Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: Michigan Year and Decade in Review

What a year. What a decade. Usually I'm not big on these end-of-the-whatever top ten lists, but sometimes, especially after hard times, it is good to take a look back at the history that unfolded before our eyes. Mourn the losses, celebrate the victories, take stock of the lessons learned... and then let it all go as we move into the future. Time tends to blur it all together in the long run anyway.

For example: Most of these year-end stories focus on our economy of course, the Crash of '08 reverberating through the months of '09. It's fresh in our mind at this point because we are still living it. But consider this - from the "Youze Kids Git Off My Lawn" Department comes an interesting statistic of comparison on the Michigan unemployment rate. Do you remember the 80's? I do. It was rough. We hit a high of 16.9 in Nov. of '82, my senior year in high school, and it took until Oct. of '85 to drop back below double digits. If I've plugged the numbers into my Excel chart correctly (and yes, according to the BLS the historical stats have been adjusted for the change in 1994), for the decade of the 80's, we had an average rate of 10.8% unemployment. For the 00's? Even if we jump back up to 15.0 in December, it's 7.3% for the decade. Taken on an average, that's a pretty big difference. So, which decade was worse? Hard to tell, because too many other factors blend into the equation. This is just one area, one set of numbers by which we measure our quality of life. Factor in cost of living changes, for example, and the total picture takes on a different depth of overall hardship.

BLS stats only go back to 1976, which is too bad because I wonder about the stats on the early 70's, which historians will point to as the time when manufacturing, and particularly auto manufacturing (with the oil embargo), started its slide in this country. Looking back at our entire history from that 70's mid-decade point, you can begin to see that the low unemployment rate we had at the end of the 90's was the anomaly, not the rule. And that could very well be why we see this particular point in time as so incredibly hard.

Only with time can you see the patterns that emerge, and it becomes harder to single out a specific year, or even a specific decade, as being "the" point where things started to change. They are simply numbers on the calendar, a rate of measurement, a place to hold the statistics. It's the events that take place that shape our history and change our ultimate destination, and those events tend to take place on a national, and increasingly global, scale. We like to think that we are the masters of our universe here in Michigan, but in reality we are not. We are pulled with the flow of all of humanity.

We are the sum of our parts though. Detroit may drag us along based on the sheer weight of their population, but there is so much more to Michigan than just our biggest city and industry. Lansing legislative drama may command a political junkie's attention, but more and more I find it really helps to look outside of those places to get a view of the mood of the entire state. People have asked me how I do what I do, and it's hard to explain, really, because I don't know. It just happens. It's almost a subconscious thing. It comes from extensive reading of all the news - not just the major players. They may think they are the center of focus in the state, and in many ways they are, but when you have say, Andy Dillon named as Gongwer's "Newsmaker of the Year" for '09 and yet 56% of "active registered voters" still don't recognize his name, it gives you a little perspective on other people's perspective of the whole.

I've started to train myself to look deeper, get outside the bubble that is Lansing (and Detroit), and reflect on the bigger picture. It's very time consuming, but I can't seem to stop, even when I'm trying to take a break. This past week has featured many local perspectives on the past year and the past decade, and it's interesting to see what is important to folks at the ground level where they live. Below, in no particular order and certainly not all-inclusive, is a round-up from the state and local Michigan media of the stories that made 2009 what it was...

Gongwer has been reviewing the decade, the overall economic story appears at Mi-Tech News, keep watching that page for the others. A must read to get a basic understanding of what happened to this state in the past ten years. Key words? "The slaughter of Michigan's once-prized manufacturing sector". From that, came everything else. Take a look.

Gongwer also takes a look at the Top Ten Most Significant Laws" passed in this decade. Some good, some not so good, the jury is still out on others.

Detroit's Top Ten Stories from the Freep.

The Detroit News presents an entire page of the Top Stories of 2009, featuring articles, photos and videos. Special shout-out to their photojournalists, who present 86 poignant pictures of the year.

The Detroit Metro Times shares its Top Ten Most Read stories of the year.

Crain's Detroit Business looks forward at Ten Things to Watch in 2010.

Muskegon's Top Ten by Dave Alexander at the Chronicle.

Battle Creek's Top Ten from the Enquirer.

The Traverse City Record Eagle went ahead and did the entire decade. Nothing of note happened in 2002.

Dearborn's Top Ten - Third Quarter - from the Press & Guide.

The Huron Daily Tribune is also breaking up the year's Top Ten, the series starts here.

Jackson's Top Ten from the Cit-Pat.

The Lansing State Journal's Year in Review gives us more than ten, and they cover a lot of categories.

The Macomb Daily has a list of "the best things said in 2009" by local officials.

The Midland Daily covers... everything that happened this year, apparently. Just start reading.

Holland's Top Ten from the Sentinel.

The Saginaw News broke up the Top Ten into three segments - Pt. 3 contains the links to the first two.

The Royal Oak Daily Tribune was a real bummer, except for that part about Prohibition finally being repealed.

The Kalamazoo Gazette has an "upper down" feature by month on the local economy, and they also have the Top Ten stories for the area.

Mt. Pleasant's Top Ten from the Morning Sun.

The Livingston Daily is doing their Top Ten as a story a day, when I visited they were on No. 4 - the Swine Flu scare. No hyperlinks to the others.

The Grand Rapids Press had an extensive print "Decade in Review", featuring local and national news, but they did not put it online. Troy Reimink does his best to present the feature by taking polls and linking to the .pdfs of the actual printed page(s).

The Ludington Daily News wants you to pick the Top Ten stories for that area. Get to it.

The Tecumseh Herald has an extensive list of local news of the year. Novi did the same. The Alpena News puts a local economic spin on their year in review. Canton opted to take a positive look at events.

The Adrian Daily Telegram has the AP's Top Ten national and international stories, and what's odd about that is no one else seemed to carry it.

That's about it as of the morning of Dec. 31st. More my pop up today in various places, take a look at your hometown news and see what's up.

Hoekstra Escapes Terrorist Plot to Keep Him Off the Television

Pete Hoekstra loves to tweet about terrorism. It's everywhere, you know. Around every corner, lurking in every shadow. Be afraid. Be very afraid. And just in case you're not afraid, Pete will continue to sound the alarm until you are!
petehoekstra Administration says attempted terrorist attack. No. It was a terrorist attack! Just not as successful as they (AQ) planned. - 12/25 10:35PM

Hence the word "attempted". But it could have been bad. Pete wants you to remember that. Pete wants you to always remember that.

petehoekstra Let's all be thankful. This could have been a terrible day for Detroit/Michigan/and America but it wasn't. - 12/25 10:58PM

No, it wasn't. But that didn't stop Pete from spending part of Christmas and the entire day of the 26th like some warped modern version of Paul Revere, running to every available form of media to remind you that it wasn't a terrible day, but if you just use your imagination, you can and should turn it into one! Here he is in the Detroit News, "Hoekstra: Attack not aimed at Detroit", the Detroit Free Press, "Hoekstra: Air terror try hints at a larger plot" ( Followed by the inevitable -Napolitano: No sign of larger terror plot), the Associated Foreign Press, "Pete Hoekstra: Detroit terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab may be connected to Fort Hood shooter", WOOD TV in Grand Rapids, "Hoekstra: attack attempt cutting edge", and there were probably other appearances that we didn't see because we were too busy checking our basements to make damn sure there were no terrorists down there. Whew.

If you listened to Pete and "connected the dots" like he wanted you to though, this incident was definitely a coordinated plot to attack America involving every known al Qaeda connection in the world, ever, and they are using sophisticated techniques, and the Obama administration just doesn't get it that we should be very afraid, all the time!

But it got worse from there. The real crisis for Hoekstra came later on the 26th, when it appeared that Pete would be thwarted from bringing us his "All Terror, All the Time" message. What would this country do if Pete couldn't make it back to Washington? Would the terrorists "win"?

petehoekstra Going to dc tonight. Flights delayed. Not good. - 12/26, around 5PM.

