Saturday, June 27, 2009

GE Research Center Press Conference



A Very Big Deal. From the New York Times:

The center will include renewable energy components like wind turbines, said Mr. Immelt, who is on President Obama’s board of economic advisers. G.E. is the biggest United States maker of wind turbines. Existing space on the site will be used to develop software and health care information technology, G.E. said.

Mr. Immelt said the United States must be a “strong exporting country” to help speed recovery from the recession. The center will open later this year, creating 1,100 to 1,200 jobs, according to G.E., and Mr. Immelt said it might grow further. A Web site through which engineers can submit job applications should be running by next week, he said. The jobs pay about $100,000 a year, Ms. Granholm said.

“This country’s future has to be about exports,” Mr. Immelt said.

“We’re a $19 billion exporter in 2008. We don’t do anything unless we can compete on a global basis. Our willingness to invest here in Michigan says we think we can be competitive here so that that export base grows into the future.”
"Export" is not a word that comes up a lot anymore. Immelt indicated that GE is in this for the long haul, and expects other companies to spring up around this effort.

And they chose us. Not New York. Not California. Here.

That is saying something.

Friday, June 26, 2009

L. Brooks Being L. Brooks

As expected, it was confirmed today that GM will build its small car at the Orion plant starting in 2011, "restoring" 1,400 jobs in total in Michigan, beating out the competition in the states of Wisconsin and Tennessee.

Between this and the GE announcement, it has been a great day for our state. You can tell because L. Brooks is feelin' feisty.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen complained earlier this month that GM wanted a large cash payment as opposed to tax incentives.

Patterson dismissed Bredesen's complaints today as "sour grapes."

"Hopefully he's stuffing all those grapes in a barrel so at least he can have some wine when he's done complaining," Patterson said.
Nice to have you back, Brooks.

Our apologies go out to Governor Bredesen and all those workers in Tennessee. Don't take it personal.

Bob Corker could not be reached for comment, and that's probably a good thing.

GE to Bring Alternative Energy Jobs to Michigan

Major announcement expected at 10:30 this morning. See streaming video at GE Reports.

From GE:

In a major win for the hard-hit Michigan industrial sector, GE announced today that it’s in-sourcing a key R&D facility to a site just outside of Detroit. Over the next few years, the new Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center will grow to more than 1,100 scientists and engineers focusing on information technology, clean energy and aviation R&D. GE Reports will host a live webcast of the announcement by GE’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and key Michigan officials at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The scientists and engineers at the Michigan site will develop next generation manufacturing technologies in areas such as renewable energy, jet engines, gas turbines and other high-technology products. The work will include development of composites, such as those used in jet engines and wind turbines; finding faster and more efficient ways of machining components; and developing inspection, casting, and coating technologies for GE’s Aviation and Energy businesses.

The site will also house GE experts in software development, data architecture, networking, business intelligence and program management. They’ll develop software to support GE’s business operations for several advanced technologies, like the smart grid. The site also will serve as a training hub for GE information technology professionals.




All our major Democratic officials will be there, as will Dr. Ed Montgomery, director of Obama's Auto Recovery team.

This is big. GE is a major player in the alternative energy business, investing billions in the past couple years - and they picked Michigan!

Heads on the right are exploding as we speak. Will be interesting to see what the Green Jobs Deniers will say to this one...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For Michael



This song is one of my all-time favorites.

This day is really taking me back...

Reports breaking now say that Jackson has passed away. Wow.

We've just learned Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.

Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon and paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.

Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

GM Picks Michigan For Small Car Plant

YEAH BABY!

Breaking now from the AP:

A person briefed on the decision says General Motors will build its new subcompact car at a factory in Orion Township.

The person says the automaker is scheduled to announce the move Friday. The person did not want to be identified because the plan has not been made public.

GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb declined to comment.
Happy day! WWJ has more:

So how many jobs will come out of this plant? WWJ Newsradio 950 Auto Analyst John McElroy believes quite a few.

"I would say, typically, it's safe to assume, right off the bat, there would be at least a thousand jobs preserved at that plant, and probably more," McElroy said.

McElroy said he was surprised to hear the news, "We didn't know where it was going to go. It was one of three plants. I thought , all along, it might go down to Spring Hill, Tennessee, because that's where they'e been building small cars," he said.

Besides the Spring Hill plant, the Orion plant was competing with factories and Janesville, Wis. for the tiny car. The Orion plant now makes the Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu midsize cars, which also are made at a factory in Kansas City, Kan.

GM announced when it filed for bankruptcy protection June 1 that the Orion and Spring Hill plants would go on standby status later this year, meaning workers could be called back if the company needs to increase production. The Janesville plant already closed in April.

GM also is likely to announce that its Pontiac parts stamping plant will be retooled to make parts for the new car, based on the Chevrolet Spark. About 1,000 jobs could be saved there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Senate Cuts Over $400 Million From K-12 Education Budget

Everyone needs to take a good long look at what the Republicans would do to this state if left to their own devices. Today, they voted for a $110 per pupil cut to K-12, an act that the Freep indicated would push "20% of the state's school districts to the brink of deficit, or worse", not to mention the loss of teaching positions. Along with that bit of devastation, they eliminated funding for all early childhood education and other programs that prepare kids for college or vocational work. Here is what the Senate Dems tried to put back:

  • Restore the $110 per pupil funding cut, funding critical to school budgets around the state.
  • Restore 90% of funding for declining enrollment grants to help lessen the devastating impact to school districts of the loss of students.
  • Restore 90% of funding for small high schools with a focus on personal attention and engaging and real-world applicable curriculum.
  • Restore 90% of funding for early childhood programs like school readiness, 0-3 and great start programs.
  • Restore 90% of funding for the Pre-College Engineering Programs.
  • Restore 90% of funding for health science middle college.
  • Uphold essential funding for special education and vocational education.
  • For the Grand Rapids Public Schools, the numbers were added up when this came out of committee last week.

    • A $110 per pupil reduction - represents a loss of approximately $2 million for GRPS
    • Full elimination of the Readiness program (pre school) - a loss of $2.6 million for GRPS
    • Elimination of the declining enrollment categorical - a loss of $450,000 for GRPS
    • Elimination of Section 41/Bilingual categorical - a loss of approximately $200,000 for GRPS
    • Reduction of 10% in the adult ed budget - a loss of approximately $100,000 for GRPS
    I can't imagine what it would mean for Detroit; I'm hoping that the media over there adds it up. It could have been a lot worse; without the stimulus money, the cuts would have been over $400 per pupil.

    These cuts, as well as cuts to childhood health programs in the DCH budget, caused Senator Deb Cherry to resign her position as co-chair of the Michigan Legislative Children’s Caucus. She served in the caucus for six years. THAT'S how serious this is.

    “With frustration and a heavy heart, I regretfully resign as co-chair and a member of the Michigan Legislative Children’s Caucus,” said Sen. Cherry. “Given the callous actions taken by the Senate with so little regard for early childhood education, it is blatantly evident to me that we have not been effective with one of the primary missions of the caucus, which is to educate our colleagues of the importance of early education and the need to fund it.”
    Sounds like the Senate Republicans made the cuts to health care as well today, including the 8% cut to Medicaid which was slammed by health care providers.

    Hoping that someone puts together the complete list of these cuts. The Senate was shooting for $1.2 billion in total, and I believe they have reached that goal. What is really frightening is the lack of reporting on what is happening here. The House will restore what they can, but due to the revenue drop that is occurring (down 13% so far from last year's numbers at this time) - some of this is going to stick.

    Scary stuff. We are disinvesting at a time when the need is the greatest - and even tax increases/loophole closings can't hope to make it all up.

    Senate Republicans Deny Help For Unemployed Michigan Workers

    Been watching the Senate on TV today when I can, although I find that Senator Allen's jacket keeps distracting me. You put something like that in front of the ornate decorations on the Senate walls and you just gotta hope it doesn't trigger any seizures out there. Throw in McManus saying something about returning to the 1920s, and Cropsey, well, just being Cropsey, it becomes hard to keep up with all the flying amendments and the rapid movement to the third readings that I don't have time to go look up...

    Fortunately, the Senate Democrats send out releases that tell us what the hell is going on, and as expected, the Senate Republicans shot down the stimulus money that would go to help modernize the unemployment system and give benefits to part-time workers and those in job training programs.

    Senate Democrats today continued to fight for Michigan workers as they moved to take up the House-passed unemployment modernization legislation to receive $138.9 million from federal funds. Senate Republicans opposed this effort to provide assistance for displaced workers throughout Michigan.

