No party on a sinking ship; bickering will drown us all

February 2, 2009
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On the eve of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s State of the State address the Business Journal renews its plea for a non-partisan plan to pull this state from the bottom of a national recession. At last week’s end the State Senate had passed to the House Michigan Business Tax reform eliminating the toxic surcharge. That is but one place to begin.

The bill, shepherded by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township, would cut the surcharge by half, to 11 percent in 2009, and eliminate it by 2010. Jansen noted that when the surcharge was created in October 2007 Michigan’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, which has steadily climbed to 10.6 percent now, a full 47 percent above the national average of 7.2 percent. House Majority Leader Andy Dillon must show similar leadership among his peers.

The MBT is but one of several urgent issues to which legislators must devote themselves on the eve of a federal stimulus package offering at most short-term padding for the economic hard landing toward Michigan is fast tumbling.

The Business Journal is not alone in demanding the courage of legislators to provide a long-term approach to the budget issues that will continue to haunt Michigan. There is no salvation in a federal bailout. Such is akin to believing General Motors will survive bankruptcy with what little is proffered in a federal bailout. Political party affiliation does not change the circumstance. State leaders must avail themselves of the thoughtful, non-partisan recommendations from coalitions that have banded together in this unprecedented time, and create a similar coalition for action.

The “philosophy” of one political party or another really matters little in this time. Without compromise for the best of both, we will all surely drown … or leave the state. What matters most here is Michigan’s survival and that is only guaranteed by survival of its citizens and the businesses employing them. Government must play a significant and sensible role in wisely protecting these vital interests.

For example, leaders of major Michigan business, higher education, nonprofit, and local government organizations renewed their call last week for sweeping and comprehensive reform to the costly Michigan prison system and corrections policies. In their second signed plea in the past two months, the allied groups urged legislators to work in bipartisan fashion with the governor to pass major corrections system reforms.

Those involved in the initiative join others who remain concerned that “without reform (the Corrections budget) will continue to grow at a pace that crowds out strategic priorities for the state’s future.” Those are pretty clear marching orders and should be pursued rigorously by those directly controlling the purse strings.

Even as the present confronts us — a circumstance created largely by the unwillingness of legislators to work together — there are promising developments that deserve the long-term thinking of state leaders, lest they, too, be lost. There have been gains in the state’s life sciences industries and new gains are already in evidence for renewable energies and agribusiness as this state has never before seen.

The Focus section this week reporting on college and work training programs underscores the need to focus on education in Michigan. The talent of so many college students identified in the programs at Calvin, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University and Ferris and reported this week is ours to lose.

As Gov. Granholm’s annual speech concludes on Tuesday legislators and constituents will be best served by the comment of compromise rather than the usual political blasting that obviously has served no one in this state.

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