Oh no! Except... they weren't delayed. Had word gotten out to the terrorists that Pete was a comin' back to DC gosh darn it, and they better drop all their plans? It could be. It could very well be. There is evidence to prove it. There were some long lines reported as people came early in anticipation of security checks (we've been there done that as a travelin' population), but no reports of flight delays to be found, except for those caused by the weather. Matter of fact, the news reported the opposite.

Hoekstra was in Grand Rapids in the afternoon. Assuming he was flying out of the one major airport here....

None of Saturday's flights between the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and Detroit Metro Airport had been delayed or canceled, airport spokesman Bruce Schedlbauer said.

"It has had no impact on flight times here," he said. " I think most are viewing it as an isolated incident."

Surely Detroit Metro would be jammed up on Saturday...

Lines went smoothly after the initial rush Saturday at Detroit Metro, causing "no significant delays," said Keith Jarvie, Transportation Security Administration liaison to the airport and the airlines.

Hmmm. Maybe they were targeting Chicago instead, just in case Hoekstra pulled a fast one...

While Homeland Security officials said Saturday that passengers may notice extra security, travelers at O'Hare International and Midway airports were delayed more by snow than new regulations.

...

Looking toward the security checkpoint, where the lines seemed no longer than usual, Lewis wondered what the fuss was about.

"Given the proximity of this airport to Detroit, I expected to see a much more prominent security presence today," he said.

Amazing! Well, it's obvious to those that are paying attention to Hoekstra's ego that Pete had escaped the nefarious terrorist plot to keep him away from that bastion of truth and beacon of red, white and blue shining light... you guessed it... FOX News!

petehoekstra Flights co operated. In DC. On Greta's special On the Record at 1015 tonight. Doing Fox Sunday tomorrow morning. - 12/26, around 8PM.

All is well. America breathes a sigh of relief. Pete is back home on FOX. The Obama administration has kept this country safe so that fear mongers like Hoekstra can continue to try and score cheap political points off of his presidency.

And what could be more American than that?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas~

EGR Xmas Eve


Still one of my favorites.

Wishing peace to everyone - and have a very Merry Christmas!

NFL Week 16

San Diego at Tennessee
Buffalo at Atlanta
Kansas City at Cincinnati
Oakland at Cleveland

Seattle at Green Bay
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Houston at Miami
Jacksonville at New England
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Carolina at NY Giants
Detroit at San Francisco
St. Louis at Arizona

NY Jets at Indianapolis
Denver at Philadelphia

Dallas at Washington
Minnesota at Chicago

9-7. TB WTF? 156-84 for the year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Weight of the Big Tent

This is what happens when a few select Democrats start kicking out the poles that hold up the big tent.
A new nationwide poll suggests a majority of American voters disapprove of the health care reform plans being discussed in Congress and President Barack Obama’s handling of the issue.

Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute in Connecticut surveyed 1,616 registered voters from Dec. 15-20 and found 53% “mostly disapprove” of the health care changes being considered in Congress, compared to 36% who “mostly approve.” Meanwhile 56% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue compared to 38% who approve.

Not happy with the plan, not happy with Obama. Look at what would make them happy. Or, happier, anyway.

Voters may oppose the health care plans overall, but they support some items which have been stripped from the Senate bill: Fifty-six percent of respondents support the so-called “public option” government health plan compared to 38% who oppose it. Meanwhile, voters support allowing younger people to buy into Medicare by a 64%-30% margin.

Hope the House is taking notes.

Governor Granholm's 2009 Year in Review

Me, 12/24/2008:
It's just going to take some time, and the will to fight through the tough times to come in '09. You ready? It's going to get pretty bad. With the auto restructuring, we are looking to lose anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 jobs next year. The dominos have already been set in motion. Tax revenues are down, cuts will have to be made, the right is gearing up to blame this all on the Democrats, and we are going to need all hands on deck to maintain the quality of life and the plans already in place that will position us for job growth in the future.

I knew it would be tough. And it was. The toughest year yet. It was historical. I don't think any of us have quite wrapped our minds around what has happened here in this past year - really this past decade, when you think about it. The major driver of this state's economy, manufacturing, and particularly auto manufacturing, was brought to its knees. 100 years to build, 10 years to nearly destroy. And it culminated with national economic conditions that haven't been seen since the Great Depression.

Imagine you are this woman. Tax revenues are plummeting. Unemployment is soaring. Two of the Big Three file for bankruptcy and teeter on the edge of extinction. Your state budget is $3 billion in the hole. The press is attacking, the citizens are hurting, the legislature is paralyzed... oh, and by the way, you're being vetted for the Supreme Court. Man. Through it all, you keep fighting for the priorities that you know are right, that you know will get us to where we want to go. So, not only are you trying to hang on to what you have, you are working to diversify the economy, build towards a better future, and most of all, stay positive in the face of such adversity. She isn't the cheerleader that she used to be - but she held her own through the toughest of times.



For the list of all the good things that have happened this year - and there were plenty when you look at it - check the state release here.

On a personal note, people can (and do!) call me all the names they want, send me hate mail, speculate on my motives (and it was never about a Lansing career, unless Al Goldis wants to give me his job) - I still am very proud to support this governor. I believe that we are on the right track, and the seeds that are being planted now in renewable energy, the film industry, health care, advanced manufacturing - all of that, combined with a revived and competitive domestic auto industry, will bring this state back again. You can see it coming.

But first, we have to get through one. more. brutal. budget - and this time, we get to do it in an election year. Oh my.

Granholm said she's ready and willing to enter into a "grand bargain" to restructure the state's outdated tax scheme. She said she's willing to talk about a tax revamping that brings in the same amount of money as two years ago, but a revenue neutral plan that maintains tax collections at 2010 levels would not be acceptable.

Asked what is meant by a grand bargain, she replied: "Everybody gives something, everybody gets something ... there's pain all around."

Such a deal might include lowering the sales tax and extending it to services, Granholm said. She added she's working with the business community, House Speaker Andy Dillon and "hopefully the Senate Majority Leader" Mike Bishop on such a tax plan.

The Governor said she's not going to throw some plan out there just to have them say "no" - this is going to take cooperation from everyone, and as we have seen so frequently over the past couple of years, that might be impossible, especially with the "Party of No" gearing up to use both the cuts and the economy against all Democrats in the elections. Next year will not be about Jennifer Granholm, and she knows it. When it comes to the budget battle, it's about the Mike and Andy Show, and what they have in mind for their future plans, God help us. We'll see the revenue numbers in January, and go from there.

2010 could be very interesting indeed. Fasten your seatbelts and grab some popcorn, and get ready to watch the show. There are teabagger Republicans that need a whoopin', and I hope you all will be around to help.

Democrats Get a Clue For Christmas

With a tip 'o the hat to DKos, this from the NYT. It can't be stressed enough.
At the same time, Democrats say the apparently unbridgeable health care divide has convinced them that Republicans are dedicated solely to blocking legislative proposals for political purposes. Several said they now realized that they would have to rely strictly on their own caucus to advance such defining issues as climate change in 2010.

Wow, ya think?

Michigan, writ large.

Michigan's Largest Solar Installation Goes On Line

Right here in West Michigan. Padnos Iron & Metal in Wyoming teamed up with Cascade Engineering to install a 15,000 square foot solar roof, and the plan will pay for itself in about eight years.
"We want to prove it works in winter," Padnos said. As the first big commercial installation under Michigan's new alternative energy stimulus programs, output from the Padnos project will be tracked into February, when the company plans a big dedication party.
"I think this is the beginning of a pretty robust market for solar," Ford said.

"You have to be somewhat of a patient investor, putting this product in. You're still going to use energy. Why not buy it from yourself?"

Those years to reach payback will pass quickly, said Keller, 65.

The panels came from Japan and were assembled in Tennessee, but the installers are local workers. With the growth in solar manufacturing in the Bay area, pretty soon we will be making the panels, too. Watch for things to pick up in 2010 as the market heats up. So to speak.

