and insisting on being irresponsible with the budget. Not off to a good start.

He said the Republicans' priority this year is "jobs, jobs, jobs," but could offer no specifics on how they intend to recruit more businesses to Michigan.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Off we go into 2008...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Michigan "Overspending" Myth

(Also available in green at Blogging For Michigan.)

This is the kind of story that never seems to make its way to the major media outlets here in Michigan, the kind of story that cuts the heart right out of one of the MI GOP's main talking points. First of all, listen to DeRoche wail about the budget surplus-

"The governor and House Democrats have repeatedly papered over the true budget situation. They failed to report $70 million in overspending, inflated budget proposals to increase the deficit, and then shut down the government to force a tax increase."

Knocked down easy enough, even by the Detroit News-

But the theory that a potential surplus was hidden from lawmakers to support tax hikes is weakened when it is noted that the state used nearly $360 million from other, specialized funds to balance the General Fund in the last budget.

And that the governor issued an executive order cutting appropriations during the year by $274 million.

Despite new taxes adopted by lawmakers, the current fiscal year would have been out of balance without the surplus.

Once again, DeRoche is proven to be erroneous in his assessment of the situation, which is probably an everyday occurrence in the Wacked World of Craig, right? No big deal, really- but notice how that one key word gets out there once again.

Overspending. And if you listen closely, you will hear just about every Michigan Republican that gets that attention of the media trying to convince the public that the state government is overspending, when in fact, we aren't even keeping up with inflation.

One lonely story in the Lansing State Journal tells us the truth, and then you have to dig from there.

The idea that state taxes and spending are out of control is a myth and an impediment to getting Michigan's economy back on track, a group representing universities, cities and nonprofit agencies said Thursday.

Rather, personal income has outpaced state spending, and investments in programs critical to the state's welfare have been slashed, the group said. Cuts to colleges have meant students pay more for tuition and cuts to cities have resulted in fewer police patrolling the streets.

Total spending from state resources has risen 10 percent since fiscal 2001, while personal income is up 19 percent, according to the report by the Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project.

The Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project runs the site Michigan Tax Truth, and they were kind enough to print articles from both MIRS and Gongwer that have some interesting facts that help put everything into perspective.

The more you know. Looking at the tax rate, the state takes less out of you today than it did under Engler. From MIRS-

Michigan's personal income has increased nearly twice as fast as spending from state taxes and fees since 2000, a new analysis of Michigan's budget shows, even after including the 2007 tax increases. And the state's bite out of the average family's paycheck today is about 15 percent less than in 2000.

State spending from state taxes and fees has increased by only 10 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, state personal income has increased during that period by 19.3 percent and inflation has increased by 17.4 percent.

Even after passage of the 2007 tax increases, data from the Senate Fiscal Agency (SFA) shows state taxes are taking about 16 percent less of Michigan paychecks than in 2000. Today state government takes about 8 cents from every dollar earned in Michigan; in 2000, it took, 9.49 cents.

Which leads to the consequences of the tax cuts. It's not that we are "overspending"- we have slashed the revenue to the point where it only appears that we are overspending.

"Michigan's budget reality is far different than some special interest groups and many lawmakers are portraying," said MML Executive Director Dan GILMARTIN. "Michigan isn't living beyond its means. What is happening is that decision makers from both parties are cutting the means regularly, planting the seeds for the budget chaos that is destroying our state's ability to invest for the future."

Adjusted for inflation, revenue sharing has gone down 31 percent in Michigan since 2000, which is MML's major issue. State funding for Michigan universities has been cut 10.5 percent in that same period, resulting in universities raising tuition.

The MFRP analysis shows how those cuts have not been required by the state's economic doldrums, but are the result primarily of tax cuts imposed in the late 1990s and during this decade, including major reductions in state income tax rates, increases in state income tax deductions, elimination of estate taxes on the very wealthy, and business tax reductions.

Republicans don't believe in "adjusting for inflation" when they try to convince everyone that spending is out of control, of course. Better to take those big round numbers and deceive the public, because that is the only way that they can make those talking points fly.

Watch Matt Marsden shake his head, close his eyes, and stick his fingers in his ears and go, "la la la la, I can't hear you!" as tries to make reality go away once again.

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) said the group's premise is wrong. "We've seen a steady increase in state spending over the past number of years," he said. "To suggest that we don't have a budget challenge and we don't have to live within our means is complete nonsense."

He admitted that revenue sharing and universities have seen cuts, but he said it was because other areas of the budget had exceeded their share of the growth. "It ignores those areas that have had massive increases like state employee pay and benefits and corrections," he said. "These other areas have been squeezing out (areas of the budget that have been cut)."

Yes, of course, it's the state employees again. All their fault. Matt won't rest until their pay and benefits are cut, and chances are that what he really wants is to destroy that darn union and make those employees join the race to the bottom.

Say, how is that legislative pay/benefit cut idea coming along, Matt? Haven't heard anything about that since the House passed it in December. Seems like you might want to lead by example.

Actually, all of that is chump change and a diversion from the issues of tax exemptions and the real spending growth areas such as corrections and Medicaid.

The group is urging that any future tax cuts be accompanied by the program cuts that would pay for them. They argued that the budget deficit was caused not by economic losses, but by overly aggressive tax cuts.

The state also should review all of the tax credits and exemptions it offers to determine which are still truly warranted. The report noted that such tax expenditures increased $1.2 billion last fiscal year.

But the group also argued the Legislature and the administration did not address sufficient substantive reforms to state spending. Mr. Boulus and Mr. Weinfeld argued there were still efficiencies to be gained in Medicaid and Corrections, pointing specifically to the sentencing changes Governor Jennifer Granholm had proposed.

Will the Republicans act on the reforms that will truly save us money, such as sentencing guidelines and health care? Or will they spend this year insisting that the state "overspends" and we need cut revenue even further?

Bet you know the answer to that one, and I bet the media won't go out of its way to tell you the truth on the claims the Republicans make during their campaigns.

(Yes, I am working on doing more cross-posting to this blog, but blogging itself has been pretty difficult with a broken arm. Give me time...)