    “It’s wrong to deny our working families help at a time when our state’s economy is struggling,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming). “Laid off workers need these benefits and it’s unbelievable to me that Republicans would deny help to workers who are trying to be retrained to get a new job.”
    Unbelievable? No, the Chamber of Commerce deemed this so, and so it shall be done by the Republicans to serve their masters.

    We don't see enough of Senator Prusi - so here he is, explaining that he remembers being laid-off in the early 80s, and how hard it was to have to leave the state to find work. I remember that time as well, was laid off from my job in January of '84 - and I believe that this recession is a lot worse.



    Here is the official description of what has been denied:

    Included in the two-bill modernization package, House Bill 4785 would allow individuals enrolled in a state-approved jobs training program to receive unemployment insurance benefits for an extra 26 weeks. House Bill 4786 would allow individuals working between 16 and 40 hours per week to become eligible for unemployment insurance benefits beginning after January 1, 2011. Senators Tupac A. Hunter (D-Detroit) and Deb Cherry (D-Burton) have introduced identical Senate bills that have not been acted upon by the Republican majority.
    The Senate Dems have a website - Help MI Workers - where you can take action. It's complete with the phone numbers and the e-mail addresses of all your favorite Senate Republicans (handy!), so drop them a line or give them a call if you are so inclined.

    The Dems also remind us that 11 other states have already approved this funding. If I'm not mistaken, very conservative Georgia was one of them. Michigan, with the highest unemployment rate in this nation, would be foolish to turn down this help.

    But hey, whatever the Chamber wants, the Chamber gets. Right?

    Supreme Court, Dammit



    Start at 20:00 in, and see why...

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Cubs vs Tigers and Other Random Thoughts

  • Sure wish I could be at the Tigers vs Cubs game(s) in Detroit. Either way, I win! (but my heart still pulls for the Cubs more)

  • Do iPhones help prevent the spread of illness?

    Touch screen phones would require clean hands, unless you want to constantly wipe them on your shirt. I have trouble keeping the BBerry with a keyboard clean; I can't imagine putting my grubby little fingers on a screen all the time to use the device.

    It follows that iPhone users probably wash their hands more to keep their phones clean, yes? And with that, waa laa, less spread of illness. Watch and see. Bet someone studies it.

  • How come no one ever worried about how we would pay for Bush's tax cuts? Those ran up the deficit, as did his war of choice, and I don't recall that being a big problem for the media or the public...

  • Facebook has all the charm of hanging out with a bunch of high school cliques at the local McDonalds. Not much orginality, all sorts of sheeple behavior. Good for mass communication? Yes it is. But as for honesty and artistry, not so much. Maybe I'm missing something there, but after looking and looking again, I can't see it. Besides, it kills local blogs, much like Walmart kills local businesses. Not that I plan to stay in community blogging forever, but I want them to succeed.

    So, if I don't answer your "friend" request, don't take it personal. Just have other things I would rather do.

  • If you're not following Ann Curry on Twitter - you should. She's da bomb.
  • But This Doesn't Explain All The Other Times...

    Power is getting to be a serious issue at my house - as in, it keeps going out. Today there is an explanation...

    A problem at the Harvey Substation on Fuller SE has left 9,000 Consumers Energy customers without power.
    Uh oh. That could be hours. Wonder if I can just sleep at the coffee shop...

    Senate Republicans Vote to Eliminate Michigan Promise Scholarship

    As was threatened before, today the Senate Republicans actually pushed the button and eliminated the Michigan Promise Scholarship, as well as cuts to other college aid programs. They did put in a placeholder in case someone else figured out how to fund the program, but the solution obviously won't come from them.

    The Michigan Senate has passed a bill that would eliminate funding for a state-sponsored college scholarship program but keep debate about the program alive.

    The Republican-led chamber's version of the higher education bill passed 19-17 Tuesday eliminates money for the Michigan Promise scholarship for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. But it keeps a placeholder for the program in the bill in case lawmakers figure out a way to at least partially fund the scholarships.
    The Senate Democrats sent out a release that indicates that other aid was cut as well. Amendments were introduced to...

  • Restore $89.8 million for the Michigan College Access Grants and other state-funded scholarship programs that Michigan families depend on to send their kids to college.

  • Preserve $1.9 million in nursing grant money to help train students for nursing jobs—one of the few growing fields in the state.

  • Restore renaissance zone reimbursement funding that returns local dollars that are mandated for community colleges as part of the Community College budget.
  • ... but you know how that goes. Thanks for trying people.

    You could almost say that this is a personal shot at the governor, but the amount of cuts they are making really indicate otherwise. They are cutting everything. Still, this was originally Engler's baby, expanded recently to accomodate more students in our quest to up the number of college graduates in this state.

    Cherry said the irony of a GOP-led Senate attempting to scuttle a signature program of the last Republican governor is lost on the Senate.

    “They view it as Jennifer Granholm’s program, not John Engler’s program,” Cherry said.
    Mike Bishop has indicated to the Freep that he is waiting for other people to solve this problem - very telling when it comes to his leadership (?) style. For a guy who runs around proclaiming he is going to dictate how the stimulus should be spent, and how Republicans will run the show on the budget, he sure is quick to pass the buck when it's time for accountability. Love the word "radical" in this first paragraph as well. If the shoe fits...

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the elimination of funds for the Michigan Promise was among many radical cuts the Senate has proposed because of what he called the state's financial crisis.

    "The administration complains about cuts, but at some point they're going to have to tell us how to balance the budget," Bishop said. "If it means they want to raise taxes, they should be clear about that, they need to be honest with people. Stop complaining and start stepping up with solutions, we're all ears."
    Bishop admits the Republicans don't have the solutions and can't balance the budget without destroying the state. Thanks, Mike, for your honesty. It's about time. So glad you have finally seen the light and admitted your incompetence. You can go sit down now, and let the adults take care of business.

    Ford to Receive $5.9 Billion in Loans for Advanced Auto Technologies

    This comes from a Dept. of Energy press release, part of an $8 billion allotment in total that is going to Ford, Nissan and Tesla. Off the top of my suddenly protectionist head, I'm wondering how the Nissan loans will go over with the public, especially here in Michigan. We will find out. Chrysler and GM weren't eligible this time around.

    From the release:

    Today, the Obama Administration announced $8 billion in conditional loan commitments for the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies that will create thousands of green jobs while helping reduce the nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil. The loan commitments announced today by the President include $5.9 billion for Ford Motor Company to transform factories across Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio to produce 13 more fuel efficient models; $1.6 billion to Nissan North America, Inc. to retool their Smyrna, Tennessee factory to build advanced electric automobiles and to build an advanced battery manufacturing facility; and $465 million to Tesla Motors to manufacture electric drive trains and electric vehicles in California.
    For the specifics on Ford - and translate this into jobs, jobs, jobs for Michigan, yea!, while you are reading it:

    Ford Motor Company will receive $5.9 billion in loans through 2011 to help finance numerous engineering advances to traditional internal combustion engines and electrified vehicles. In addition, theses loans will help the company convert two truck plants to the production of cars. Ford will be raising the fuel efficiency of more than a dozen popular models, including the Focus, Escape, Taurus and F-150, representing close to two million new vehicles annually and helping to transform nearly 35,000 employees to green engineering and manufacturing jobs in factories across 5 states: Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. Ford is driving a major upgrade, leveraging a portfolio of technologies, including the direct injection, smart turbocharging EcoBoost engine, advanced transmissions, and new hybrid technologies.

    The facilities that will be impacted by today’s announcement include: Chicago Assembly, Louisville Assembly, Dearborn Assembly, Dearborn Engine, Livonia Transmission, Michigan Assembly, Van Dyke Transmission, Kansas City Assembly, Cleveland Engine, Lima Engine, and Sharonville Transmission.
    This is very nice coming on the heels of a U of M study released yesterday that shows that, why yes, it IS possible to make money on fuel efficient cars (imagine that). Skeptics are still out there, but all it will take is $4 gallon gas once again and you can bet that will fade away as consumers demand hybrids/electric/fuel efficiency from their autos.

    Also being reported, it was announced that the Obama administration will set up a "cabinet level task force" for auto communities, which should help facilitate the aid that is/will be coming our way. Biden will formally announce this later today on Ohio.

    The move gives a more formal structure to the work of Ed Montgomery, a labor economist tapped by Obama earlier this year to coordinate federal aid to communities battered by the auto industry's downturn. Among the group's tasks: to coordinate federal aid to areas affected by the industry's crisis and to recommend changes in law or federal policy that could help them recover.

    Larry Summers, the president's top economic adviser, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will co-chair the task force, and Montgomery, who will accompany Biden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at today's event in Ohio, will be its executive director.