Monday, December 21, 2009

US Senate Passes First Step of Health Care Reform 60-40

It's difficult to call this "health care" reform when it's really "health insurance" reform, but whatever you want to call it, there is no denying that this was a historic event that puts us closer to ultimately changing the face of health care in this country.
After a long day of acid, partisan debate, Senate Democrats held ranks early Monday in a dead-of-night procedural vote that proved they had locked in the decisive margin needed to pass a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health care system.

The roll was called shortly after 1 a.m., with Washington still snowbound after a weekend blizzard, and the Senate voted on party lines to cut off a Republican filibuster of a package of changes to the health care bill by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.

The vote was 60 to 40 — a tally that is expected to be repeated four times as further procedural hurdles are cleared in the days ahead, and then once more in a dramatic, if predictable, finale tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Both parties hailed the vote as seismic.


The Senate bill is horribly flawed (follow link for some details), as anyone following this debate already knows. This is far from a done deal though, as eyes now turn to the House.

The Senate bill, once completed, must be reconciled with the bill adopted by the House last month, and there are substantial differences between the two. The House measure, for instance, includes a government-run health insurance plan, or public option, that was dropped from the Senate bill.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said the House would not just accept the Senate bill. And some Senate Democrats have warned that they could turn against the bill if changes made during negotiations with the House are not to their liking.

If they do, its failure will be on them, and the general dysfunction of a Senate that has to clear the hurdles placed in its path by "Party of No". Krugman explains how the threat of filibuster from the Republicans since the Dems took power in 2006 has soared, making compromise, and maybe even governing itself, virtually impossible.

But our current situation is unprecedented: America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option — not unless you want the nation to sit motionless, with an effectively paralyzed government, waiting for financial, environmental and fiscal crises to strike.

It's Michigan, writ large. And the end result of this obstruction was that the Nelsons and the Liebermans of the Senate received "extraordinary power to shape the bill". That's a shame. But for now, let's take what we can get.

If the bill is passed, it will make health insurance available to millions of people who can’t get it now either because of preexisting conditions, or because they just don’t make enough: community rating and the subsidies — remember, we’re talking about almost $900 billion in aid — will make a huge difference. Yes, there will be some people forced to buy insurance by the individual mandate; everything I’ve seen says that the number of people for whom this will be a real hardship will be far less than the shouting suggests.

We can come back to this. Progressives can push for bigger subsidies; stronger exchanges; a reinstated public option; stronger cost controls. Some of these things can be done through reconciliation. Having this bill in place will make it easier, not harder, to do these things than having passed nothing.

I’m not happy — this is too flawed a bill for joy — but I am relieved ( or will be once I’m sure that Joe Lieberman isn’t going to pull a double-cross). You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.

But will we get what we need? Unknown. If the end result proves unworkable and unaffordable to Americans, it will collapse or be repealed - and all this will go for naught anyway.

Miles to go yet. Let's hope that some changes can be made with the House, and certain Senators will put aside their selfish egos and work for progress for the American people.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekend Update

In case you missed it:
  • The Freep ran a great eight-part series on the auto industry called "Rising from the wreckage" that takes a look at the "inside story of the 18-month period in which the incredible, the unthinkable, befell the Detroit-based auto industry in a collapse that very nearly took the state of Michigan with it". The last chapter runs today, be sure and check out the whole thing. Great work.

  • Skooby reports that changes in the distribution of power in the Michigan Senate are being discussed by the GOPers not being wiped out by term limits. Why? "Part, but not the whole reason for a deeper look at this power arrangement is the performance and problems of Mr. Bishop (bold mine) whose tenure has caused consternation inside and outside of the GOP caucus from time to time". Tim tells us that every leader has "suffered" with that. Sure they have. No, I believe ya, honest I do. Just find it interesting that it was this particular leader that finally got someone to do something about it.

  • The view from another state:

    A proposed solar module plant that eyed Corpus Christi will instead set up in Saginaw, Mich., but hasn’t ruled out South Texas for a future company site.

    GlobalWatt, which proposed a $189 million facility that would bring 400 jobs to Corpus Christi, made its decision official Tuesday, company site selector Kathy Mussio said.

    The Michigan city won out over Corpus Christi because of its proximity to a large, new polysilicone production plant, a cell manufacturing plant and a supply of skilled, unemployed auto workers, Mussio said. Saginaw is a city of 57,500 about 100 miles northwest of Detroit.

    Nice, huh? We also offered a better deal on incentives. The Saginaw area is still "abuzz" about the new solar plant, which will hire 125 workers by the end of 2010 and up to 500 within five years.

  • Peter Luke takes a look at our great success in attracting the "green" economy to our state, but wonders why we don't invest in our roads and schools the same way. He actually answers his own question when he hits on the word "politics". In another story, he spells out all the educational reforms in the "Race to the Top" legislation that was passed yesterday. No one does it better. If you are looking for a great reporting on state news, follow Luke on Mlive here.

  • Seen the new 787 yet? Two West Michigan companies, GE Aviation and Gentex, made the computer system, landing gear, and auto-dimming windows.

  • Did you know that Michigan has one of the best prisoner re-entry initiatives in the nation? That other states look to our model as "the gold standard" to follow? Dome magazine brings us the entire success story. Seems some GOP candidates are trying to score points with scare tactics as we reduce out prison population, but "there is no evidence to support this — improved return-to-prison rates both for technical violations and for new crimes point to the opposite conclusion". What? Republicans are lying? What a shock.

  • Legislator Christmas cards. Say, is that Brooks Patterson as Santa in Senator Bishop's family photo?

  • Disillusioned with the way health insurance reform is going? One of the best diaries I have ever read at Kos spells out what you are up against when it comes to effectively using the techniques that the right wing has carefully built over the past 30 years. The "think tanks, newspapers, periodicals, cable news channels, and political advocacy organizations" took a great deal of time and money to "spread their finely tuned, well-honed messages" in this mass media world of ours - and remember, they were thrown out on their keisters in the last two elections. So much for their "permanent majorities", but the infrastructure still remains to push the wingnut agenda. Read and learn, and keep fighting for what you believe in.

    Good policy will trump advertising in the end, it's just going to take some time to get there.
  • Saturday, December 19, 2009

    Legislature Passes "Race to the Top" Reforms

    Finally.
    After a week of sometimes bitter disputes, the legislature today approved sweeping education changes to expand the number of high-quality charter schools -- including two new online "cyber schools" -- raise the dropout age from 16 to 18, and give the state stronger authority to take over 5% of the state's academically worst schools.

    The reform package was needed for the state to qualify for up to $400 million in extra federal funds, under President Barack Obama's Race To The Top initiative to improve education. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and legislative leaders have called for an agreement by the end of the year in order to apply for the federal grant in January.

    "It wasn't pretty, but we got it done," said Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, who led negotiations for House Democrats with Senate Republicans.

    Congratulations. Now go home and be with your families.

    Curious about the online schools. Will be watching to see how that goes, assuming we do win some funding out of this. In the (distant) future, I believe we will see more and more education online; it's cheaper than running a building, more flexibility with scheduling and pace of learning. Socialization might become an issue, but extra curriculars like sports, music, etc would still require a physical presence, so maybe that would be enough. This would be a start down that road.

    The best thing about all this? The Legislature is done for the year! They can't annoy us again for about a month! Woo hoo, Merry Christmas!

    Wish I could say the same about Congress...

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Ford to Build New Battery Plant in Michigan

    There has been a slew of good automotive news the past couple of days. After the legislature passed additonal battery tax credits yesterday, Ford has decided to build its new lithium ion battery here.
    Ford Chairman Bill Ford told Local 4's Guy Gordon Friday afternoon that his company has chosen Michigan as the production site for the company's new lithium ion battery systems.

    The battery pack will power Ford's new plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, which will be introduced over the next several years.

