Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Birthday Mighty Mac!

Fifty years ago, on November 1, 1957 the Mackinac Bridge opened for business. Connecting our peninsulas, the Mighty Mac is five miles long, with a suspension bridge spanning 8,614 feet. The Mighty Mac is the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

If you can't get there to celebrate, check out these websites for a vicarious thrill.

Mackinac Bridge Authority
Straights of Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge -- loaded with pictures, including some from celebrations this summer.
Mackinac Bridge Cam
Mackinac Bridge Museum

Monday, October 29, 2007

GM in China -- cozy commitment in communist country

People's Republic of China embraces Michigan's number one son, GM.

GM has announced it will set up a $250 million alternative-fuel research center in Shanghai to produce commercially viable alternatives to gasoline engines. According to the AP, GM also will contribute $5 million to create an automotive energy research center in Beijing with elite Tsinghua University and Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp., one of GM's local partners.

Could this work have been done in Michigan? Aren't we into developing public/private partnerships? Don't we have the academic, research and development infrastructure to handle such a project? Hasn't the state made alternative energy and advanced automotive manufacturing top economic development priorities? Isn't state government dumping millions and millions of dollars into these priorities? What the heck is going on in the Tri-tech Corridor?

The AP reports that "The new research center will work on alternative fuels, alternative propulsion systems such as fuel cells and technology to improve energy efficiency, Wagoner said. He said it will focus on the booming Chinese market but its technology also will exported to other markets."

"Wagoner said GM picked China for the research center because of its fast-growing vehicle market, large pool of talented researchers and the communist government's push to develop alternative energy sources."

There you have it. We are not competing with Mississippi; we are competing with China. And they won the deal. Wagoner was wooed by favorable business conditions created by the communist leadership in China. (So was Walmart.) Governor Granholm and our state legislature just can't keep up with Ju Jintao and his Party. China has made alternative energy a national priority. While our state economy may be the size of Sweden's, we simply cannot compete with the one-party People's Republic of China, 1,321,851,888 comrades strong. We are only 10 million and we hardly share a unity of purpose.

What else does China have that we don't? An ascendant middle class with lots of disposable income. Even if only 20 percent of the Chinese population are middle class, that is 264,370,377 people, nearly the population of the United States.

In spite of questionable labor practices, China has scads of consumers with wads of cash.

Wagoner's first reason for picking China? Its fast growing vehicle market. This move is about selling cars, not cleaning up the planet. Doing research to create cleaner fuels in China is a means to an end -- selling more cars.

It's about selling lots of cars in a very populous country and staying globally profitable.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

October Consumer Confidence -- lower than expected

The Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment fell further than expected in October, as the persistent housing decline slammed expectations for the economy.

The index fell to 80.9 in October from a reading of 83.4 in September.

Trouble in the housing market is seeping into other sectors as consumers become more guarded with their resources.

Promises, promises -- UAW falls in love again

Promises made the UAW contract with GM a reality. GM promised to build specific vehicles in the future including the Volt in Hamtramck in 2010. GM's promises gave Chrysler workers pause as they considered their own contract, which did not contain any such promises. Chrysler would not, and further claimed it could not, make those sorts of promises. To do so would have been irresponsible, irrational and unrealistic. In the end, the UAW did accept the Chrysler contract.

The International Herald Tribune reminds us that the Volt "is a concept car that cannot be built until the technology is available, and one that the company has not even officially announced it will build."

The piece quotes Professor Walter McManus, an auto industry economist at the University of Michigan:

"The problem," he added, "is the battery technology is still not ready. I would say, when they break ground on a plant to make batteries, two years later the Volt will come out."

For the car to be built starting in 2010, he added, "a factory has to be built soon, and it doesn't look like the batteries are that near production."

Those promises to build the Volt, while well-intentioned and seductive, are premature.

Less than three weeks after ratifying the GM contract, nearly 2000 Michigan workers were laid off -- 767 of them in Hamtramck. Lay offs are a rational response to market conditions. You shouldn't build cars you can't sell. GM is in the business of building and selling cars, not guaranteeing employment. So how could they make promises about future production? After the recent lay offs, those promises seem suspect. How can GM assure future employment or promise to build something it cannot build?

Although the Chrysler agreement made no predictions beyond its four-year term, it may end up a fairer, honest commitment to workers.

Now, on to negotiations have resumed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Homeland Security and Michigan's New Economy

Press about the 21st Century Jobs Fund tends to focus on biotech, alternative energy and advanced manufacturing, but homeland security and defense is an equally favored and well-funded industry priority of the fund.

While Michigan struggles to make her way to a "new economy," public money, a limited natural resource, is being spooned to companies devoted to homeland security and defense. At the same time, our schools, children, the sick and the aged are getting short shrift. It's a perennial conflict of priorities, prophetic in implication.