    The group will include the heads of all the federal government's cabinet-level agencies, as well as White House advisers on climate policy, the environment and domestic policy.
    OK then. Let's get to it. Enough of the talking, time to get to work.

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    More Energy Stimulus. That's a Good Thing. But What About the Budget?

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu continues the stimulus road show today, visiting Battle Creek to talk about energy efficiency and the United We Serve effort. It's nice to be receiving all this attention, isn't it? Yes, it is. One question though: Did he bring the check with him? How fast can we produce these jobs? Don't get me wrong, this is a very good thing...

    Michigan will receive $32.8 million in federal grants to reduce energy consumption in homes and businesses, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Monday.

    That’s part of $82 million the state will receive overall for energy programs under the federal stimulus plan.

    Chu, who visited Battle Creek, said Michigan will use the money to help reduce energy consumption in public buildings by 20% by 2012, and create new markets for renewable energy systems, particularly wind energy.

    The grant will pay for energy audits of 500 homes and businesses, conducted by the state’s two largest utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy. The audits will be used to develop energy efficiency methods to be used statewide.


    ... and, Secretary Chu will announce another very good thing tomorrow. Ford, for starters, is going to be approved for "billions" in loans to produce energy efficient cars...

    U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu will travel Tuesday to Dearborn to announce the agency has approved Ford Motor Co.'s request for billions in federal loans to help fund the development of new, fuel-saving vehicles and technologies, according to several people with direct knowledge of the situation.

    Ford, along with the other Detroit automakers and some foreign manufacturers, applied for loans under the $25 billion Department of Energy loan program, which was approved by Congress last September.

    It was not clear whether Secretary Chu would announce the approval of loans for other automakers at the same time.


    ... but I'm going to be totally honest now. While I completely agree with what the administration is trying to accomplish here and I'm grateful for all this help, the cuts we are talking about making to our state's education, health care, revenue sharing and social safety net in the meantime are starting to really disturb me.

    Really bad. As in, I'm having a really hard time writing right now. As in, I'm going to take every Democrat in this state and completely and thoroughly destroy them in writing on this blog if they don't start a) explaining the budget problem to people, and b) telling us what they are going to do about it. The revenue problem needs to be explained. The cuts we are going to have to make need to be explained. If you lay the ground work now, it will go down easier when it happens.

    Seriously people - if you think that the public was pissed that the SOS offices were closed last Friday, just wait until you tell them that you are going to bankrupt their local school system. Oh, didn't hear about that one? That's because it really hasn't been reported that the Senate Republicans destroyed the state budget last week. I've jettisoned posts that had titles such as "Michigan Democrats Can Kiss 2010 Goodbye" and "Drown Government Crowd is Going to Get Their Wish" because I totally went off the deep end in stark raving fear over things that haven't happened yet (key phrase there), simply because I'm not seeing any pushback from the Democrats on what went down. And no, no one cares about the stupid police HQ in Lansing or the Canadian trash right now. Trust me on that one.

    So, we loves us some stimulus. Honest we do. But, if the Democrats in the Legislature don't get up off their ass and start to warn people about what is coming here for this state in the short term - watch all these happy thoughts go bye-bye in a flash. More to come on that, when I can pull myself together and sound rational. Not sure when that will be.

    Stimulus news needs to start being balanced with reality. Right now. These projects are going to take time to bring some benefits to our economy, and that needs to be mentioned repeatedly to help us have patience and deal with the pain that is coming in the immediate future. Or, you can take everyone by surprise, like last Friday, and have them get really, really mad at you.

    Your choice Lansing. Don't say you weren't warned. And yeah House Dems, this is mostly directed at you. The Senate can't do it alone.

    Your thoughts, Speaker Dillon?

    You Think You Have Problems

    The B93 country music birthday bash is a yearly event put on by a local radio station out at the Ionia County Fairgrounds. It usually draws up to 80,000 people. This year, we had heavy rains Friday night, and there were whispers of canceling the show, but being such a big event and all...

    Saturday morning, the rains had moved out, they decided that the show would go on, come on down and park your cars in this field, everyone... and, as people enjoyed the music, all that rain ran into the Grand River, and they couldn't stop what happened next.

    You have to see it to believe it.



    Although the crest of the water has passed, those cars are stuck there until Wednesday. The noon news counts almost 1,100 cars in that field - and some were completely submerged, which, of course, means they are totally destroyed.

    No one has counted the number of lawyers lining up to litigate this yet, but you can bet B93's insurance company is going to take a big hit for this one.

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    We Could Be Heroes

    Some public servants believe in sacrifice, giving a little to save the jobs of their fellow workers, helping out so they can continue to protect their community...

    The Holland firefighters voluntarily have decided to refuse a 1 percent cost-of-living increase they will be due July 1. Instead, they will give back another half-percent of their pay.

    The move is not part of any negotiation, said Brendt Sheridan, president of the Holland Professional Firefighters Union. The department just wants to help the city with its budget and prevent any cuts to the number of firefighters on the job.

    The fire department already is at bare bones, said Sheridan, adding that any more staffing cuts directly will impact citizen and firefighter safety.
    Other public servants may soon follow suit, even after they were used as a weapon for a political stunt that went nowhere...

    Michigan State Police troopers will vote over the next week on whether to sacrifice some of their own pay in order to at least temporarily avoid the layoffs of 100 troopers.

    The troopers' union said Thursday it will send out ballots to its members to decide whether they will accept unpaid furlough time in exchange for keeping the 100 troopers on the road until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

    ...

    Lawmakers were divided on the headquarters issue, with some noting the Senate-passed budget bill has no provisions to avoid trooper layoffs in the next fiscal year.
    And some public servants have decided that they have given quite enough now, thank you - even as they work and they vote to take more away from the heroes listed above.

    While most state employees must take six payless days off this summer to help erase the budget deficit, legislative staff will forfeit only two days, according to state officials.

    Spokesmen for the House and Senate say the Legislature has been cutting back for a couple years and only needs to enforce two furlough days to meet spending reduction targets set by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in her executive order cuts last month. The legislative furlough days will be taken the Friday before the Fourth of July and the Friday before Labor Day. Today is the first payless day off for other state workers.

    Lansing resident Mitchell Wood says he's upset by the apparent double standard.

    "It's yet another appalling example of the elitism exhibited by our lawmakers," the 51-year-old attorney said.
    It becomes very obvious that some public servants are only interested in serving themselves.

    UPDATE: Looks like the cops have no interest in sacrifice either - they voted down the request and will lay off 100 cops. Everyone has forgotten that the MSP themselves made this choice, both with this vote, and the initial suggestion. This was their idea. Much as I love to yell at the legislature, they and the governor are not totally responsible here.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Dear Constituent

    This is one of the funniest things I've read lately:

    Dear Constituent,

    I regret having the affair, taking the bribe, lying to the committee, sitting on the report, raiding your trust fund, hiding the evidence, fudging the numbers, cooking the books, blocking the investigation, leaving the filthy voice mail message, spilling the beans, fabricating the facts, sending the inappropriate email, granting the crony special favors, dodging the question, violating the ethics code, missing the deadline, blowing off the meeting, circumventing the proper procedures, throwing the tantrum, leaking the classified information, covering up the money trail, accepting the unlawful gifts, destroying my opponent's reputation, playing the race card, egging on the crazies, making the crude analogy, deleting the files, cutting off the funding, violating the protocol, starting the bar fight, speeding through the red light, shouting obscenities during the commencement speech, and kicking the cat.

    I assure you it was all just a simple misunderstanding.

    Sincerely,

    [Name Withheld]
    United States Congress
    Washington, D.C.

    P.S. Please donate to my re-election campaign. Together, we can make a difference.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Twitter Pete Strikes Again

    Hat tip to blue aardvark at Kos for bringing this one to our attention.

    Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.
    You. have. got. to. be. kidding. me.

    So, what do you think? Delusional paranoia? A shameless pander to fuel the Republican Victimhood Movement? Does Pete Hoekstra honestly think that the petty complaints of a bunch of pampered American Congresscritters are in any way comparable to what is happening to these people in Iran?

    Really?

    Can't wait for his campaign then.

    Keep tweeting, Twitter Pete. We are hanging on every word.

    Draconian Budget Cuts Have Senate Republicans Admitting Need For More Revenue

    Thank the Detroit News for the term "draconian". They handed it out in an editorial last Sunday that urged Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans to make those $1.2 billion in budget cuts so we can have a "leaner state government" that can afford to cut taxes for business.

    The state can't afford a bureaucracy as large as it has right now. And a leaner state government would make it easier for lawmakers to get rid of the onerous business tax surcharge.

