Thursday, December 02, 2010

One Last Chance to Save Pure Michigan

... for next year, anyway. As we have pointed out before, Senate Republicans have repeatedly obstructed all attempts to fund the popular tourism campaign over the past few years, insisting it die under the guise of "living within our means" - even though Michigan tourism supports roughly 200,000 jobs and brings in nearly $90 million in tax revenue every year. We don't even need to get into the stupidity of killing a massively popular and award-winning advertising campaign, do we? Imagine Budweiser announcing they were sending the Clydesdales off to the glue factory because they didn't want to pay for the hay anymore. That about sums up the Republican's idiocy on the issue. And everyone knows it.

Anyhoo, fast forward to the budget competed at the end of September, and the Republicans cut funding again, canceling the fall and winter campaign for this year and putting next year's summer campaign in jeopardy, ignoring the howls of the business owners who were counting on the ads to keep the tourists coming. When it was noted in mid-October that we were drawing enough revenue into the treasury to fund the campaign, Bishop said this:

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said the Senate would not be ready to make any such decisions without more information and probably not until the January Revenue Estimating Conference.

The very next day or so, House Republicans came up with the grand plan of gutting the 21st Century Jobs Fund - a start-up fund for new businesses that actually, you know, create jobs, the fund the Senate Republicans also wanted to slash along with Pure Michigan this year, but that idea didn't seem to go anywhere. Another month goes by, the pressure builds some more as tourism officials and other Republican legislators start to turn up the heat, and we get this:

But Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said the Senate would not act on a permanent funding source for Pure Michigan. He said Governor Jennifer Granholm could use surplus funding to pay for a short-term winter tourism campaign.

What surplus funding? And saying that "she could do it" is a flat-out lie, because the Governor cannot appropriate money on her own. It was the Senate Republicans themselves who screamed about "the Constitution" and made all sorts of threats and such when she tried to find money for the Promise Scholarship last year. Remember that? Yeah. But then again, consistency isn't Bishop's strong point, as you will see next.

Here comes the new sheriff. He wants Pure Michigan funded right NOW, he doesn't care how it happens or who gets credit.

“I think I’ve been very vocal about saying I support ‘Pure Michigan’ and I encourage that to be done without waiting for me to take office. That’s not a question of who takes credit for it; it’s the right thing to do,” Snyder told a Capitol press conference.

“To the extent it doesn’t get done, I would view that as one of the high priorities of our new administration come Jan. 1.,” he said.

Annnnnnd we come to today, right down to the wire again. Suddenly, Bishop decides that maybe this should get done after all, and drags out the House Republican plan as bait. Or maybe even the Governor herself offered it up, who knows. Whatever happened, his previous obstruction is melting away.

Liz Boyd, spokesperson for Granholm, said using some of the job funds $75 million for the popular tourism campaign faces legal hurdles, but the administration is reviewing ways to overcome them.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has said he'd approve using the 21st Jobs Fund for the tourism campaign, which will cease plans for a winter tourism campaign in surrounding states without additional money. The Legislature appropriated only $5.4 million for Pure Michigan for the new fiscal year.

So Bishop is willing to kill jobs and get his desired cut to the 21st Century Fund so he can save face. Fine. Chances are, this program will be destroyed in light of next year's budget deficit anyway, so might as well save the ad campaign and those tourism jobs and dollars now.

Soooo glad when these guys are gone. The next batch might even be worse, but at this point, would we know the difference?

UPDATE: The Senate approved another $10 million for the campaign tonight bringing it to $15 million for the year - half of the $30 million needed to run the full campaign:

In one of their last acts of the lame duck legislative session, lawmakers Thursday approved another $10 million in last-minute cash for the ads after Gov. Jennifer Granholm agreed to Republican suggestions to take the money from the $75 million, 2011 economic development budget. The Senate approved the measure 34-2. The House was expected approve it later in the evening.

Cassis was one of the "no" votes, not sure at this writing who the other was.

Take what we can get and go. Good to see that we will have national ads next year!