What matters now is that Michigan citizens take notice. In Northern Michigan, a company named Sovereign Deed is proposing privatizing civil defense and the disaster relief functions normally handled by FEMA. While you might agree that FEMA has done poorly in the last seven years, that has been the result of the agency being gutted of non-partisan, career professionals. In a sense, we face a contrived and man-made crisis in crisis response and disaster management. Katrina showed us that.

So, as you read about Sovereign Deed setting up shop up North, where you like to spend time away at the cottage, ask yourself: do we really want homeland security contractors to become our growth industry? The spookiest thing about this is that of all the 21st Century Jobs Fund priorities, homeland security and defense is probably the most likely to create immediate commercialization and jobs and profit. Win-win for the lucky communities that get picked by these contractors.

You might argue, "but if we don't seize this amazing commercial opportunity, who will?" Every other state in the country where workers are freaking out over outsourcing of well-paying jobs. Homeland security, like the defense industry, will become essential to the economic viability of every state. In an environment of perpetual, unresolved, diffuse threat, this is inevitable. But we needn't rush into it.

Do you really want Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox to make way for soldiers of fortune and Hummers?

Let's give higher education a chance. And while we're at it, not forsake the most vulnerable among us. Please.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Finding the upbeat in Michigan

A recent anonymous reader asked, "Why are you so bitter?"

I don't feel bitter, mostly just concerned about our state's future and economy and people. Perhaps it is time to remember some good things about Michigan.

Autumn color, vast fresh-water lakes, the U.P., Cornish pasties, Detroit Institute of Arts, fudge, golf, coney dogs, lumber jacks, Tony the Tiger, the Mighty Mac, Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Madonna, the Soo Locks, the Real McCoy, bow hunting, Big Boy, blue berries, moose, cars, Governor Milliken, Sleeping Bear Dunes, mastodons, Lake Michigan cabernet sauvignon, Pinconning Cheese, Interlochen Arts Camp, the Tigers, the Dirtbombs, University of Michigan, the Lions, Vernors, the UAW, Michigan State University, the State Fair, tulips, motown, whitefish, Rosie the Riveter, Sojourner Truth, cherries, Sweetest Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Gerber baby food, raw milk, wolverines, Dance for Mother Earth Annual Pow Wow, community supported agriculture, fly fishing, snow, lake freighters, light houses, the Red Arrow Highway, Jiffy Mix, iron, copper, lumber, corn, the Whiting!

Ah, that's better.

Now, don't forget these things -- continuation budget, partisan gridlock, recall campaign, below national average college completion rate, 40% higher incarceration rate than neighbor states, term limits, structural deficit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

GM is number 1? Not by .14 percent

Sports fans, don't be fooled. GM is not your favorite sports team. Resist the urge to identify with this global corporation's "success."

The Free Press reports:
"'We’ve been No. 1 for 76 years. We like being No. 1, and we’re going to stay focused on our long term goals,' said GM spokesman John McDonald."

This renewed No. 1 status amounts to 10,000 more vehicles than Toyota sold globally over the first nine months of the year. GM's total, 7.06 million.

Not to rain on your parade, GM, but that's .14 (point one four) percent more vehicles sold globally -- a statistically insignificant amount.

There's no trophy for selling a statistically insignificant greater number of significantly less profitable vehicles globally. According to the Free Press,"Last year, Toyota clearly beat GM on the profitability point. Toyota reported a profit of $14 billion, while GM reported $2-billion loss."

More troubling is the impact of lack of profitability on workers. The ink is barely dry on the recent agreement between GM and the UAW. Workers were pleased to sign the agreement with promises of future production of certain vehicles. GM proudly and strategically announced production of the Chevy Volt in Hamtramck in 2010 just before laying off 767 workers in Hamtramck last Tuesday. More Hamtramck layoffs are planned for the fall.

GM announced yesterday that 1,000 workers would be laid off by year's end at the Lansing cross over plant.

GM is only profitable in its oversees operations. There will be more pruning in North America for the foreseeable future. Workers would be well advised to consider immediate and profound retooling of their skill sets.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Recall efforts in context

Are recalls genuine grassroots activity among voters to express dissatisfaction with elected officials? Or are they a political strategy to distract, confuse and complicate the political landscape as the 2008 presidential primary draws near? Or could they be a blend of both?

Michigan Taxpayers Alliance threatened to initiate recalls against any legislator voting to increase taxes as part of the state's budget resolution. Immediately upon completion of the continuation budget process, the group named Democrats and Republicans whom they would target for recall. MTA has been consistent in its threat, but not consistent in its follow-through.

A relatively new website, targets Republicans and Democrats who supported the revenue portion of September's budget agreement. But the website doesn't threaten recall of all who voted in favor of the revenues. If these really were principled efforts, wouldn't they target all who voted to increase taxes? Doesn't their "no compromise" position on taxes require consistency in applying their sole criterion for recalling elected officials? In fact, they can only proceed in districts where voters can be persuaded to participate in this destructive activity.

