Michigan must have a show of unity from its legislators

January 26, 2009
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The announcement last week from five nonprofit business organizations was unprecedented, and so, too, was the necessity of such unity as Michigan struggles to balance even the current fiscal year budget. Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Renaissance and the Center for Michigan provided wide-ranging budget reform suggestions, based on expertise and several years of nonpartisan fact gathering and analysis.

No freshman legislator has such expertise, nor the “big picture” understanding the five groups provide. The unity of east and west Michigan business groups, along with the Michigan Chamber and the think tank in Ann Arbor is unprecedented, and should encourage legislators from both sides and both peninsulas of the state to see Michigan as united. It is a model of behavior that must be replicated in both legislative houses.

The Business Journal is not heartened by the fact that the same bad actors — Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and House Majority Leader Andy Dillon — created the impasse that threatens further destruction of the fragile foundation upon which Michigan finds itself in this unprecedented time.

The freshmen legislators may have decided to act upon a call to public service for varied personal reasons, but those must be set aside to negotiate the long-range plan for Michigan’s survival. A “plan.” The word is emphasized because decisions are made more easily when a plan exists.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Michigan issued more than one white paper based on three years of town meetings with Michigan residents, and conferences have included university presidents, the leaders of Michigan businesses, former legislators, city officials and nonprofit leaders. Last year those town meetings often provided opportunity for residents to express their frustration of the partisan politics that continue to bleed this state. And they voiced it loud and clear at the polls in November.

Center for Michigan President Phil Power commented last week, “It’s going to take a lot of courage on the part of our elected officials but reforms are necessary for a strong economic base and a strategic  public sector in Michigan.”

The Business Journal adds that the real courage has been demonstrated by businesses in this state, still suffering from a prolonged recession — and the monster Michigan Business Tax. As few as four weeks ago, the legislative session ended by Granholm, Bishop and Dillon did nothing to address the catastrophic consequences of the most complicated piece of tax legislation in the country: the MBT.

The four chambers and economic development groups listed more than $1.3 billion in possible reform choices and more than $300 million in potential savings from those reforms, including corrections department reforms, Medicaid, schools, local government, shared services and consolidations. The entire list is published at www.thecenterformichigan.net

The Michigan budget situation, left to atrophy by political games, is now so grave as to be a critical condition that further threatens to erode what is left of Michigan’s economic base.

Michigan needs the power of unity to survive this extraordinary time. It is imperative to this state.

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