    It's a huge coup for the state of Michigan as it battles to retain its identity as the world's motor capital.

    And although tax credits have been criticized a great deal by the right in the latest Rovian attack-their-strengths tactic - these credits landed us the facility over Kentucky. 1000 jobs are attached to the project. Sorry, Rick, this is the game we have to play for the time being.

    More good news - yesterday, Chrysler announced that they would build their "green" engine in Dundee, creating 155 jobs in Fiat's first major North American investment. There was a time when it looked like Chrysler wouldn't make it, but company officials have indicated that they are in this for the long haul.

    Production on the new fuel-efficient engines, which feature Fiat’s MultiAir technology that burns gasoline more efficiently while enhancing performance, will begin in the fourth quarter of 2010, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said during a press event at the company’s Auburn Hills headquarters.

    The investment, Fiat’s first in Michigan and the U.S. since taking a 20% stake in Chrysler Group LLC, will expand the 4-year-old plant where Chrysler has made 2.0- and 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines under a now dissolved partnership with Mitsubishi and Hyundai.

    And finally, auto analyst Erich Merkle and the Center for Automotive Research have predicted a healthy uptick in auto sales for 2010, citing growing consumer confidence as unemployment starts to ease up.

    And when labor markets stabilize, "that's when we start to hit our turn in terms of auto sales, because the people that are working have been holding off on a buying a new car. But when they start to feel more comfortable in their jobs and they're starting to see some expansion and some renewed activity, then they start going out and they start looking to make that purchase, like a new car," he said.

    Michigan as a state -- and West Michigan as a region -- will see a benefit from that, said Merkle, who was speaking at an industry outlook conference put on by BDO Seidman and hosted by Grand Valley State University.

    Hang in there, people. It really is starting to look better all the time. Doesn't mean we can put all our eggs in the automotive basket again, but if this industry sees revitalization (and it will) and the efforts of our diversification pay off (and they will), we are going to be better than OK.

    Have a little patience. We are on our way back.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    NFL Week 15

    Indianapolis at Jacksonville
    Dallas at New Orleans
    Atlanta at NY Jets
    San Francisco at Philadelphia
    Houston at St. Louis
    New England at Buffalo
    Chicago at Baltimore
    Miami at Tennessee
    Cleveland at Kansas City

    Arizona at Detroit
    Oakland at Denver
    Cincinnati at San Diego
    Green Bay at Pittsburgh
    Tampa Bay at Seattle
    Minnesota at Carolina
    NY Giants at Washington

    10-6. 147-77 for the year.

    Will Senate Republicans Blow the "Race to the Top" Funding?

    Setting aside the hypocrisy of Republicans drooling over federal taxpayer money while they refuse to take responsibility for funding our schools themselves, here is yet another glaring example of how the Senate will throw a fit and simply walk away when you say "no" to one of their demands.
    Senate Republicans walked out on negotiations on education reform legislation late Wednesday, bringing a halt -- for the moment -- to talks about what would be historic education reforms linking teacher pay to student test scores, opening more charter schools and other measure the Obama administration has outlined as requirement for Race to the Top cash.

    Conference committee meetings slated for 9 a.m. this morning were swiftly recessed since there were no deals for members to debate.

    Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, said this morning that Republicans, led by Kuipers, walked out after House Democrats wouldn't budge on the Senate's plan to open 100 or more additional charter schools in the state.

    "The Senate just wants to get a wish list to do as many charters as they want, and that's not what Race to the Top is all about," Melton said.

    The House Dems are the ones stepping out on the limb here, ready to risk irritating their traditional supporters to apply for this funding. They are compromising. Apparently the Senate is not willing to compromise on anything, ever, and once again has instead starting pointing fingers at everyone else involved in the hopes that you won't notice.

    "We have a number of outstanding issues, and we weren't making progress on any of them," Kuipers said. "I just said, 'We've been talking for six hours. We're not making progress. When you're willing to get serious, let us know.' "

    You know the translation. What Kuipers really means is: "When you're willing to do what we want, we will come back to the table. If not, we throw a fit and shut this down". Hmmm, when have we seen that before? Throw a fit they did, leaving the meeting in the first place - and in the now-classic Senate Republican tradition they attempted to blame the administration for their behavior, citing something totally irrelevant to the legislation at hand.

    The Michigan Department of Education failed to file a letter of intent with the federal government last week to apply for up to $400 million or more in Race to the Top school funding.

    Filing the letter was optional and will not jeopardize Michigan's chances of winning the funds, department spokeswoman Jan Ellis said. But missing last week's deadline is viewed by Senate Republicans as a major misstep in a critical nationwide competition for Race to the Top cash.

    Department officials tried to file the letter, the computer system was down, the feds know we are coming anyway - and it turns out this "filing" is a huge non-issue. Doesn't matter, Kuipers will waste our time with it. Wasting time and deflection from the issues are what this Senate does best. The people of Michigan want these guys to sit down, settle their differences, and start working for the benefit of this state. That means compromise from both sides, correct?

    Well, take a look at who is refusing to compromise, and instead is employing the tactics of a two-year old: Stomp your feet, walk out, blame someone else when it goes bad. It’s the House Dems fault, it’s the governor’s fault, it’s always everyone else’s fault when they misbehave.

    After three years of this, you would think that people would notice. Maybe they do. Anyone take a poll on the Legislature lately?

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Blasts

    These were posted at BFM - I want them here because the search engine is better and I might need to reference them again someday.

  • MI Unemployment Drops for Second Month in a Row: Maybe we have hit bottom, and are now starting the long climb back up...

    Michigan's unemployment rate has improved for the second straight month.
    State officials said Wednesday that the November jobless rate dropped to 14.7 percent, down from a national high of 15.1 percent in October. It was the state's lowest rate in six months.

    The state's jobless rate reached 15.3 percent in September.

    But the news isn't all good. The state lost about 14,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, according to a seasonally adjusted survey of employers.

    We had gained 38,000 jobs in October, so the loss last month is disappointing - BUT - the losses have most definitely slowed down.

    That's a good thing. A real good thing.

  • Offshore Wind Farm For Ludington?: This looks promising. Four miles offshore won't ruin the view. (Have now seen a rendering of what the East Coast ones would look like, and they are still visable -barely- at 13 miles out)

    Scandia Wind Offshore says the area south of Ludington and four miles offshore is the perfect location to build a 1000-megawatt windfarm. Plans call for more than 100 large wind turbines that could turn Michigan wind into electricity for the Midwest. Residents seem to be hungry for more information.
    "I think it is important to look into other forms of energy," said Bill McBeth. "And in Michigan, wind is something to look into."

    "We have lots right here on the coast, so why not use it," said Mike McDonald. "So far I can not see anything wrong with it."

    The company believes when it comes to building an offshore wind energy farm, Michigan has the best conditions in the country.

    $3 billion in investment for the area. A meeting with residents is scheduled tonight to address any concerns they might have.

    Stay tuned...

  • Granholm Announces Over 9,000 New and Retained Jobs for Michigan: Gotta have those tax credits. If we don't, some other state will.

    Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is helping 10 companies grow in Michigan and is backing eight brownfield redevelopment projects. Combined, the 18 projects are expected to create 6,804 new jobs (2,236 direct and 4,418 indirect), retain 2,263 jobs, and generate over $672 million in new investment in the state.

    For full details, check the release here.

  • Granholm Signs Bills Restricting Utility Shutoffs: Story makes the WaPo. Nice.

    The five bills Granholm signed Monday protect eligible low-income customers and seniors from municipal utility shutoffs, govern shut-off notices and procedures and permit the state attorney general or a customer to bring a civil action against a municipal utility in shut-off cases involving serious injury or death.

    The bills also require municipal utilities to make efforts to identify customers who are 65 or older and requires the state to give utilities information about people who have applied for or are receiving public assistance so they can be helped to reduce energy costs and prevent shutoffs.