The movement to recall legislators, while thoroughly distracting, doesn't represent the actual sentiment of a majority of Michigan citizens. In fact, numerous Republicans and Democrats have gone on record criticizing the effort as destructive to the well-being of our state now and in the future.

Here is a sampling of the conversation against recall efforts:
Phil Power wrote:

"Recalls result in loss of local control to fringe groups supported by lots of out-of-state money. Why is it that Leon Drolet, a former state representative from Macomb County, should have the power to pick legislators from all over the state?

Do voters in Warren (Steve Bieda), or Redford Township (Andy Dillon), or Northville (Marc Corriveau), or the Grosse Pointes (Ed Gaffney), or Muskegon (Mary Valentine), Norton Shores (Gerald Van Woerkom), or Brighton (Chris Ward), or Howell (Valde Garcia) or Holland (Wayne Kuipers) want to sign their rights over to Drolet?

All these folks picked their own representatives last November, and I see no reason why the choices of the Leon Drolets of the world should be more important than theirs were last November."

A Detroit Free Press Editorial from October 7:

"So recalls can have an impact. But first, they ought to have a legitimate basis.

Casting an unpopular, but fundamentally necessary and correct vote, is not. Letting recall backers set the tone for Michigan politics in the still-critical weeks ahead will be counterproductive and just plain wrong."

A Grand Haven Tribune Editorial from October 16:

"With the need to get the state in financial order, recall elections are the last thing this state needs.

Lawmakers shouldn't be punished for being willing to make courageous decisions.

In fact, the 10 legislators who are being targeted should be applauded for their willingness to support decisions that they feel will serve in the state's best interest.

We only hope that our governor and the rest of the Legislature show some courage in getting Michigan back on track."

What is behind the efforts to recall legislators? Divide and conquer. Grover Norquist, who lends his name to the MTA board, managed to make his way to the GOP Mackinac leadership weekend in September to urge our state GOP to re-brand as an anti-tax party. Apparently, they really didn't need much encouragement to move that direction, seeing as how the votes around revenues were cast nearly exclusively down party lines. And this isn't really very creative as political strategy. It is, however, time-tested and consultant approved. And in the absence of a really strong, vibrant state Democratic party, it might have legs.

Make no mistake, Michigan's misfortune and internal conflict are seen as opportunity by those who would further divide us for political gain. The recall effort is not fundamentally homegrown, grassroots activism. True, there are some participants who have been fighting taxes in Michigan for decades. But their passion is being cynically tapped by outsiders with other political objectives.

We who actually live and work and seek our happiness in Michigan need to take responsibility for our future and resist forces that would seek further to divide our house at the moment we most need to come together.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

UAW resistance grows to Chrysler contract offer

UAW local opposition to the proposed Chrysler contract continues to grow. Detroit Axel; St. Louis North; Twinsburg, Ohio; St. Louis South Assembly; Newark, Delaware and Fenton, Missouri have all voted against the agreement.

The contract needs majority approval of all members voting to be ratified.

At issue, a lack of commitment to build future products and a two-tier wage system. Experts expect opposition to gain momentum as more locals decline the offer. Chrysler has some room to stand its ground. Reuters reported Wednesday that Chrysler will be eliminating some products in the near term. Fourth quarter auto sales are expected to continue to lag. So, the company is anticipating lower production demands.

According to the Detroit News, ratification votes will include:
Local City Vote Date
75 Milwaukee Today
76 Fremont, Calif. Today
212 Detroit (Conner) Today
412 Auburn Hills Today
868 Conyers, Ga. Today
889 Warren (Clerical) Today
1649 Orlando, Fla. Today
7 Detroit (Jefferson North) Sunday
509 Pico Rivera, Calif. Sunday
624 Syracuse, NY (New Process Gear) Sunday
2149 Syracuse, NY (Engineering) Monday
685 Kokomo (Transmission) Tuesday
1166 Kokomo (Casting) Tuesday
140 Warren (Warren Truck, Sterling Emission) Wednesday
869 Warren (Stamping) Wednesday
1264 Sterling Heights (Stamping) Wednesday
1700 Sterling Heights (Assembly) Wednesday

New voting requirement stirs controversy

cross-posted at Michigan Messenger

Michigan's January 15 presidential primary will be the first time since 1992 that Michigan voters will have to indicate a party preference in order to receive a ballot and vote. Experts differ in how they expect this to affect voter behavior. Some advocates think it is simply a bad idea.

Voter advocates are concerned about privacy issues and inhibiting voter participation. They also criticize using public monies for political purposes, such as collecting lists of voters' presumed party preferences. But in the context of elections, gathering such information is standard procedure.

