Michigan State of the State Naysayers

I missed the first part of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s speech the other night on WKAR. The part I did watch I liked. I thought she was positive about what Michigan has accomplished and what it will accomplish, but not boosterish. She was serious.

Afterwards, I heard the first naysayers begin their babbling…I tried to watch Tim Skubik’s roundtable discussion about the speech when I had to turn it off. Not one of the old white guy panelists (Bill Ballenger, Ron Dzwonkowski from the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News blogger George Bulland, and Jack Spencer from MIRS, including Skubik himself) thought there was anything substantive in Granholm’s speech. They granted that she admitted Michigan was in a tough spot, but that she remained absolutely positive about what she will do for Michigan. (It was as if they wanted her to be more negative and include more doom and gloom. Whatever. As if people in Michigan don’t see it everyday with yet another announcement of a factory closing or the operating loses of one of the Big Three.) They complained there were no details about how to fix the fiscal mess we find ourselves in. They didn’t like that they would have to wait two days before they would see the actual budget. They thought it wasn’t even a state of the state address. They likened it to a campaign speech.

As annoyed as I was by the five, I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are, afterall, professionals. And I am a newbie to the state of Michigan.

Then yesterday I read the speech for myself.

How wrong those five guys are.

(You can view the speech and the grumpy old men here. Before the speech starts, Tim Skubik sets his dubious tone by saying 53% of women approve of the job Granholm is doing and 44% of men don’t. Actually, Tim, that’s incorrect. 44% of men approve and 50% don’t. See the poll here. )

Granholm touted all of the programs that are currently in place that are working (like the 21st Century jobs program that is a big success). Those are the basis for the new programs she’s proposing, like the expanded job-retraining program for laid-off workers. It also fits with her theme of not cutting, but expanding education to the people of this state, arguing that a highly educated workforce is what will attract new businesses and create new jobs. She offered a mix of tax cuts and tax hikes.

Yet, the five old white guys were ambivalent at best about the speech and her remedies for what ails this state.

I haven’t even gotten yet to the Republicans. They are in a class of Naysayership unto themselves. Let’s start with this from the South Bend Tribune:

“You’re trying to fix a problem by increasing government spending by $1 billion,” Jelinek said. “I don’t think that’ll fly very high” in the GOP-controlled Senate.

On the House side, state Reps. Neal Nitz, R-Baroda, and Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers, both took shots at Granholm’s tax hike proposals.

“Taxing our way out of the current budget crisis is not a permanent fix. We need to focus on reforming government bureaucracy to create a smaller, more efficient government,” Shaffer said.

Hasn’t reforming the bureaucracy been going on the last four years? Also, if you’re in the hole for over $800 million, wouldn’t gaining around $1 billion cover that shortfall?

Then today we find out some of the details about the mix of tax cuts and hikes, including a 2% sales tax on services. But again, the Republicans are not impressed:

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said in a news release that the governor was working in the wrong order.

“Before we consider the governor’s proposed new taxes, there must be a serious focus on restructuring government to find revenue savings,” he said.

“We must determine what government services are essential for the safety and well-being of Michigan citizens. Then we determine the revenue necessary for those services.”

After a few years in the House, you’d think by now that Sen. Bishop, the Tax Cut Advocate, would have a few inessential services at the tip of his tongue to rattle off. You would be wrong. Just echoes of the Anti-Tax Hike dogma of his Republican comrades.

And then there’s this from the Detroit News: “Granholm’s $1.5B tax hike will suck life out of Michigan”

And at a time when businesses are under economic siege, the governor wants to create a new business tax system that would encourage companies with branches here to move their operations out of Michigan, and those considering locating here to choose another state.

That doesn’t seem like a smart plan to revive the economy.

Granholm is calling her tax hikes an “investment” in Michigan. But they would be more aptly described as another nail in the state’s coffin.

I like how the tax hike is now a half a billion more. Next to this opinion piece, is a picture of Granholm with her hand up with the caption “Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to raise taxes to help balance the state’s budget.” Nice way to bring the point home. Other than screeching about a tax hike, this befuddled rant offers nothing on what the increased revenue would fund. Is the Detroit News against education for Michigan citizens?

BTW, if passed, this would be Granholm’s first tax hike. Engler raised taxes more than a few times. Not to mention that more jobs were lost under Engler’s watch than Granholm’s.

As far as creating a hostile business climate, I don’t buy any of what the Naysayers are telling people. Having recently moved here from California, I can tell you there are many more places to do business that are a lot less expensive than California. But yet, Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and Southern California manage to create lots of jobs through new and expanding businesses. Why? A big reason is the readily-available educated labor pool that’s there (helped by a number of universities like Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, to name a few). Judging by the logic of Jelinek, Bishop, the Detroit News, and the rest of the Naysayers, California (as crazy as it can be sometimes) should be losing vast numbers of businesses and jobs. It’s not. Businesses go where the talent is. Google set up an outpost in Ann Arbor for good reason.

Unless these Naysayers have specific ideas about how to increase funding for education and where the State Government needs to be “restructured” (code word for cut, meaning laying-off workers), they have no credibility when it comes to solving the very serious problems the state of Michigan faces.

I’m with Governor Granholm on this one. Not with the Naysayers.


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