    Michigan's big, state-regulated utilities such as DTE Energy and Consumers Energy Co., along with cooperatives, are not allowed to shut off power to senior citizens in the winter and must offer payment plans to the poor. State regulators also discourage the use of limiters.

    But Michigan's 41 smaller municipal utilities - Bay City's included - are not overseen by the state, so new laws had to be passed to make customer shut-off protections uniform statewide.

    If you need assistance with utility bills this winter, check out the state's Helping Hand website, or call 2-1-1 to be connected with local resources. Make sure and check on your elderly neighbors too - no one should freeze to death when there is help available and laws in place to prevent it from happening.

  • Feds to Add $13 Million to the Asian Carp Fight: The optimum goal is $30 million total - but $13 million of that will come from the already approved $475 million Great Lakes cleanup funding.

    Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Monday the money will be used for engineering projects to prevent the carp from slipping into Lake Michigan near Chicago.

    They include closing conduits and shoring up low-lying lands between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other waterways.

    Good to see some steps being taken to address this threat. Hope it's not too late.
  • Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Correctly Framing the Argument: A Deal to Fund the Pure Michigan Campaign

    One of the most tragic and potentially devastating cuts from the budget was the loss of adequate funding for a nationwide Pure Michigan campaign. Winner of numerous advertising awards, named as one of the top ten best tourism campaigns ever, credited for keeping vacationers coming to the state during this huge economic downturn, it was all kinds of stupid to slash the money that was driving success for our state's No. 2 industry - but its loss was buried under the avalanche of stories of other losses, and went practically unnoticed outside the people who are depending on it to keep their businesses alive.

    The winter ad buy is already gone thanks to the legislature's failure to act, but the House is spending this last week making up for all its sins, apparently. In the rush to put completed legislation on their yearly tally, a package of bills designed to fund Pure Michigan will move in the next few days.
    A four-bill package would capture sales tax growth on tourism-related businesses and, in the meantime, let the Michigan Economic Development Corp. issue bonds to pay for the program's $30 million annual budget.

    ...

    The proposed long-term solution is to tap part of the growth in sales tax receipts from businesses such as hotels and motels, restaurants where alcohol is served, campgrounds and RV parks and other tourist attractions. A plan to finance the campaign over the next couple of years with a $2.50 tax on auto rentals was scrapped due to the anti-tax mood in the state capital, officials said.

    The revised plan permits the development corporation to issue notes against future sales tax collections to pay for the advertising in the short term.

    "We get a $3 return for every dollar invested (it's actually $2.86 per dollar, according to a state study), so we can make a solid case to investors that this is a good investment," said Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland, a sponsor of one of the bills.

    Time is running out. This needs to be completed by January for a spring ad buy to capture the attention of people across the nation as they make plans for summer vacation. Rep. Dale Sheltrown indicates that they have a deal with the Senate. Given the outcome of past "deals" with Mike Bishop, let's hold our applause until it passes - but it's important to note how the Democrats are changing the framing of the issue.

    "Investment". By jove, I think they've finally got it. And not only did we have Scripps and Sheltrown hit the correct notes here, Pam Byrnes indicated the same with the road funding issue.

    Everyone wants the roads to be fixed. The easiest way to get the cash and secure the federal money that is just sitting there would be to boost the gas tax nine cents a gallon. That makes sense… except for that hated word: Tax. Republicans have sworn to oppose any tax, no matter how much sense it makes.

    But there may be hope. Pam Byrnes, the House transportation committee chair, has a solution. She knows her colleagues are allergic to any talk of taxes, so, she intends to “present this as an investment in economic development.” After all, she added, “we are not going to be able to attract people to our state when our roads are crumbling and our bridges are being closed down.”

    Throw in the job creation numbers related to both tourism and fixing the roads as well, and you have correctly framed the argument, and perhaps saved the state from further disaster. If not, the fault will lie with the Party of No - and everyone will know it. They are the ones who are insisting that we run this state like a "business" - and good business practices dictate that we make investments in our product.

    Nothing can make up for the Lost Year of 2009, but we can start taking steps towards repairing the damage. Congratulations Democrats, you are on your way.

    The Hoekstra Plan: Eliminate Business Taxes, Wait for Miracle to Occur

    More trickle down economics from the G-O-P. How's that working out for us so far?
    To get the state economy moving, (Hoekstra) said the Michigan Business Tax "must go. ... I'm amazed at the barriers like this we've put up against people who want to invest in Michigan." He sees business capital to invest here waiting on the sidelines or finding other places.

    If that is true, why did Michigan come in third in the nation for the most new or expanded capital projects in 2008? Must be Pete forgot to tell those business folks how horrible it is here. Looks like he needs to drop a note to the conservative Tax Foundation as well, which ranked us at 17th in the nation on the 2010 Business Tax Climate index - up from 26th in 2006. Guess those things don't matter when you are trying to perpetuate the myth that we are a high tax state, simply to wrangle more tax cuts for your rich friends. Quality of life has nothing to do with it - it always comes down to the tax fetish for the Republicans.

    As long as you ignore the realities of the Great Recession in the Fall of 2008 and how that sent us (and every state in the nation) spiraling downward, we can continue to blame taxes for all our problems! Easy enough. Just for fun though, let's take Pete up on his idea and eliminate all business taxes. Gone. How do we fund all those prisons that the GOP loves so dearly? That's where Hoekstra's plan falls right on its face - as it did for DeVos, as it does for Snyder... and Cox... and Bouchard...

    He said money from new investments would increase the Michigan tax base while lowering taxes.

    The tricky part, he admits, is creating the interim step to replace lost taxes before more money starts flowing from investment.

    "That's the challenge," he said.

    Yes, it always is. Tried and failed economic policy present quite the challenge for the Republicans, so they just continue to push falsehoods to the public, like any good carnival huckster or snake-oil salesman will do. And after your money is in their pocket, it will be the Democrats fault that you were swindled and we can't pay for the schools.

    Bush Economics 101. Let's try it again at the state level, shall we?

    Oh, and thanks to fear-mongerers like Hoekstra and the rest of the Michigan GOP crybabies, the state of Michigan just lost 3,800 jobs to Illinois. They are thrilled in Thomson. Perhaps the people in Illinois should send Hoekstra a lovely Xmas card and gift basket for all his great work on this issue; after all, they can afford it now.

    The town of Standish, not so much.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Congressman Schauer Speaks on the Credit Crisis

    How bad is the credit crisis? Pretty bad when you are a small manufacturer armed with a federal contract and you still can't get a loan. We are not talking thousands of jobs on the line at RTD Manufacturing, but this example is indicative of what is happening to smaller businesses who want to create jobs and find they can't get financing - and after awhile, those lost job numbers will really add up.
    A local manufacturer with a signed defense contract with the federal government is having difficulty obtaining financing from its bank to buy the materials necessary to do the work.

    RTD Manufacturing President Bryant Ramsey wrote in a statement that the contract is to produce a part the U.S. Army needs to keep troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    "It's a sad commentary on the credit situation here in Michigan that small businesses face challenges and delays like this in obtaining funding to buy the materials we need to manufacture our products," Ramsey wrote. "But we're ready to work."

    Congressman Schauer took it to the floor of the House last week:



    Citizens Bank received $300 million in bailout funds last year. Their response? They claim the loan has not been denied, but "delayed". While they won't speak to this specific loan, they did release this ominous statement:

    "We respect the confidentiality of the relationships we have with our clients and will not address any specifics about individual business loans," the statement said. "We review all loan requests thoroughly and take a fiscally responsible approach to lending as a TARP recipient. As hard as we work to find solutions, not all loan requests can be approved."

    If you can't get a loan when you have a federal contract, how in the world will other small manufacturers receive funding to start creating jobs? If there are restrictions that are holding Citizens back as a TARP recipient, Congress needs to address those ASAP. We don't want the banks making bad loans - but this is ridiculous.