    Bishop says he expects Senate Republicans to stand firm, even though some of them voted for a state income tax hike and a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax as part of the 2007 solution. They should.
    Using a vague terms like "bureaucracy" is supposed to make these cuts palatable to the public. An old right wing trick, it is designed to fool those that refuse to look deeper at the consequences of severe cuts. The fact that college tuition goes up. The fact that your insurance rates will go up. The fact that the roads are crumbling and costing you more for car repair. The fact that your local government will cut cops and firefighters, delaying response times to your emergencies. The fact that you will have to pay more for everything with these back door tax increases, but somehow all those problems will somehow magically be solved if we just cut the "bureaucracy"? The word ranks right up there with "reform" now; empty, meaningless, dehumanizing.

    You are supposed to ignore the fact that we have cut to the point where we are taking in just a little over half the revenue that Dick Headlee thought was appropriate to fund our government, that current revenue numbers "put us back to 1965 when adjusted for inflation" according to Bob Kleine, that Michigan's 4.35 percent income-tax rate is "lower than it was under most of Republican Gov. John Engler's 12 years in office", that the current administration has resolved $6 billion in budget deficits and trimmed "more from state government than any governor in Michigan's history." We have cut taxes and government to the point where we can’t sustain a decent quality of life, and the national recession now threatens to drown us all. Ignore the facts.

    Just throw out the word "bureaucracy", and all of that reality goes away though, as Pavlov's dogs predictably respond to the bell once again, and the Bush economics of deregulation and more tax cuts are presented as the answer to our fiscal woes.

    So, thank you for the word "draconian". It still carries weight. It accurately describes these cuts to "bureaucracy" in stark reality. How else can you term a half a billion dollar cut to health care?

    A massive cut to the proposed 2009-10 Department of Community Health totaling more than $500 million in general fund cuts - including cuts in provider payments, community mental health and the elimination of most of the Healthy Michigan fund - was sent to the full Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday on a 4-2vote.
    According to Gongwer, the cuts to DCH are "$8 million more than the entire set of targeted budget cuts House Democrats have called for". Emphasis mine. Health care providers are understandably appalled.

    Hospital and physician groups blasted a $95 million cut in state Medicaid reimbursement. Since the federal government provides about $2 for every $1 spent by the state, the overall cut to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes approaches $355 million.

    Dennis Paradis, head of the Michigan Osteopathic Association, called the 8-percent cut "a stunning disregard for the health of Michigan residents. Additional Medicaid cuts will erode Michigan's health care delivery system and further constrain access to care at a time of Michigan's greatest need."
    That's just a sample of the initial outrage, and we haven't even discussed the 12% cut to revenue sharing to cities yet. But read these next lines closely. Cracks in the Senate Republican armor are starting to appear, as the reality of what cutting all this bureaucracy really means sets in. Here's Roger Kahn, admitting revenue will be needed, and that this process will go down to the wire once again:

    Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, one of two physicians on that health care subcommittee, called that population of mentally ill among the most vulnerable in society. If they don't receive their medication, they'll wind up in emergency rooms or jail.

    But Kahn also said the Senate cuts were just the start of a long budget process likely to last deep into the summer and possibly right up to the Oct. 1 start of the 2010 fiscal year.

    "It's going to be a long time before this is done," Kahn said of a budget process that took a very serious turn Tuesday. In the end the question will be "how much will be cuts and how much will be some version of revenue enhancement." He declined to say, however, that a tax increase was inevitable.
    Want more? Here's Bill Hardiman:

    Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, said the Michigan economy can't afford another tax increase, but the alternative appears to be causing "irreparable damage to our health care system."
    The question now becomes: How long are the Senate Republicans going to mess around with this? Are they going to take it to the point of shutdown once again, coming up with a last minute fix that only creates more problems, as they did in ‘07? Skubick seems to think so, noticing that all sides are lining up in their familiar positions, as we get set to do this dance all over again.

    Bishop and his GOP gang are currently in a negotiating mode. They are tossing cold water on raising more money right now because they want to squeeze more budget cuts out of the governor before they talk about new revenue. Rest assured, that talk is coming, but not in the near term.
    No, not in the near term. Not as long as economic extremists like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit News are calling the shots for the Michigan Republican Party. Here’s Ron Jelinek, admitting that the DNews editorialists are where they look for direction:

    And Senate Appropriations chair Sen. Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) said in response to a Detroit News editorial that he was glad lawmakers did not wilt in the face of the cuts and he urged them to continue to stay strong in terms of cutting the budget.
    That came last week, before they eliminated college tuition aid and health care. They had simply cut public transportation, veteran’s services, inspections to migrant housing, and food banks at that point. Republican Gerald VanWoerkom said last Thursday that he “hoped at some point other funding could be found to restore some of the programs”. You can bet he does. You can bet they all do. They understand the implications better than they want to let on.

    With these little comments, you can see the Senate Republicans conceding the need for revenue. Whether it be tax loophole closures, or even Dillon’s still secret grand plan to revamp the whole system – they know that they can’t make these kinds of cuts, and another alternative will need to be found. Cuts do cost, they take money out of the economy just as sure as a tax increase will, and these cuts will cost our state too much when they drive away business, investment, and finally the people, because no one will want to live in a state with sky-high tuition costs, inadequate public safety, and a crumbling infrastructure.

    The economic right wing of the MRP is going to make life extremely hard for the Senate Republicans by backing them once again into a corner with their anti-tax rhetoric, just like they did in 2007. But remember that in the end that year, even the DNews admitted the need for revenue, after they got done chastising the Legislature for not cutting more of that nebulous "bureaucracy", of course.

    It would be nice to think that we could just skip the dance this year, and get straight to the solution for fixing this "chronic" deficit that we have, but given that the noise machine is already in full gear, and the Republicans are going to act accordingly, the best we can hope for is that they don't screw this up too badly when they do finally reach that solution.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Whitmer Slams Marsden, Republican Leadership for Attack on Garcia

    This is absolutely beautiful. Senator Gretchen Whitmer got up today and went after Matt Marsden and the Senate Republican leadership for their shameful attack on Valde Garcia last week.

    As you may recall, Mike Bishop threw one big hissy fit over the state trooper cuts last week, cuts that the Senate knew about and approved over a month ago. After pulling this stunt for the press, that very day they couldn't agree on how to restore the funding to the MSP - and we are talking about a few million dollars from people who brag about cutting the budget by $1.2 billion. Garcia is leaving to fulfill his duties to the National Guard, and won't be available for a later vote. He had this to say:

    "It was a mistake to not pass the Michigan State Police budget today, and it was also a mistake to not save the troopers," Garcia wrote in a statement. "As chairman of the Senate Appropriations State Police and Military Affairs Subcommittee, I provided a budget that had effective solutions. The budget was fiscally responsible. It made hard cuts, did not overspend and, most importantly, continued to protect Michigan residents."
    And Chatty Matty attacked Garcia for it. This is what happens to Republicans who step out of line, and try to save the Majority Leader and his office staff from making total jackasses of themselves.

    "If anyone in the caucus is confused on the status of the State Police budget, it's the senator from Howell," Marsden said. "So allow me to clarify the Senate's position. The Legislature will all be at work in Lansing next week doing what the citizens elected us to do. Fear not, the senators in attendance are perfectly capable of resolving the MSP budget while Senator Garcia tends to whatever it is that requires his attention on this occasion.
    Yeah, that would be SERVICE to his COUNTRY. So have a little RESPECT for the troops why don't you. Gretchen does, and she will cross the aisle to stand up for him. You gotta see this.

    And the attacks on her that she is referring to? That would be this sexist blast from Marsden over the cuts to staff budget that she suggested for saving the cops.

    "Sen. Whitmer could spare the Senate her shrill general election campaign prattle until after her convention nomination," said Matt MARSDEN, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester). "I do, however, encourage her to stick with the platform of redistribution of wealth through self-serving transparency. I think it will really resonate with the voters."
    Got a newsflash for you guys: The voters don't give a damn about your staff budgets, and if they had their way, you would be punching a time clock and eating cold gruel during your "employment" to our state. So go ahead, use that one in a campaign spot, and see how many votes it gets ya.

    You don't see Marsden calling men "shrill" - but being such an intense little drama freak, maybe he would. I'll let you know if it happens. In the meantime - WTG Senator Whitmer. Keep up the good work.

