Preserving progress unlikely in current state climate

February 8, 2009
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Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave her State of the State speech last week and provides her budget this week. In this time she has paved a campaign trail for Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr. on the premise of forming a commission to ignore the studies brought by economic and academic analysts to create smaller government (not to mention the book she declares she embraces, “The Price of Government”). She suggests elimination of 10 state departments and a 10 percent reduction in state wages … in a few years. She promises — and Michigan is prepared for — budget cuts. The governor said late last week those cuts would affect all areas of the state budget, including revenue sharing for cities. Her cuts in education funding are accompanied by some insistence that colleges and universities freeze tuition while the ax falls, even as budgets and contracts are being established. She challenged Michigan’s insurance industry suggesting that rates be frozen even while the state applies additional regulations that already have increased rates for residents.

She continues to pick the business categories to “encourage,” including alternative energy and life sciences, even while they have existed in this region for almost 20 and 10 years, respectively, without much state “encouragement.” She asked the legislature to hire thousands of unemployed citizens by creating a Michigan Energy Corps to weatherize homes and schools, though one wonders how long businesses that already do so will compete with the state.

The most onerous business blockade remains the Michigan Business Tax, but the governor made no mention of reducing the burden especially shouldered by small businesses weathering not only a Michigan recession but a national recession.

While the governor touts goals to reduce Michigan’s imported energy and reliance on fossil fuels by 45 percent by 2020, the city of Grand Rapids and other area governments have set and exceeded conservation goals established more than five years ago.

The Right Place Inc. last week released a 24-page document noting the Grand Rapids MSA rankings in multiple categories: No. 13 in the World Knowledge Competitive Index; No. 1 in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings; Site Selection magazine’s No. 8 ranking for business building projects; No. 19 of 120 areas for the percentage of population age 19 or under; No. 32 of 120 areas for number of households age 35-44; the region ranks No. 9 in the nation for biopharmaceuticals; the No. 1 ranking by Entrepreneur magazine and the National Policy Research Council for entrepreneurship; and No. 19 for teleworking according to Intel and Sperling’s BestPlaces. Home ownership in this region is the highest for any combined statistical area, at 77.8 percent.

So what small part of Michigan was the governor addressing last week? Against a backdrop of state leadership that appears schizophrenic and mired in the battles of yesterday, there is nothing left for this metro area to do save secede from Michigan to preserve its progress.

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