    President Obama leans on the bankers today - we will see if anything changes. If not, job creation and recovery is going to be that much harder to sustain, not just here, but all over the country.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Weekend Update

    Jobs and Wall Street reform on your President's mind:


    Some other stuff to ponder:

  • Michigan revenues for November showed the first increase since January - another hopeful sign that we are starting to see some recovery. Gongwer via MI-Tech has the breakdown on tax collections here, the sales tax taking a healthy jump, maybe showing consumer confidence on the upswing. Caveat to that good news though: We are still below the May revenue estimating conference figures. Pray for a good December.

  • While the usual Granholm bashers are slamming the governor for restoring the $127 per pupil cut, one who never misses a chance to twist the knife opts for honesty on the subject...

    On this one she deserves the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Elsenheimer's opinion not withstanding. It's highly unlikely that her state treasurer and state budget director would be co-conspirators in cooking-up money they didn't know would be there.

    Bob Kleine and Bob Emerson were as surprised as anyone to see the windfall, but they and the governor were up front with the school community noting that come January the $127 cut may stand or it could be reduced.

    Dearborn Public Schools will hold off on teacher layoffs for now - and that is far more important than political calculations, or worrying about how this would appear to right wing editorialists who don't give a damn about anything but cheering on the destruction of the state in an attempt to return the Republicans to power. Bishop's comment? "That revenue was never going to come. She finally gave in to that." You see, for Bishop and his fans, tearing down the governor is far more important than our children. So cold. Repeat after me: "Republicans refuse to fund our schools." And don't stop saying it.

  • More Gongwer love via Dome - reports of crankiness at the Capitol make for an entertaining column. My favorite part was the thought of Cameron Brown and Michelle McManus trying to out wingnut each other over ACORN bills moving through the Senate. Just imagine if they were actually working on something important...

  • After President Obama's trip to Asia where he called for the US to increase exports to the region as a way to create and retain jobs in America, we really do need to start to address trade issues that are preventing that from happening. After Japanese automakers sold half the cars in the U.S. "Cash For Clunkers" plan, it turns out that Japan has excluded foreign automakers from their clunkers program. Few North American-built vehicles appeal to Japanese customers or meet their fuel economy rules, but that's not the point, claim the Big Three. The WH agrees.

  • And more on trade, or the lack thereof - my favorite Congresscritter Mark Schauer joined John Dingell for a resolution on the U.S./Korean Free Trade Agreement that would help open that market for US automakers. Korea imposes an 8 percent tariff on US cars, and the agreement calls for the elimination of "a number of non-tariff barriers to trade" as well. Read more from The Hill. The deal is the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA, so we better get this right the first time.

  • A bunch of green jobs news this week in Michigan. If you missed the blast over on the right, GM announced that they are investing another $336 million in the making of the Volt, retooling the Hamtramck plant right now to begin prototype production in March and regular production in November. Ford is looking for tax credits to bring their battery production to Michigan from Mexico, with the potential of creating 1,000 new jobs. And Recovery Act grants to five Michigan small manufacturers who are making the transition to renewable energy production such as solar and wind turbine parts will bring 713 jobs over the next two years. Clean tech jobs are here - with more certainly to follow. We are gonna own the battery market.

  • A sad fare-thee-well goes out to Sven Gustafson of Mlive's Michigan Job Search blog. Gustafson was one of my main sources for reporting on renewable energy developments and economic stories happening in Michigan - dude, I am going to miss you so much. And Rick Haglund, longtime automotive and business reporter, has left Booth Newspapers - but it looks like he may still blog on Mlive. Hope so.
  • Friday, December 11, 2009

    More Trickle Down Taxes: Wyoming Latest City to Ask for Public Safety Millage

    While Mike Bishop continues to prance around and brag about how he stood "firm" on taxes, local leaders across the state are struggling to find funding to provide police and firefighters to Michigan citizens - and now we can add Wyoming to the growing list of cities that will be forced to ask voters for a millage increase to avoid putting people's lives in danger.
    A 2-mill property tax increase dedicated for police and fire services may come to voters next spring as part of a budget-balancing plan that includes a transition to a public safety department.

    After debating an income tax and other fiscal options Thursday during a day-long retreat, Wyoming City Council appears poised next month to approve a five-year levy request for May's ballot.

    Wyoming is a "red" city that borders Grand Rapids, and is not one to reach for a tax increase unless it is absolutely necessary. With the loss of GM, declining property values, and the cuts to state revenue sharing, they are at the point where they have to do something to raise around $4 million dollars. And if it doesn't pass? Better find a way to hook the garden hose to the nearest fire hydrant.

    We can make it work (without the millage). The problem is you may not like the level of service you get," City Manager Curtis Holt said. The levy "is obviously money that's replacing revenue-sharing dollars that we're no longer getting" from the state.

    The tax would restore six police jobs and five firefighter posts cut through attrition in the first half of the current fiscal year, as the city begins moving toward a public safety department with cross-trained officers.

    A no-levy alternative reviewed Thursday would leave those jobs unfilled and cut five more police officers and 14 more firefighters.

    They also are looking at cutting 12 other non-safety positions, as well as the local public access television station.

    Lost jobs, the possibility of lost lives, and the burden of holding elections (and all that costs) in cities across our state next year; that is the legacy of the Bishop-Dillon budget agreement. You start to wonder what effect that will have on any kind of state-wide ballot proposal should the legislature choose to avoid a major overhaul of our revenue system next year. Instead of lawmakers stepping up to the plate, doing their job, and taking votes on revenues, the citizens will have to do it - and that has to be some kind of nightmare for local officials. You have to ask too many times, the voters will say "no" (or won't turn out at all), and the cuts will happen anyway. Now, go sell yourself to "business" as a city they should invest in. Good luck.

    Remember that the next time Mike boasts in a campaign about how "strong" he is - all he did was pass the burden down to local leaders, force them to take the tough votes, and put their jobs on the line when they have to campaign next time around. Leadership? More like cowardice. But it is kind of nice to see Republicans eat their own for a change.

    Hard to believe those city leaders will be jumping on the "Team Bishop" bandwagon anytime soon.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    $127 Per Pupil Cut Paused - For Now

    This is good news, but don't think for a second that the school funding problem is solved. From the state release:
    Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that the $127 per-pupil reduction in school aid payments to school districts is being paused. The decision is due to school districts spending less than authorized in 2009 and because of an unexpected increase in non-homestead property tax values. A formal letter from Budget Director Bob Emerson advising lawmakers of the pause in the reduction was sent to the chairs of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees today.

    School districts cut programs, saving the state $50 million in matching funds. And while the increased property revenue might be a good economic sign (edit update 6:31PM: er, no, it was because a lot of businesses changed hands), there are still miles to go before we are out of the woods.

    Granholm emphasized that while today’s announcement is likely to be welcomed by teachers, parents and students across the state, it does not affect the $165 per-pupil cut contained in the 2010 budget or the potential for a multi-million dollar shortfall in the 2011 school year.

    “The crisis of how we fund public education is real,” Granholm said. “While the hard work of school officials across the state to cut their budgets has resulted in a larger than expected carryforward from the last fiscal year, we must continue to find a way to ensure stable and adequate funding for public education next year and beyond.”

    That will be the next trick, and as it stands, our Legislature is not up to the task. Face it folks, as long as Mike Bishop runs the Senate, there will be no compromise on revenues. Case in point was their behavior yesterday, which is all too predictable by now. Seems there was a bit of a squabble about school funding on the House floor; Speaker Dillon finally stood up and called out the Senate proposal for the budget-busting monstrosity that it is (only two months late, but better than never, I guess). Bishop's reaction to the problem? Sending a nasty letter to the governor that basically said "you and the Speaker better do what I want", as the Senate Republicans still insist on playing "my way or the highway" politics on the whole thing.

    Nothing will ever get solved if all Bishop and the Republicans can say is "no". While I give the Speaker credit for finally saying something, it came way too late for this year - and we will see if he and the Democrats decide they want to stand up for the schools (and other things) next year. Parents, school officials, better get the language ready for a ballot proposal, just in case it is needed.