"The Republicans are going to make out very well in this presidential primary because they will have succeeded in getting the state of Michigan to pay for their ability to collect the names of their people," says Jan BenDor, statewide coordinator for non-profit, non-partisan Michigan Election Reform Alliance. "They will finally have a perfect mailing list of who the Republicans are. The state of Michigan will spend $10 million for them to do that. They have wanted this for years."

The Democratic Party will also receive a list - voters who requested a Democratic ballot. But given the incomplete field of candidates on the ballot and the possibility of cross-over voting, the Democratic list is likely to be smaller and less informative.

University of Michigan political science professor, Michael Traugott, who specializes in campaigns and elections, agrees that one purpose of the primary is to gather names of citizens and their likely voting preference. Speaking about the motivations of political parties, Traugott says,"A lot of what they do in the caucuses and primaries with these party ballots is check on the accuracy of their lists." He says that consultants and strategists collect information from local election officials to supplement and refine existing voter lists.

"What they really want are names and addresses." He says that information collected in primary elections is cross referenced and statistically analyzed to arrive at what are believed to be authoritative, up-to-date address lists of likely voters for each party.

According to Tom Frazier, legislative liaison with the Michigan Township Association, the Secretary of State's Bureau of Elections will be creating a form for all clerks to use on election day with a box to check whether a voter wants a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot.

"They aren't declaring what their party preference is, only declaring they want to vote in the Republican primary or the Democratic primary," says Frazier. "This is different than the last time this came about, which was the presidential election in 1992, where people did have to formally declare their party preference before being given a ballot."

The League of Women Voters of Michigan is squarely opposed to "any procedures that require voters to name a party in order to cast a vote," says Jessica Reiser, president of the group. The League contends that such procedures at the time of voting inhibit voter participation.

Traugott concurs, but thinks the actual number of voters turned off by such a procedure will be small and that privacy issues don't really apply. "Registration and voting records have always been public. But in these special circumstances they can record which ballot you requested and that would become part of the record," he says. "It is an act of freewill and they don't know who you voted for. Some small proportion of voters won't come to the polls because of it."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where's my budget!? (Trick or Treat?)

The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan is headed for Ground Hog Day on Halloween. It's deja vu all over again. Another tie score in our extra budget inning of October. That's right -- partisan wrangling continues and threatens another government shutdown.

It really isn't too early to say that. It may even be better for our collective mental health to accept that possibility today, rather than on Halloween. What a cosmic joke that would be -- trick or treat at the state house. Trick -- sorry no budget agreement, you get a shutdown instead. Treat -- we managed to work together for the first time in nine months.

Considering human nature and what we have endured this year, which is more likely?

According to the Free Press, areas of conflict include: medicaid, the Department of Human Services, foster care, and DNR license fees.

If this ongoing inability to compromise surprises you, you may be the eternal optimist, young at heart and willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If you find it boring, disappointing and lacking drama, you are probably middle-aged.

Regardless your age and world view, as one of Michigan's ten million citizens, you will be affected by what happens in Lansing on Halloween.

If we are very, very lucky on October 31st, we might only have to worry about having enough candy by the front door.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pfizer posts 77% earnings decline

If you live in Ann Arbor, you might be tempted to engage in hearty Schadenfreude at the news of tough times for Pfizer.

The company reports a 77 percent decline in third quarter earnings.

Pfizer has ditched development of Exubera, an inhaled insulin product that had promised to be big. Rational exuberance has yielded to rational cutting of losses.

Pfizer reportedly does not have enough drugs in development to offset losses from generic competition. The company has recently lost exclusivity with Zithromax, Zoloft and Norvasc.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Voter ID law confusing, critics say

Michigan's voter ID law has been touted as inhibiting voter fraud, but critics contend it is confusing, impractical and likely to inhibit voter participation.

Voters lacking photo identification can vote simply by signing an affidavit saying that they lack identification at the time of voting. Their ballot will be counted with all other ballots and their right to vote cannot be challenged. The November 6 election will be the first test of the newly allowed procedure. The ID requirement went into effect after a Michigan Supreme Court decision this summer held Michigan's 1996 voter ID law to be constitutional.

"The legislative intent behind the voter ID law was to substantiate identity and curtail fraud," says Kelly Chesney, spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. "If individuals without ID sign an affidavit falsely, they are subject to fines and penalties. It is considered perjury and is punishable by a fine up to $1000 or imprisonment. So there is a deterrent to individuals committing fraud."

Since lacking the ID at time of voting does not prevent voting, the direct practical impact of the law is unclear. "We are not aware of any voter fraud causing a need for a voter ID requirement," says Jessica Reiser, president of the non-partisan Michigan League of Women Voters.

According to the Secretary of State, if a voter lacks the proper identification, signing an affidavit to that effect allows them to vote. The local election clerks must keep the signed forms on record for two years -- the same retention schedule for all other election materials. Election challengers cannot challenge voters because they lack photo ID.