    Granholm, MEDC Announce Over 11,000 New Jobs For Michigan

    This was a big announcement from MEDC today, especially over here on the west side...

    grpress616


    The media tends to break these down to local announcements, which is frustrating because you don't see the full picture over the entire state when they roll these MEGA credits out. I already did a brief on the Farmers announcement, and here is the Roskam addition from the GR Press article above:

    Two Grand Rapids-area businesses announced expansion plans this morning that could add up to 3,100 jobs -- news described as "a significant shot in West Michigan's arm."

    The announcements this morning -- by Farmers Insurance Group and Roskam Baking Co. -- may be the largest job-creation announcement for the region in recent years.

    Gov. Jennifer Granholm joined Robert Woudstra, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Farmers, and other officials at a morning press conference at the Foremost complex in Caledonia Township.

    Farmers announced plans to bring 1,600 jobs to West Michigan, and an $84.4 million expansion of its Foremost Insurance complex. Roskam Baking Co., meanwhile, announced the addition of 1,500 jobs and investment of $60.4 million at its Kentwood operations.
    You can read the full MEDC release on over 11,000 total jobs for the state here. My favorite was another west side project:

    Energetx Composites LLC – The manufacturer of composite components plans to invest $37 million to ramp up production in Holland of utility-scale wind turbine blades and other composite parts for the wind energy industry. The project will create 2,599 total jobs, including 1,068 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 1,531 indirect jobs.
    Between the wind turbine blades and Johnson Controls getting into the advanced battery business, Holland is certainly benefiting from the push into alternative energy. Hope they remember who it was that fought to bring this business to the state, and who it was that spent the better part of a year trying to block it. I know I will.

    Dillon to Jump in Governor's Race for 2010?

    This comes from MIRS gossip, so take it with a grain of salt - but worth a mention. Todd Cook of Mainstreet Strategies dropped this little nugget of info...

    Cook said Cherry would benefit from primary competition, and there's no reason to believe he won't have it.

    "Well, we are going to find out," Cook said. "Rep. Alma Wheeler SMITH (D-Salem Twp.) has been out on the stump for a while -- everything seems to point at Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) getting in around Labor Day or so and even though he hasn't officially announced, John FREEMAN's been building a grassroots network and hustling around the state building on his previous work on minimum wage and healthcare ballot proposals.

    "I think that, in general, primaries can be helpful to the winning candidate," Cook added. "Primaries force candidates to work their party base and get their team in 'campaign shape.' A primary didn't hurt Granholm's ability to win in 2002 and more recently President Barack OBAMA came off a bruising presidential primary none the worse for wear in his race against John McCAIN."
    True, all of that. Depends on whether or not the Legislature crashes the state government into the wall again on the budget this year - which should make all of them MUD when it comes to running for higher office. When you throw in the fiasco that was 2007 on top of what is shaping up to be the nightmare of 2009 -Republican, Democrat, doesn't matter, careers can and maybe should be destroyed if they take this to another threatened shutdown.

    I basically like Andy - he's just too conservative (and secretive) for my tastes. I believe his heart is in the right place though. Lt. Gov slot maybe? I can't see him winning a Democratic primary now that the machine is lining up behind Cherry - but for all the reasons above, it might be good to add his voice to the mix.

    Senate Republicans to Cut Michigan Promise Scholarship, Other College Tuition Aid

    Looks like Senate Republicans have solved the problem of all those college graduates leaving the state; just drive them out before they enroll in college, or make it so they don't go to college at all.

    Wonder where all those government "reforms" they promised are. Wonder why the Republicans don't suggest those first, before they raise tuition costs through the roof for the 96,000 cash-strapped families and students who rely on the Promise Scholarship for aid. Could be they don't have any ideas for "reform" at all - they are just going to cut. Period.

    Thousands of college students counting on state merit scholarships this fall may be in for a surprise, as lawmakers are poised to gut the state's financial aid budget.

    A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will likely take the first step in that direction today when it takes up a bill to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship and slash the budget for need-based grant programs.
    The Michigan Promise Scholarship totals $4,000. Other need-based aid programs the Senate will cut:

    Michigan Work Study program: $7.3 million, need-based program that helped 5,130 students last year at private and public colleges.

    Part-Time Independent Student program: $2.7 million, need-based grant with maximum award of $600. Went to more than 6,000 students enrolled part-time at public and private colleges last year.

    Michigan Education Opportunity Grants: $2.1 million, need-based grant worth up to $1,000. Went to more than 4,500 students last year at public institutions.
    And some that may be reduced:

    Tuition Grant program: $56.7 million, grants up to $2,100 to needy Michigan residents enrolled at independent colleges and universities. Last year, about 35,500 students received awards. Proposal calls for 44 percent funding cut.

    State Competitive Scholarships: $35.5 million, grants up to $1,300 for needy Michigan residents who score at least a 23 composite on the ACT. Last year, 27,800 students received grants. Bill calls for 54 percent funding cut.

    Nursing Scholarship program: $4.3 million, students pursuing nursing as a career can receive $4,000 a year. Nearly 1,600 students at public and private colleges received the award last year. Bill calls for 95 percent cut, leaving just $200,000 in funding.
    "Living within our means" for the Republicans becomes disinvesting in our people and our state. At a time when a college education is a must for landing a good-paying job, and the high-growth advanced tech and health care businesses look to locate in places where there are educational opportunities for workers and an educated workforce to hire, the zeal to simply "cut" will have long-term implications for both our ability to retain younger people and our state's overall economic growth.

    Gongwer tells us the cuts to aid will total $210 million, all of it in student aid because stimulus rules prevent other cuts to higher education.

    But wait! That's not all! Gongwer also informs us that the Senate Republican plans to slash another 8% from Medicaid reimbursements, cutting around $200 million from that budget, which will severely impact hospitals, doctors, and long-term facilities. And guess what - those costs will be passed on to you. In what has become a health care cost death spiral, Spectrum Health has announced that for the third straight year, they are both raising rates and their Priority Health insurance premiums to cover the increasing costs of uninsured patients and lack of payment from Medicare and Medicaid.

    Those rate hikes are to keep pace with the continuing rise in health care costs, as well as an increase in the number of the uninsured patients and patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid, he said.

    Fees paid by those two government programs -- Medicare, the federal program for senior citizens, and Medicaid, the state/federal program for low-income residents -- fall far short of the hospital's cost of providing medical care, Freed said.

    The hospital's rate increase would be closer to 3 percent, he said, "if everybody paid their fair share." To offset the Medicare and Medicaid losses, those covered by insurance will see the average increase of 6 percent, he said.
    The "cut government" crowd sticks us all with another back-door tax increase - this will come on top of the 4% cut health providers saw earlier this year, and already the Michigan State Medical Society and the Health Care Association of Michigan are blasting the cuts with worries that people will simply flood the emergency rooms instead, as is already happening now. Which, of course, will simply raise rates again next year. And so on.

    This is just the start of the Republicans call to "live within our means" - major increases in costs for education and health care for you. Stay tuned for more "right sizing" of your wallet to come.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Biden Announces $2 Billion More for Michigan Recovery



    Update: Added pics 6/13. Now with more Bideness!

    I just about dropped the camera. My first thought was, "Say what? Did I hear that right?". My second thought was, "Oh please can we put it toward the budget so I don't have to listen to Bishop all summer long ohpleaseohpleaseohplease". Governor was a happy camper - if she knew beforehand, she sure didn't let on. Smiled a lot more after that announcement, that's for sure.

    No, we can't put it toward the budget, but it looks like most, if not all, counties in Michigan will be eligible for these bonds, and three counties are looking at some major $$. Here is how the Treasury Dept. put it:

    As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to stimulate economic growth in states supporting the core of the US automotive industry, the U.S. Treasury Department announced $2 billion in bonds authority available under the Recovery Zone Bonds program for Michigan, the most money per capita for any state. Created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), Recovery Zone Bonds are targeted to areas particularly affected by job loss and will help multiple counties in Michigan obtain financing for much needed economic development projects, such as public infrastructure development.

    “Creating the conditions for economic recovery requires addressing the challenges facing auto communities,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “State budgets have been scaled back and local services cut at a time when they are most needed. Turning things around requires innovative strategies, which is what the Recovery Act has provided in the form of the Recovery Zone Bonds. The new financing tools provided by Recovery Zone Bonds will help Michigan obtain the funds needed to revitalize our communities.”

    Michigan counties are three of the top ten recipients of Recovery Zone Bond allocations:

    $260 million for Oakland County Michigan
    $196 million for Wayne County, Michigan
    $125 million for Detroit City, Michigan
    A breakdown for the entire state can be found here.