    This lets lawmakers off the hook for now, but the bigger battle still looms on the horizon. We will see what the January numbers bring. You may not believe this, but economic indicators in this state are showing signs of recovery. We leveled off in October, but that was after four straight months of the Comerica Michigan Economic Activity Index picking up steam, mostly due to Cash For Clunkers - but there are other areas showing signs of life as well.

    “After surging in September, auto production also declined moderately in October. However, in contrast to the declines in auto sales and production, the other components of our index continued to show broad-based strengthening in the Michigan economy. As the national recovery accelerates in the months ahead, our index likely will trend higher, signaling the emergence of a moderate recovery in Michigan in 2010.”

    If that is the case, our state revenues should reflect it, maybe save us from complete and total destruction. Keep your fingers crossed that this recovery keeps up.

    We just might survive Mike Bishop yet, and that would be a wonderful thing.

    NFL Week 14

    Pittsburgh at Cleveland
    New Orleans at Atlanta
    Green Bay at Chicago

    NY Jets at Tampa Bay
    Miami at Jacksonville
    Detroit at Baltimore

    Seattle at Houston
    Denver at Indianapolis
    Buffalo at Kansas City
    Cincinnati at Minnesota
    Carolina at New England
    Washington at Oakland
    St. Louis at Tennessee
    San Diego at Dalla
    s
    Philadelphia at NY Giants
    Arizona at San Francisco


    9-7. Blah.

    137-71 for the year.

    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    It Doesn't Take A Genius

    378372


    September 30th, 2009:

    Late Tuesday, House Speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township said his fellow Democrats who control the House will have to accept the bitter medicine of deep cuts with the hopes that the Republican-controlled Senate would muster votes for new taxes or fees to restore programs they say are critical to the state's values.

    "Where lives could be in jeopardy, where the future of the state is put in jeopardy, we will do a supplemental budget and we will identify how we pay for it," he said. "That plan is still in motion."

    Not anymore.

    State House Speaker Andy Dillon says he does not expect there will be a deal to restore funding for college scholarships, health care, or local governments, before the Legislature begins its winter break.

    But what about K-12? December 4th, 2009:

    The Redford Township Democrat said in an interview today with The Detroit News he doesn't want to wait until January or February to mitigate the $292 per pupil reductions in school aid because it would be too late for many local districts.

    "For example, Wayne-Westland is talking about closing seven buildings now," he said. "We need to find some short-term, targeted revenues for schools (this month)."

    But we're not gonna do that either. A mere five days later:

    Nevertheless, Dillon pegs the odds of restoring money for schools at less than 50-50.

    We understand that the House is up against the unmovable teabagger object in Mike Bishop. No doubt about that. The problem here is the reluctance to point that out - which makes the Democrats look like the surrender monkeys that they are. How in the world do you expect to motivate people to work for you in 2010 when it appears that there is no inclination on the part of Democrats to fight for the things that matter to people?

    Speaker Dillon, get to the blackboard and write 100 times:

    The Republicans refuse to fund our schools.
    The Republicans refuse to fund our schools.
    The Republicans refuse to fund our schools.

    And don't talk to the press again until you get it through your head. Your refusal to frame this in the correct manner is going to cost us dearly.

    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Tweety Being Tweety

    Watch Chris Matthews catch up to the rest of us already living in the 21st Century. He reveals himself to be the flaming liberal you always knew he was.

    Funniest line: "You should run for office!" says Gov. Granholm.


    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    This segment was about Obama's announcement on using TARP funds to stimulate job creation - and catch the bold at the end:

    Obama proposed new spending for highway and bridge construction, for small business tax cuts and for retrofitting millions of homes to make them more energy-efficient. He said he wanted to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance. He proposed an additional $250 apiece in stimulus spending for seniors and veterans and aid to state and local governments to discourage them from laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters.

    The cuts to teachers and public safety workers we are seeing in Michigan are happening all over the country, state budget cuts threatening to undermine a fragile recovery.

    Some private forecasters have begun to ask whether the state budget cuts and tax increases that lie ahead will stall the economy. Goldman Sachs estimated last July that the fiscal drag from state budget cuts and tax increases could reduce GDP by 0.6% to 0.7% over the coming year as states move to close their deficits. The outlook for state fiscal year 2011 is even grimmer; as noted, actions states will have to take to eliminate deficits for that year are likely to drag down GDP by more than 0.9% and could cost 900,000 jobs.

    Doesn't mean we could skip out on reforming our tax structure here in Michigan - but any short-term budget help we can get will be greatly appreciated.

    I bet Arnold is thinking the same thing as well.

    Senate Transportation Committee Votes to Raise Diesel Tax

    Yes, our state Senate. I know, I know, despite the ominous and never-ending threats that every single citizen and business in Michigan will pack up and leave, right now!, if any taxes, anywhere, for anything, are increased, the Transportation Committee has passed a bill that will raise the diesel tax so we can repair bridges.

    It's a start.
    The committee also passed a two-bill package raising the state tax on diesel fuel from 15 cents to 19 cents a gallon, which is the levy on gasoline. The Legislature has tried and failed several times in past years to approve the 4-cent increase.

    The tax revenue would go directly to bridge repairs, Gilbert said.

    He said the "auditor general's report on deteriorating bridges" prompted the vote on the diesel fuel hike.

    Thank you, Senator Gilbert. Now, about the school funding situation... and the scholarship funding situation... and the revenue sharing/public safety funding situation... seems that those areas are "deteriorating" as well, can we expect to see any action there?

    Michigan school districts are scheduled to receive reduced payments on December 21 due to budget cuts. Democrats in Lansing say lawmakers need to approve new revenue soon so a handful of schools aren't forced to close.

    Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon says the immediate future calls for quick, decisive action to avert cuts to schools that will be almost impossible to restore later.

    ...

    But Republicans in the state Senate say the Democratic plan to drain next year's reserve of federal stimulus money to help restore money cut from the School Aid Fund would be irresponsible.

    If we could just convince them that kids are just as important as bridges to our economic well-being...

    Imagine



    In memory of John. Where did 29 years go?

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    Gift Ideas for the Person Who Has Everything

    Is there someone in your life who is impossible to buy gifts for? Imagine the look on their face when you pull up in the flatbed truck with this...

    Another Nessie


    Only two days left to bid on "Nessie on the Grand", now residing in a pond at the John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids. She took 6th place in the ArtPrize competition last fall. Made of wood and polystyrene blocks, the piece will need some weatherization done if it is to survive the Michigan winter outside. And, keep in mind you will need lots of room for her - 18' tall, 100' long, and 27' wide, so be sure and measure grandma's yard before you get all crazy here and start bidding.

    Grandma not into huge art deco sculptures of water monsters? Well, now that I've got your attention, be sure and check out the...

    Buy Michigan Now Holiday Gift Guide


    ... and support our local businesses and workers this holiday season, which was really the purpose of this whole post - but it would be nice to find Nessie a home as well.

    Think it over - but don't wait too long!

    Over 8,000 Michigan Jobs Will Be Lost Due to Lack of Road Funding

    Imagine what the reaction would be if a major employer pulled out of Michigan and took over 8,000 jobs with them. The Republicans would pitch a fit, call for more tax cuts, and insist that everyone work for $1 an hour with no benefits - and you know it. But this time, we have a case were their refusal to raise revenue is going to cost us thousands of jobs and drive away "business".
    Next year, Michigan may have to walk away from $475 million in federal highway funds because it lacks $84 million for a state match.

    And the losses pile up from there.

    Projections from the Michigan Department of Transportation show the state is in danger of losing nearly $2.1 billion in federal funding through fiscal 2014 because Michigan won't be able to match all the funds it is eligible to receive.

    $84 million to receive $475 million back, reminiscent of the nearly $1 billion they threw away for Medicaid funding. This time, someone crunched the numbers on how many jobs we are talking about. Wish they would do this with the Medicaid numbers.