Although the November 6, 2007 election is actually the first election where this will be enforced, not all municipalities will have an election that day. For many voters, Michigan's January 15 primary will be the first time they must comply with Michigan's photo identification requirement in order to cast their vote.

The League of Women Voters has consistently criticized voter ID laws as inhibiting voter participation. "The League of Women Voters opposes any procedure requiring identification to vote. We feel this is intimidating and will keep people from coming to the polls," says Reiser.

"There is a population that will not understand the affidavit requirement. This misunderstanding could inhibit voter turn out," says Reiser. She says people will assume that the photo ID law prevents voting without a proper ID in hand. Although this is not the case, the League expects such confusion to keep certain voters away from the polls.

Chesney says that local election officials are working very hard to train front line poll workers to properly assist voters. Still, some local clerks expect the new photo ID requirement will complicate voting. "I'm sure a lot of people will not have the required ID,"says Dorothy Dunville, Acme Township Clerk. "The required affidavit paperwork will definitely slow down the voting process."

There are no exceptions to the photo identification procedure. Even if the voter is well known to the election inspector the ID procedure must be followed. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a voter ID case from Indiana - the Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita - which could challenge Michigan's voter ID law. The Court has not yet scheduled the case.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lou Glazer of Michigan Future, Inc. on education and prosperity

Lou Glazer cares about Michigan’s economic future. The president of Michigan Future, Inc., he has spent more than a year presenting New Agenda for a New Michigan to more than one hundred organizations across the state. This week we talked about economic development, investing in talent, and how Michigan can successfully transition from the old manufacturing economy to the nascent knowledge economy.

“Nothing correlates higher than educational attainment with prosperity and high incomes," says Glazer. Yet, Michigan faces a cultural shift of historic proportion to seize that advantage. And current public policy priorities favor funding development of specific industry sectors over investment in higher education.

“For the last three quarters of the last century we had the broadest middle class in the country. And that was wonderful. That happened because 100 years ago we were the equivalent of Silicon Valley; we were inventing what was next,” says Glazer about Michigan’s manufacturing economy. “I believe that economy as a source of mass middle class jobs is over.”

That economy shaped attitudes about the necessity of higher education. As long as heavy manufacturing – the auto industry, in particular – thrived, a high school education could lead to a middle class income. An unfortunate legacy of that blue-collar middle-class culture is a college completion rate that still lags behind the national average.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004, 24.6 percent of Michigan residents 25 and older have at least a four year college degree. That is below the national rate of 27 percent and below many other states including: Minnesota at 29.7 percent, New York at 30.5 percent and Illinois at 29.1 percent. Governor Granholm has set a goal of doubling the state’s college graduation rate in ten years. Doubling our rate would put Michigan ahead of the District of Columbia (47.7 percent).

Over the last decade, Michigan’s public investment in higher education has eroded. “The most disturbing thing about Michigan public policy over this decade – during Engler and Granholm administrations – is that the state spent a century building up one of the best higher education systems in the world and at the point it matters most, we start dis-investing in it,” says Glazer. “Every one else is investing in their higher education systems and we’re walking away from ours.”

“Preparing, attracting and retaining talent matters most,” says Glazer. He contends that vibrant urban central neighborhoods attract that talent. “When you see the places doing well – Seattle, Boston, New York , Chicago – they are places people want to live. Talent is increasingly moving to central cities.”

According to a 2006 survey of recent college graduates by CEOs for Cities, two thirds of college graduates decide where to live first and then look for work. “Place really matters to this generation. And a big part of Michigan’s problem is that we don’t have a place that is aligned with where young talent wants to live,” says Glazer. He does concede that Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Kalamazoo are making efforts to increase livability of central neighborhoods.

While he advocates public investment in talent, he is skeptical about the economic development approach taken by the 21st Century Jobs Fund. He says that picking the right set of industries and then enterprises within those industries is an inefficient way to foster development. “Every state has a life sciences initiative. Our position is that it’s like fool’s gold. Everybody has the sense that there are riches at the end of the rainbow. The odds that it is going to be your state are low. You have to be really lucky for it to happen in your community,” he says. In addition, those enterprises do not create vast numbers of jobs, certainly not numbers that will offset losses in manufacturing.

So what ought Michigan do? “The pattern we see around the country is that where central cities and higher education are a priority of business leaders they become public policy priorities,” he says. “In Michigan that is missing. The state Chamber of Commerce has basically adopted the Mackinac Center agenda, which is that all public investments are bad and low taxes are the answer.”

Glazer and Michigan Future, Inc. will continue to present their Agenda for the state hoping that the power of their ideas can move leaders to action. As for the general prognosis going forward, using the language of grief, Glazer says, “My sense is we’re somewhere between denial and acceptance.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

Michigan's primary question

Things are not what they seem. After last week's snub by Democratic presidential candidates, the GOP appears to care more about Michigan than the Dems. They don't even have to, really. It is enough to appear as though they do at this point. Success is 80 percent showing up.