    VP Biden is a great speaker. It's hard for me to really listen and shoot at the same time, but the parts that I caught indicate that he really understands what we are going through here. He gets the blue collar work ethic, he knows what it means to a family, to a community, when people lose jobs. He predicted that GM will emerge from bankruptcy quickly, and he fell all over himself praising our elected officials - especially the governor. Christoff from the Freep has the best short summary:

    Biden said the U.S. Department of Treasury will issue $2 billion in bonds for Michigan – called recovery zone bonds – which drew whoops of joy from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who hugged Biden on the outdoor stage before a crowd of about 200 at a Kalamazoo high school. The site overlooked a stretch of I-94 that will undergo a$48 million reconstruction, with four new bridges, paid for with federal stimulus money.

    Biden said the recovery bonds will be targeted to states most hard-hit by the economy. Biden said the three metro Detroit counties will be among the top 10 counties in the U.S. in the amount they receive under the new program.

    Biden said Michigan should be at the center of a national recovery, and touted the road construction project as a sign of economic opportunity the stimulus money is bringing across the country. Biden said Michigan has suffered more than any other state from the national recession, and praised Granholm for what he called her enduring optimism and efforts to bring new jobs to the state.
    The Detroit News story on the event is here.

    Big thanks once again to the Obama people for inviting us to these events. I have always been treated with the utmost respect, and I've never had a problem with getting credentials. For someone who always has doubts as to whether or not I really belong here - it feels great to be included as regular "media".

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    In the Event of State Shutdown, Grab All the Wild Critters You Can

    I really need to pay more attention to the Michigan Votes e-mails. Our legislators come up with some fine ideas, and we should applaud them for their ingenuity.

    House Bill 5031 (Suspend fishing and hunting license requirements during state shutdown )

    Introduced by Rep. Paul Opsommer(R) on June 2, 2009, to establish that in the event of a state government shutdown individuals would not need a hunting, fur harvester's, or fishing license to engage in these activities, and hunting land would remain open regardless of funding.

    http://www.michiganvotes.org/Legislation.aspx?ID=97864
    Nice to know that our House Republican friends are preparing for the day that they finally drown government and we have to return to the wild to hunt our own food and trade furs to get our i-Pods and other shiny trinkets.

    Will we be allowed to cut down the trees and float them down the rivers to sell to the lumber barons from back East as well? Maybe someone can offer an amendment for that.

    Instead of moving forward to the "green economy", we could return to the "frontier economy". Round up the horses!

    One Month Later, Bishop Slams Police Cuts That Senate Approved

    What is it with the Republicans and the Delayed Outrage Reaction problems they are having lately? Is this some new psychological condition, or have they simply mastered the art of dragging out the drama for as long as they can to put on a show for the press/public? Wait, don't answer that...

    Like Land before him, Mike Bishop has suddenly discovered that - gasp! - we are making cuts to the budget, and every department has been asked to participate. The Department of State Police themselves suggested these layoffs, the Senate approved of them, and a month later, Bishop awakes from his coma and sounds the alarm that he let the horse out of the barn, but it was somebody else's fault. Or something like that.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, sharply criticized the Michigan State Police today for plans to lay off 104 rookie patrol troopers as part of a budget-cutting plan enacted last month by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers.

    But a spokesperson for Granholm said Bishop knew about the layoffs when the GOP-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved her order to cut $304 million from the state budget.
    Matter of fact, it was right at the top of this DNews story from May 4th, "Mich. budget cuts to lay off 100 state troopers", and at the time, Marsden had this to say after the cuts were agreed to by the House and Senate...

    "Nobody's going to be happy," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. "This was a difficult situation given the amount of time left in the fiscal year (about five months)."
    ... but almost five weeks later, Bishop is suddenly "sharply critical" for the cameras, and, to top off the hypocrisy tank, he claims that others are playing "politics". How he does that with a straight face, we will never know.

    Bishop said there should be other ways for the State Police to absorb its $4.7-million budget cut rather than affect public safety. He called the trooper layoffs “pure politics, it’s a way to say to the world we’ve lost our mind, our priorities are lost and we’re not focusing on law enforcement.”
    You would think that stuff would have come up before you voted for it, but maybe it plays better to public fear to wait until well after it's done, when you can just mouth the words "reform" once again, and never offer any specific plans on how you would pay for it.

    He added, “There are other areas in the State Police that could be modified or reformed to pull them into the 21st Century. We’re not seeing that right now. We have to rethink services altogether.”
    Senator Bishop has been saying that for a long time now, but never quite seems to come up with any viable plans for funding state services. All he can say is "cut". Said it again today. Liz Boyd informed the viewing audience that the Senate is calling for $4 million more in cuts to the state police, and Bishop also turned around and told the AP that he would come up with $1.2B in cuts in total. How he does that without touching the police or the Dept. of Corrections has yet to be seen.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop told reporters Thursday morning he's confident other Republicans will support steep cuts despite some Republicans agreeing two years ago to raise taxes to end a budget standoff. The Senate is expected to start passing parts of the budget later in the day.
    Yeah, funny story about that as well. MIRS reports that the Republicans tried to move some budgets yesterday, gave the Democrats 20 minutes to look them over, the Democrats wanted them on the official record as to what was in those budgets and asked that it be read. The Republicans promptly pitched a fit and left for the day. They also blamed the Democrats for playing politics there as well, and want to claim that this will put them behind schedule. And they are the ones that left.

    Matt MARSDEN, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester) said the Senate is now behind schedule. The upper chamber is now slated to vote on these budget bills Thursday, as well as Agriculture, Michigan State Police and Transportation.

    "We're going to come back like grown-ups," he said. "We hope the other side does the same and doesn't decide to blow everything up with their games."
    Pretty obvious who is playing games here. It's the guy who waited a month to be "outraged" by cuts he allowed, promises even deeper cuts to come, won't tell anyone what they are, followed by the rest of the Republican leadership that shut down the Senate yesterday when someone asked to actually read the bill before they voted on it.

    Glad to hear that the Republicans plan to act like "grown-ups" today - but we won't hold our breath. They probably will at some point though.

    It would be an improvement.

    UPDATE: After all this fuss for the press today, it turns out that the Senate doesn't have a plan to restore that trooper funding after all.

    The Legislature adjourned Thursday without voting to restore funding for the troopers. The Senate had been expected to vote. But senators have not agreed on where to cut so troopers can keep their jobs.
    Of course they haven't. Just wait until they try to do $1.2B.

    The Detroit News Wants to Have Its Cake, and Use it as a Weapon Too

    Here's Nolan Finley last Sunday, complaining about the horse racing jobs that would be lost because state legislators couldn't find "a few quarters at the bottom of the washing machine" to mitigate this particular cut to the state budget. He hides behind Bob Ficano, lays all the blame on Granholm, and somehow draws the amazing conclusion that because we aren't making an exception to find state money to fund this particular business, this sends a message to all business that they aren't welcome here.

    Given all of the state's economic woes, this is a small thing. But it's indicative of a cavalier attitude toward the needs of job creators that explains why Michigan consistently ranks as one of the least attractive states for business.
    Since we were third in the nation for new corporate expansions and facilities in 2008, the only thing "consistent" here is the sweeping invective that Finley uses at every opportunity to denigrate our state. Even with the disclaimer at the end that this is a “small thing”, a few quarters here, a few quarters there, and pretty soon you are looking at a deficit of $1.7B. We could sell the whole damn washing machine and still not find the money for everyone's special interests, and, the argument can be made that all the cuts to the budget are going to hurt any private businesses that depend on that state spending. Is Finley suggesting that the state not cut any funding that will affect business? Or, does he simply want to play favorites, depending on who he can get to utter some juicy quotes that attack the administration?

    You know the answer to that, and it doesn't matter anyway. The House found those quarters in the washing machine yesterday, and this morning, the Detroit News is going to do a 180 and hide behind both Granholm and the Mackinac Center, and claim that "state lawmakers wimp out on budget cuts". The House restored funding to the state troopers, the state fairs, and - you guessed it - horse racing, but interestingly enough, this new editorial doesn't mention that last little tidbit.

    Yet it looks like legislators are ready to punt on some of the proposed savings, which would reduce by $90 million to $100 million a budget facing a revenue shortfall of at least $1.7 billion next year.

    Why? Because they're getting heat from folks who avail themselves of the programs the money funds. Unlike a state commission on government streamlining, which recently decided nearly every aspect of life is a "core" government function, the Mackinac Center maintains that state fairs, the arts and research which essentially subsidizes the agricultural business aren't essential.