    The lowered investment would, in fiscal 2011 alone, lead to an estimated 47 percent drop in highway program-related jobs, from 17,070 in the current year to 8,988. The job tallies include direct jobs such as construction workers on site as well as jobs generated indirectly, such as with suppliers and service providers, Steudle said.

    “Ultimately, it's devastating,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.

    And those workers are going elsewhere, Nystrom said.

    “We talk about a brain drain in terms of other industries. There is certainly a brain drain going on in our industry as well. These are skilled employees who have a significant amount of experience they are taking to other states.”

    So, thousands of jobs lost, skilled workers and ultimately businesses leaving the state. Say, isn't that what the Republicans are always complaining about now? Aren't they using that very same rhetoric as they gear up for the campaign next year?

    Matt Marsden, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said, “We do recognize that there's issues there, that we need to deal with that, and it will be dealt with before 2011. But I'm not sure that a tax increase, across the board, is the answer.”

    Kick the can down the road. Refuse to raise funds. Use job loss and destruction of state infrastructure against Democrats. Lather, rinse, repeat, use for every occasion. See how that works?

    You will in 2010. Hope that the voters remember just who it was that always said "No!" to fixing our problems before they became nightmares.

    Sunday, December 06, 2009

    NFL Week 13

    NY Jets 19, Buffalo 13
    Philadelphia at Atlanta
    St. Louis at Chicago
    Detroit at Cincinnati

    Oakland at Pittsburgh
    Tennessee at Indianapolis
    Denver at Kansas City

    New England at Miami
    New Orleans at Washington
    Tampa Bay at Carolina
    Houston at Jacksonville
    San Diego at Cleveland
    Dallas at NY Giants
    San Francisco at Seattle

    Minnesota at Arizona
    Baltimore at Green Bay

    Got busy, forgot Thursday...

    12-4 last week, 117-59 for the year.

    11-5 this week, 128-64 for the year.

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Saturday Update

    house
    The zoo at feeding time.


    Michigan Weekend Update:

  • Speaker Dillon tells Jack Lessenberry that next year's budget deficit might be as high as $2.8B - much higher than the $1.6B that had been previously mentioned. What happens if BFF Mike Bishop continues to stomp his feet and hold his breath and say "no, no, no" to the future of our state?

    “For starters, you eliminate all aid to higher education -- all of it,“ he said. The tuition increases that would cause would cripple research, damage building programs, prevent upkeep and throw college education out of reach of hundreds of thousands.

    Even then, the savings would only close half the gap. So the lawmakers would also have to cancel all aid to community colleges and end revenue sharing. “And the budget would still not be balanced.” So you’d have to start cutting Medicaid.


    Sometimes I think the reason they didn't run around and scare the hell out of us this year is because they knew they were going to run around and scare the hell out of us next year. Dillon has a "grand bargain" to increase revenue and have the budget done by March. Has that been cleared with Bishop yet? Why do I hear hysterical laughter in the background?

  • If that is the true figure on the budget hole, then the work that Governor Granholm has been doing all over the state will get everyone prepared to plead the case for revenue to their legislators next year when these cuts come to light and they start to chicken out again. This week the Governor moved on to revenue sharing, meeting Friday with 20 West Michigan fire and police officials to hear about the depths of the cuts they have already endured. The consensus is they are all at the breaking point now, residents will be "at risk", Wyoming police chief James Carmody saying, "We can barely respond to 911 calls." That the kind of state you want to live in? "Business" won't. Think about it.

  • The Bishop-Dillon budget just keeps on trickling down, two more communities are taking matters in their own hands and considering asking voters for a millage hike to protect public safety. Kentwood, right outside of Grand Rapids, hasn't decided on a figure yet, but is shooting for a May vote after cutting 20% of its workforce in October. A teabagger interviewed admits she "doesn't know much about the budget", but figures they must be hiding something. Mayor Richard Root calls it:

    "If you've allowed your perceptions to become ideologies, and you've locked yourself into a particular position, they're probably not going to be influenced," he said. "The only proof I can offer is after they see the train wreck. I'm trying to avoid one."


    Bloomfield Township will be seeking a 1.3 mill increase to save police, fire and emergency services before it becomes a matter of "life and death". Citizens there are in favor of the increase by a 52-39 margin, and that's according to Republican pollster Mitchell Research $ Communications. Wonder if that one will show up in Mike Bishop's next campaign e-mail.

  • Kathy Barks Hoffman has a great write-up on the budget/revenue situation in Michigan, pointing out some historical facts on the drop in $$, but also reporting there is some hope with the new entrepreneurs in alternative energy and technology that are starting to grow. Some facts as a sideline to the AP report: General fund revenue has dropped from $9.79 billion in fiscal 2000 to $6.95 billion this year, a 32 percent reduction. Adjusted for inflation, revenue is down nearly 43 percent. The General Fund has dropped nearly 27 percent in the past two year alone. School aid has dropped $1 billion in the past two years, down 14% since the year 2000. And about all that wild "overspending" Republicans love to complain about? Yeah, baby, we are partyin' like it's 1969.

    General fund spending is at its lowest level since 1996 in actual dollars-and its lowest level since 1969 in inflation-adjusted dollars.


    'Nuff said. Back to the better news...

  • Gongwer/Mi-Tech News has an interview with the MEDC's Grag Main who expresses optimism that a turnaround is coming next year, citing all the work they have done in the past couple of years that will start to come to hiring fruition as companies are now set to go. And, as commerical fleet operators are moving towards hybrid/electric cars, "Michigan has really, really anchored ourselves as the place where you're going to see most of that production" for battery development. Positive article that focuses on the strides we have made - and those are always a welcome sight for sore eyes.

    Have a good Saturday!
  • Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    EPIC Poll: 75% Feel Some Tax Increases Needed to Balance Budget

    Bake Sale
    Parents hold a bake sale/protest on the steps of the Capitol Dec. 2nd


    From a Mike Bishop campaign e-mail:

    Because of your support, we were able to stand firm against any tax increases, cut the cost of government and begin the process to turn Michigan around!

    Oops.

    Michigan legislators played politics with the state’s education budget and it may come back to haunt them. That’s the finding of an exclusive WXYZ-TV, Detroit News poll.

    According to the exclusive poll 82% of the respondents agreed that politicians were more concerned about partisan politics than protecting the best educational interests of children.

    The survey of 600 people conducted by EPIC-MRA also revealed that 51% of the state electorate would be less likely next year to vote for legislators who oppose proposals to restore education funds. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

    So, you played politics, it shows, and now they don't want to vote for you. Senator Bishop?

    These measures are still not enough to satisfy the governor's need for more revenue. The democrats' efforts to undo what was won through a series of tough negotiations will only hurt Michigan and our citizens.

    Yeah. Right. 56% of Michigan citizens now say that they have felt the impact from these budget cuts - up 30% from June. And about that "need for more revenue"...

    The state budget is also changing public opinion on education funding. Ninety-two percent described the state budget as a crisis situation, and 75% said some tax increases are needed to balance the budget.

    A 49% plurality supports expanding the 6 cent sales tax to include services not currently taxed. The poll also found that a majority of 77% favors reducing tax breaks and loopholes for corporations, and a 65% majority would support a graduated income tax.

    Jobs and the economy still lead the list of issues of concern at 46%, but now education has jumped up to #2 at 19%. Keeping state taxes low? 7%.

    When you put the partisan question in relation to next year's elections...

    Some legislators were more concerned about appealing to their partisan base and winning primary election nominations in their political party than they were in doing what was right for our children. Do you agree or disagree?

    64% Strongly agree
    21% Somewhat agree
    6% Somewhat disagree
    4% Strongly disagree
    5% Undecided/ Don’t know/Refused

    Looks like the citizens are on to you all. Question now is: Will this make any difference in lawmaker behavior? Or, should we start to "Countdown to Shutdown" clock for 2010?

    Place your bets.