Elections are like dodge ball, a team sport where choosing sides determines outcomes. The Dems didn't even pick Michigan -- last. It isn't that they think we are feeble at dodge ball. They just want to enforce party rules. That's fair, but unfortunate for Dems in Michigan, who now face a public relations, administrative, and electoral nightmare.

According to Bill Nowling, spokesperson for the Michigan GOP, a party cannot unilaterally withdraw from the January primary. So, unless the GOP and the Dems agree to cancel, the show will go on. With a gutted ballot, there isn't much incentive for Dems to vote. What's the point? You can't vote for Edwards, Obama, Richardson or Biden. You can vote for the others, but the Democratic National Committee will not seat the delegates at the nominating convention.

There is some talk of having separate caucuses for Democrats in early February. This would be acceptable to the Democratic National Committee. But there is confusion as to whether the party can do a primary and caucuses. There may well be other issues on the ballot in January, like an income tax measure. So, you'd be compelled to vote even if you didn't care to choose a presidential candidate.

Additional caucuses would mean Democratic sympathizers would have to show up twice. Some voters experience caucuses as closed events. This makes the GOP primary appear to support transparency in electoral procedures. But things are not what they seem.

It is common wisdom among GOP elders that low voter turnout favors their party. Over the last two presidential elections, interesting strategies were employed to reach that end. The 2000 election had Florida. The 2004 election had Ohio. Will Michigan be the Ohio of 2008?

In order to win, you just have to get a little more than the other candidate. Just a little. A little here, a little there.

Michigan Election Reform Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan group working to assure fair, honest elections in Michigan. What? You assumed everything was fine?

This group contends that there are efforts afoot to purge voters in Michigan just before the November presidential election. It is complicated and brilliant. They claim the initiative originates at the Secretary of State's Office. It involves post cards mailed to every voter in Michigan setting in motion a process of gathering undeliverables...the stuff of caging. But it isn't really caging since every voter received the card. The original mailing was sent in July 2006, and if voters whose postcard was undeliverable do not vote by the August 2008 election, they will be purged just in time for November of 2008 -- show time -- and they will not know it until they arrive to vote. The voters most likely to be affected are those who only vote in presidential elections. You know, the bulk of the popular vote.

Remember, Michigan is completely and totally in play for 2008. We have 17 electors up for grabs. At this moment, the GOP ground game and PR strategy appear superior. The Dems appear in disarray. For the sake of the spectators seeking an interesting contest, let's hope the Dems can get their game on before Halloween.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What color is your Michigan?

Blue? Home of progressive, socially liberal, Democrats, who believe in caring for society's most vulnerable and sustaining infrastructure even if it costs citizens more taxes. A state where diversity strengthens communities and all are welcomed.

Red? Haven for low-tax, socially conservative, Christian patriots identifying as Republican. A state where you can come and do business as you please free from excessive government intervention, but inhospitable to gays and other marginal groups.

Green? Center for alternative energy development, public transit, sustainable development, strong locally unique economies and innovative biotechnology involving stem cell research.

Purple? A little blue and a little red mixed together -- a socially liberal place where taxes are low and what happens in the bedroom is private.

Right now, Michigan is a kaleidescope of shifting and changing colors. And what you see will depend on whom you ask.

The key point is that it is not fixed, which means for the 2008 election -- Michigan is up for grabs.

Michigan is fully in play in 2008.

Ponder that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Consumer Confidence -- Preliminary October Figure

The University of Michigan and Reuters reported their consumer sentiment index fell to a reading of 82.0 in October, down from 83.4 in September.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Michigan primary will go on as planned, say party officials

cross-posted at Michigan Messenger

Officials of the Michigan Republican Party and the Michigan Democratic Party say the January 15 primary will proceed as planned, even though several Democratic candidates have removed their names from the ballot. The renegade date leaves each party vulnerable to sanctions for breaking national party rules.

"Our guys are all on the ballot, they're staying on the ballot and we're having a primary on the 15th," said Bill Nowling, Michigan GOP spokesperson.

According to Washington Post coverage from October 9, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said that "the state still will hold its joint Democratic-Republican presidential primary on Jan. 15 because it's state law." There is still the possibility that Democrats will also hold a separate presidential caucus on Feb. 9 to officially pick a nominee from the complete list of candidates. Mr. Brewer could not be reached for further comment.

"The important point here is that we allow citizens to participate in the democratic process and that means voting. The bill was a great thing to do. Why would we want to have closed door politics? This was in my mind the best and most efficient thing to do for all the citizens of the state," said Senator Michelle McManus (R-35th), lead sponsor of the bill that moved Michigan's presidential primary to January 15.