    Granholm also recognizes that some things aren't absolutely necessary. She said in this year's State of the State Address, for example, that state fairs are a "wonderful tradition" but "not an essential purpose of government."
    But since it was such a convenient weapon for Finley, the money for horse racing is an "essential" purpose, simply because of the "message" it sends. We won't talk about the message of the thousands of jobs that are connected to the arts, agriculture, and the tourism that the state fairs bring. Not yet, anyway. For the purpose of this ingenuous attack, those jobs and businesses are expendable, and legislators are wimps because they are shaking that washing machine just a little harder to find those quarters to get Nolan off their collective back.

    And by the way, the Senate Republicans are indicating that they will not restore the money for horse racing or the state fairs. Will we see a column from Finley that attacks Republicans for the message that they send, and the "thousands" of jobs lost, because they chose not to restore the funding?

    Face it folks, you cannot win with those who insist that you cut spending, and then use those cuts as a weapon against you. All you can do is note their hypocrisy when it happens, call it out for what it is, and then move on to the next round, because it appears that this will be one of the right wing's favorite tricks for the foreseeable future.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Pew Study: Michigan 10th in Clean Energy Jobs Nationwide

    This only runs through 2007, so the job totals are lower than our recent Green Jobs Report - and both were before the RPS kicked in, and started to create even more jobs. So, who knows where we are sitting at this very moment - but nice to know the statistics on how fast it was/is growing.

    Michigan has the 10th largest number of clean energy jobs in the nation, a new report released today shows.

    The study by the Pew Charitable Trusts provides the first tally of the size of the nation’s clean energy industry, which includes everything from producing wind and solar power to making hybrid vehicle engines and advanced car batteries.

    In Michigan, the sector accounted for 22,674 jobs at 1,932 businesses in 2007, Pew researchers found. Though these numbers are still relatively small, jobs in Michigan’s clean energy sector grew by 10.7% between 1998 and 2007, compared with a 3.6% decline for all industries in the state.
    Nationwide, clean energy jobs grew 9.1% from 1998-2007, "about two and a half times faster than job growth in the economy as a whole". Not bad for a trendy fad, eh? Pretty soon it will catch up (and surpass) the "fossil" fuel sector.

    Overall, some 770,000 jobs in the nation are tied to the clean energy economy, the Pew researchers found — and they predicted more growth in the sector. By way of comparison, the “fossil fuel sector” of utilities, coal mining and oil and gas extraction accounted for 1.27 million jobs in 2007, the study said.
    Michigan is one of seven states (plus DC) where total jobs fell in the time frame, but jobs in clean energy increased - and they mention that our RPS puts us on the path for further growth. Plus, we were third in the nation for clean tech patents.

    Next time, number one! The whole report can be found here.

    Chrysler Group LLC "Will Begin Operations Immediately"

    And they're off.

    Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat Group announced the finalization Wednesday of their previously announced global strategic alliance.

    The new Chrysler will begin operations immediately. As part of the alliance, Fiat will contribute to Chrysler its world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing the company to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles increasingly in demand by consumers.

    "This is a very significant day, not only for Chrysler and its dedicated employees, who have persevered through a great deal of uncertainty during the past year, but for the global automotive industry as a whole," said Sergio Marchionne, who today was named Chief Executive Officer of Chrysler Group LLC.
    Last anyone knew, production was scheduled to start again by the end of the month.

    One down, one to go...

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Supreme Court Won't Block Chrysler Sale

    Whew.

    The Supreme Court cleared the way for the bulk of Chrysler LLC's assets to emerge from bankruptcy by Wednesday, canceling a court-ordered hold on the sale and allowing a historic tie-up with Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

    The two-page unsigned opinion from the high court lifted a temporary stay -- just more than 27 hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a temporary delay just before 4 p.m. Monday. The court offered little explanation, simply saying that a group of Indiana pension fund petitioners who had sought a full hearing hadn't met their burden.
    OK, back to the Wings...

    Obama at 71% Approval in Michigan, While the GOP Roots for the Failure of GM

    I used to think that we couldn't count on the Republicans to implode forever. Surely they would wake up after being crushed in two consecutive election cycles. Masters of public manipulation, they would shift course when their tactics had obviously stopped working. They would realize that their extreme right wing social and economic policies were driving away the independents and moderates in droves, so they would put a stop to the nonsense, and start a gradual shift to the middle.

    Guess I was wrong. So very wrong. They keep finding new and impressive ways to turn off the American public, usually by trying to throw mud on our very popular president. It backfires, and their latest stunt will backfire in a big way here in Michigan.

    First, a new statewide approval poll... and note the "highest in survey history" part. Michigan is Obama country, at least for now.

    Michigan residents remain sour on the economy, according to MSU’s latest State of the State Survey, but that pessimism does not extend to President Barack Obama – whose 71 percent approval rating is one of the highest in survey history.

    Respondents of Michigan State University’s quarterly survey also gave Gov. Jennifer Granholm her most favorable mark in three years – although the 33 percent approval rating is well below her high of 58 percent recorded during her first year as chief executive in 2003.
    Almost a ten point bounce for Granholm since last fall. Governor bashing is falling out of vogue because she aligns so well with Obama. Not only were the leadership results impressive, Michigan party identification numbers show a trend line that needs to be pictured in all its stunning beauty for the whole world to see.



    Now ask yourself, what could the Republicans possibly do to drive down their numbers even further, especially here in Michigan?

    They could express their desire to see GM fail in the never-ending quest to prove that "government" is a failure. Politico comes right out and calls its story "GOP hopes GM is Obama's Katrina", complete with many quotes from GOP leaders to indicate the truth behind the title.

    But Republicans see in GM a chance for their party to come out with a unified message — a confidence grounded in the conservative belief that government involvement in private industry always spells disaster. And GM’s long history of financial problems — even in more prosperous times — also makes Republicans see the company as a big albatross around Obama’s neck.
    As Kathy pointed out yesterday, the right wing is running with this line by calling for a boycott of GM. THAT should go over big here in the Great Lakes state. Since we all know that Rush runs the show, we can count on national GOP leaders to either follow their leader, or least stay out of the line of fire.

    "While it's not surprising that Rush Limbaugh would root for the failure of a national institution for partisan political gain, it is surprising that the other so-called leaders of the Republican party are silently going along with him given how many hard working Americans rely on GM for a living," said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.
    Do Michigan Republicans believe that we should avoid GM products? Do they want to see Obama and "government" fail with the automakers and throw thousands more out of work? Do these questions make you want to laugh out loud at the thought of the many ways the MRP will try and dodge this particular issue?

    They are valid questions - and they should be asked of all Republican candidates soon. Since the major GOP players in the gubernatorial race are already out there campaigning and the press is eating it up, maybe we can get some reaction to this latest Republican self-inflicted wound. I would love to see them weasel their way out of this one.

    I also would love to see that blue trendline keep reaching for the sky. Keep up the good work, Rush. Let's see if we can get that red line below 15% soon.

    Excuse the Dust

    The remodel begins... NOW!

    Going to take a bit to get this looking the way I want it, until then, please bear with me. It will be cool when it's done.

    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Supreme Court Delays Sale of Chrysler

    And it was going to be a done deal today. The best laid plans....

    The U.S. Supreme Court today indefinitely delayed the sale of most of Chrysler LLC's "good assets" as it continued to review whether to accept an appeal from a group of secured creditors -- a move that throws into jeopardy a tie-up with Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

    The one-sentence ruling means the nation's highest court is seriously considering whether to hold up Chrysler's emergence from bankruptcy. The order from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg postponed Chrysler from exiting until the court had more time to consider the case.
    Administration no happy. Making ominous noises.

    "Applicants' bid to block the sale would force the liquidation of Chrysler, a step whose economic consequences would be so severe that two national governments have committed unprecedented resources to prevent it," the government said. "Granting a stay beyond Monday, June 15, jeopardizes the sale -- the only remaining alternative to the outright liquidation of Chrysler."
    It's all about using TARP funds...

    But the case would represent the first time the court could rule on the legality of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Wall Street bailout fund that Congress approved last fall. The creditors have challenged the use of the funds for automakers.

    The Treasury Department agreed to pay off secured creditors of Chrysler with $2 billion in cash for $6.9 billion in debt -- or about 29 cents on the dollar.

    The Indiana funds purchased the debt at an average price of 43 cents on the dollar -- meaning they would lose roughly $13 million on their $42 million investment.
    After all the billions invested here, the thought of losing this deal over $13 million is quite stunning. And would be very tragic indeed.

    Check Out the New Wheels

    Let's hear it for Michigan Congresscritters that support the home team.



    I asked the Schauer people for a picture with the President, but a picture with a brand-new Saturn is pretty cool too.