The January 15 primary breaks Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee rules and some have speculated about changing it. However, McManus says the date cannot be changed without further legislation. Allowing for another scenario, Nowling says that "the way the law is written both parties have to say that they're not going to participate in the primary for there not to be one. That was put in so one party couldn't stick it to the other at the last minute."

"Internally the Republican Party passed a rule saying that if the Democrats don't want to participate, we're not going to either," McManus said. "But I don't think that's going to happen," she added.

There is more at play, though, than giving citizens a chance to participate in an early, influential primary, instead of a caucus. Nowling, sees an advantage for the GOP resulting from the Democrats' withdrawal from the primary. "We're not going to interrupt our opponents while they're busy shooting themselves in the foot," he said.

"I have a hard time understanding this, given how important Michigan is to Democratic electoral maps," said Nowling. He says that he hasn't seen a Democratic presidential electoral scenario where a Democrat wins without Michigan. "Thumbing your nose at the state early on looks counter intuitive to me," he added.

At the same time, RNC sanctions could result in the Michigan GOP losing up to half its delegates to the nominating convention.

At the local level, some Democrats are frustrated. In Kalamazoo, Democratic 6th District Chair, Alan Harbaugh said, "I am disappointed in the candidates that pulled out of the primary. While I'm sure they didn't mean it as a personal attack upon the voters of Michigan, I think all the voters - Democrat, Republican and Independent - probably took it that way."

Harbaugh suggests changing Iowa's and New Hampshire's lock on opening the presidential primary season and is critical of DNC chair, Howard Dean. "I'm not real please with how Dean has handled this situation. New Hampshire and Iowa should be told this isn't the way it's going to be anymore and that every state in the country is important and we're going to rotate this thing."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Democrats to Michigan -- buzz off

Tuesday afternoon, as Republican presidential candidates readied for
debate in Dearborn, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates
withdrew from Michigan's renegade early primary. Edwards, Biden,
Obama, Richardson, Kucinich and Clinton believe in playing by the rules.

Although their interpretations differ slightly in this instance. The
first five will not participate in the primary; Clinton will keep her
name on the ballot. None of them will campaign in the state.

"Americans who play by the rules and work hard deserve health care, a
livable retirement and help sending their children to college." You
bet we do. Dems love to court us with this message. Beware though,
this moralistic "play by the rules" meme has a shadow side – negation
by the party powerful when you break the rules, which are not
negotiable in the realm of primary election procedure. Michigan,
give back the carrot and have a whack from the stick.

On September 4, Governor Granholm, a Democrat, signed Public Act 52
moving Michigan's primary to January 15. Citizens across Michigan's
political spectrum found a shred of hope that their beloved state
might end its free fall toward political, economic and cultural
irrelevance. In the midst of partisan budget gridlock, this was the
among the only bipartisan legislation in months. The bill gave
Legislators and voters a long overdue catharsis. Both parties
celebrated the new date expecting national examination of Michigan's
issues – our issues are America's issues, they said. They were only
half right.

Michigan's issues are America's issues: globalization's savaging of
American workers, soaring foreclosure rates, peak oil, global climate
change, CAFE standards, and a health care crisis to name a few. But
elections are about winning, not issues. Changing the primary date
breaks GOP and DNC rules. Parading through Michigan, the GOP seems
more comfortable functioning in an ethical gray area than Democrats
do. When it comes to elections, the GOP is a lean, mean, win-at-all-
costs machine. Spending time in Michigan, they're being pragmatic.

For now, Michigan citizens – not privy to back room party politics,
primary election procedure arcana, or the raw might of national party
leadership – will see one thing: the GOP showed up and the Dems did not.

Michigan's issues are the nation's issues. Count among them a
thoroughly broken electoral process.

Gov. Milliken -- still my favorite Republican

Please read his commentary in the Free Press about Michigan's budget situation.

Give proper credit to state budget fixers

Monday, October 8, 2007

State of Michigan to the Democrats -- Where are You?

Posted at Off the Bus, a project at the Huffington Post.

Tomorrow's GOP presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan will mark the second time in a month that GOP presidential candidates will have blessed Michigan with their presence. Democrats, where are you? Don't you want to run out in front of our "globalization hurts American workers with off-shoring" narrative and make a case for import tariffs or maybe a national, single-payer health plan? Perhaps you'd like to visit Detroit, which has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country and speak to the nightmarish financialization of our lives - connecting predatory lending, subprime loans, hedgefunds, lax mortgage and securities regulation and the global credit scandal?

Three weeks ago, the state GOP hosted Republican presidential candidates up at Mackinac Island, the traditional site for political parties to play capture the flag in Michigan. Mackinac is a quaint nod to some mythical, golden age, with a Grand Hotel and horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, fresh-water fish dinners and gooey, warm taffy. In the state wedded to the auto industry, for better and worse, power politics happen on an island where cars are prohibited.