    Today Congressman Mark Schauer (D-MI) appeared at the GM Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant to take factory delivery of a new crossover vehicle. Following a press conference with Plant Manager Randy Thayer, UAW Local 602 President Brian Fredline, and Saturn of Grand Ledge owner Sherrill Freeborough, Schauer toured the plant’s world-class facilities and met with the workers who built his new Saturn Outlook.

    “Saving the auto industry is about saving the American middle-class,” said Schauer. “We have the best workers in the world right here in Delta Township, and even in these tough economic times, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and support the men and women in our community who build these award-winning vehicles.”

    Last year, the Acadia, Outlook, Enclave, and Chevy Traverse were named a Top Safety Pick for 2009 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To qualify, a vehicle must earn the highest rating in the Institute's front, side, and rear tests and be equipped with electronic stability control. Additionally, the Enclave was recently named Family Crossover/SUV of the year by motherproof.com.

    “Most politicians talk about supporting the American worker, but Congressman Schauer put his money where his heart is, and bought a locally produced, UAW built, GM vehicle,” said UAW Local 602 President Brian Fredline. “Mark has taken the lead, and we hope the rest of America will follow.”


    Last year, then-Senator Schauer was driving all over the 7th in a Saturn that had more miles on it than mine did. Still looked like it was in great shape too. Another happy customer that we kept in the Saturn cult family.

    GM will make Saturn on contract for Penske for the next two years; plans seem pretty up in the air after that. "If sales are sufficient", Penske says that manufacturing should remain here, but they will be talking with "worldwide" partners in the meantime.

    Hope they can make it fly - at least the brand will now have someone who will be dedicated to upgrading and promoting the line, something that Saturn hasn't had in years. If this works out right, they have a great chance at long-term success.

    GM Announces "Country's Largest" Advanced Battery Lab Will Be Located in Warren

    Full steam ahead for the reinvention of GM, and yea for us, the work will happen right here in Michigan.

    The 33,000 square foot lab at GM's Technical Center in Warren will aid the testing and development of automotive batteries and technologies used in plug-in, hybrid, fuel-cell and electric extended-range vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt.

    "This lab is an indication Michigan is going to be the place we intend and aspire to be the place where these breakthroughs occur," Gov. Jennifer Granholm said today.

    The Global Battery Systems Lab, the country's largest, is GM's latest push to emerge as a leader in a technology area that promises to reduce dependence on foreign oil.


    1,000 engineers, along with students from the U of M, will continue the work that GM had already begun at labs across the country. We still have the promise that they will manufacture these batteries here as well.

    GM plans to select the battery plant site by the end of June with production starting in early 2010. The Detroit automaker initially will rely on foreign-made batteries for the Volt after announcing a partnership in January with South Korea-based battery maker LG Chem. Batteries eventually could be produced in the U.S.


    Now, how about that "small car" plant. Would be a waste to ship all these batteries out-of-state, wouldn't it?

    UPDATE: WXYZ reports on the announcement, with an interview with Fritz Henderson.

    Budget Finger-Pointing Begins: Senate to Propose $1.3B in Cuts

    First, let's have a little blast from the not-so-distant past:

    "There was no way we could cut $1.7 billion out of the budget." - Gerald Van Woerkom (R-Muskegon) Oct. 2007

    "If you look at the cuts the Republicans passed, they were not real cuts. They were unrealistic." - Valde Garcia (R-Howell) Oct. 2007

    (Tom) George (R-Kalamazoo) said enacting an all-cuts solution would have hurt Western Michigan University and major cuts to revenue sharing would have forced Kalamazoo to cut police and fire protection. Those were too important to cut further, Mr. George said. - Gongwer 10/5/2007

    All three (George, Jelinek and Birkholz) said Thursday the $1.7 billion state budget gap was much too large to resolve with revenue cuts alone, and raising taxes was inevitable. - Kalamazoo Gazette Oct. 2007

    That was then. The Republicans, who had spent all that year demanding an "all cuts" budget solution, came clean at the end and admitted that it was impossible. Fast forward to now. The Republicans are once again demanding an "all cuts" budget solution (or close enough, $1.3B on a $1.6B shortage), and in a display that indicates where this is already headed, Mike Bishop himself warned that a repeat of 2007 was "bubbling on the horizon". Gongwer sets a price tag:

    Senate Republicans are still working on the final details of their proposed budget cuts, but they are indicating that they will propose overall cuts of about 15 percent for the 2009-10 budget.

    At that level, the caucus would expect cuts approaching $1.3 billion in the 2009-10 budget from the adjusted level for the executive budget. That would be $800 million more than the $525.8 million in cuts House Democrats unveiled on Wednesday.


    This was the greatest unreported story of last week. The House is plowing ahead on the budget, has set its targets... and things look really grim at just over a half a billon. MIRS has the best overview on the House numbers...

    Using the budget after the May 5 Executive Order as a baseline, the House targets cut another $125 million apiece in the departments of Community Health and Human Services. It whacks Higher Education and revenue sharing another $90 million apiece and the Department of Corrections $80 million.

    State Police is cut $3.7 million. The Department of Treasury is cut $1.57 million; the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth $1.45 million; the Judiciary $1.4 million; the Legislature $1.7 million; the Department of Management and Budget $1.1 million; the Department of Environmental Quality $847,900; Agriculture $640,000; the Attorney General $633,000; the Strategic Fund $592,000; the Secretary of State $522,000; the Auditor General $251,000; Civil Rights $244,000; Natural Resources $209,000 and Education $148,000.

    The School Aid Fund, Department of Information Technology and the soon-to-be eliminated Department of History, Arts and Libraries are not cut in the House targets.


    You've already heard all the screaming from the "cut government, but don't cut me" Republican candidates such as Cox and Land, as well as the protests over prison cuts from Senate Republicans like Alan Cropsey, and now we have those bleeding heart liberals at the Detroit News who suddenly care about "the poor" and horse racing (?) piling on as well. That was very interesting coming from the people who just demanded that the administration and legislature meet non-stop to "adjust state spending" in the face of the GM bankruptcy. Are they suggesting that we raise the revenue to pay for these things? Considering that we already cut the Department of Stuff No One Cares About long ago, it's really unclear as to what "adjustments" they would suggest in the face of this shortfall, but they have made one thing clear - they are going to complain about every cut that comes out of this Legislature in their attempt to lay this at the feet of “Democratic leadership”.

    And, if you think this is bad now, just wait until the Senate tacks on almost another billion in cuts. Hard to even fathom it. Despite the DNews calling for everyone to sit down work together, surprise! surprise!, it seems that Mike Bishop has ideas of his own. He won't set target numbers per department, throws out this general "15%" cut and indicates that some departments will see more cuts than others (which makes targets impossible), blames "the leadership" because he "doesn't trust" the House numbers, and therefore he shouldn't have to set targets or play ball on this anyway. How is that for cooperation?

    Mike Bishop is already approaching this budget with a bad faith attitude, taking unnecessary shots at other people, operating with secrecy and mistrust, setting the stage so that once again the Senate has a built-in excuse for avoiding the heavy lifting that this work will require. Dillon called it out for what it is - a further waste of our time.

    But House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) said Bishop's decision not to set a joint target will put the budget-setting at least a month behind schedule, which puts in serious jeopardy a mutual goal to finish the '10 budget by the July 4 break.

    Cutting budgets 15 percent sounds good, but it's unrealistic for some budgets because of the strings attached to some of the federal stimulus dollars the state is receiving, he said.

    "I think they're wasting time," Dillon said of the Senate. "We're going to pass like ships in the night."


    Does Bishop want to push this to the point of threatened shutdown in an attempt to make "government" look "bad"? The pointed attacks on "leadership" from this story alone, coupled with the general campaign theme that the MRP and its candidates are trumpeting at every turn, would indicate that the Republicans seem to think there is a definite political advantage to be had by making sure that things stay "bad" so they have something to run on next year. It becomes a matter of simply running out the clock, and that is something that the Senate has proven time and time again that they are very capable of doing.

    The Legislature could stop these cuts at any time. They have the power. For them to turn around and complain about the cuts that they have made is simply absurd. A true revenue reform that includes a graduated income tax could be used to alleviate the MBT surcharge, as well as spare education, health care and public safety from further horrific cuts - but does anyone honestly think that the Republicans will lift a finger to help this state, which would ruin the only campaign theme they have?

    Oh, and by the way legislators, no one requires you to take half of July and all of August off. If you don't have your budgets done, perhaps you might want to think about forgoing your usual summer vacation and deal with this crisis before it gets to the point where you make some stupid last minute fix that you will spend all next year complaining about. Might as well take Bishop's warning at face value, and have Plan B ready to go. Whatever that is.