Grover Norquist showed up and brought Kool-Aid to the GOP Mackinac barbeque - urging the state party to re-brand itself an anti-tax party. As political strategy in an economically limping state, this is not rocket science. Financially stressed people working two jobs to get by hate taxes. Wealthy people tired of supporting laggards hate taxes. Middle-income people struggling to save for college and retirement hate taxes. And people angry at a state government in disarray, especially hate taxes.

Michigan is a mess - politically, economically, culturally - which makes it a golden opportunity for the GOP or the Dems. Last week, the legislature and governor narrowly averted a partial government shutdown and junk bond status on Wall Street. The legislature had nearly eight months to create a balanced budget for 2008. In those months, the state GOP simply entrenched around "no new taxes." The Dems had no counter move and the process stalled. In the eleventh hour, exhausted adversaries hatched a half measure, which pleases no one and fails to resolve a fundamental fiscal flaw - a structural deficit that will persist for the foreseeable future, according to research by the non-partisan, non-profit Citizens Research Council. In fact, the state could face shutdown again at the end of October, if legislators fail to eliminate $440 million from the 2008 budget.

Which brings it back to the GOP. In the context of Michigan's chaos and despair, the GOP can show up and sympathize. That's about all it will take. Especially since the Democratic presidential candidates are absent from this tableau. Tomorrow night in Dearborn, at an event sponsored by the Detroit three and the Wall Street Journal, the GOP presidential hopefuls only need say the sweet things Michiganians want to hear. Tell us that you grieve the catastrophic loss of American heavy manufacturing. Tell us globalization hurts American workers. Tell us more people should have access to quality, affordable health care. Tell us predatory lending is despicable. When you couch those sweet nothings in talk of competitiveness and lower taxes, desperate Michiganians will positively melt.

Democrats, where are you?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It ain't over...Michigan's fiscal future

Non-partisan experts, the Governor, and legislators willing to be honest all agree that Monday's budget deal does not fix our state's structural deficit. Did anyone think a last minute deal hammered out by sleep-deprived, adversarial, policy newbies would eliminate a problem as vast as this structural deficit?

In order to be willing to make the necessary changes, a legislator would have to fully understand a range of factors changing our economy -- an aging population, a shrinking workforce, rising health care costs, an over-sized corrections system. But fundamentally you'd have to comprehend how the deficit relates to the seismic shift in Michigan's economy away from heavy manufacturing.

Still disproportionately dependent on a "resizing" auto industry, our tax structure has not changed to reflect the auto industry's shrinkage. Heavy manufacturing used to be our bread and butter, but not any more. A growing portion of Michigan's economic activity consists of services. You may not believe it and you may not like it, but that's how it is. To ignore that fact imperils Michigan's future.

So, when Gov. Granholm asked for a 2 percent across the board service tax earlier this year, it was actually a sound public policy idea. And it was based on non-partisan research and bi-partisan recommendations from veterans of government, who wanted nothing more than to help our state survive.

But if you were a legislator new to the process of governing, and you won your election by casting yourself as "anti-tax," you simply had to oppose this idea. In fact, if you hadn't done your homework to understand the wisdom of the idea, you might have even perceived it as a "Democrat" idea -- a hair-brained, tax and spend, liberal Democrat idea. Then you had no choice, but to oppose it.

In fact, you did have a choice -- to do your homework.

A week ago, an incomplete, inferior budget "compromise" was reached by exhausted legislators ready to scream "uncle."

Granholm continues to graciously thank legislators for working together, but she is being too generous. They didn't work together in a constructive way. They managed to cobble together a half measure and leave more tough questions for the rest of the month -- and -- for the months to come.

Citizens along the entire political spectrum -- from progressives to the Michigan Chamber -- are calling for changes to Michigan's term limit law. It "institutionalizes inexperience" says the Chamber. Watching the legislature for the last eight months, you could easily concur, even if you are a liberal.

Although Republicans postured and functioned as obstructionist, you could argue that was a basic play, like running the ball up the middle. It seemed effective and at the heart of the dysfunction, but Democrats lacked a sufficient counter move. And moderates in neither party were able to come together to talk sense to more extreme members of each party to move them to the center, where things actually happen.

Bill Rustem summed it up by saying lots of legislators were unwilling to move out of their comfort zone. True. That would have taken work and been uncomfortable.

Tom Clay said party leaders were having to "herd cats." Almost true, but with term limits it was more a matter of herding kittens. Even harder.

Can the legislature now do what they were unable to do over the last eight months? For the sake of Michigan, one surely hopes they can.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Truth and consequences

"Michigan is a high tax state. Any new tax is bad and scares away business. We need to make cuts and reforms to move Michigan ahead," say some.

"Michigan has an average tax burden. New taxes are required to maintain essential services because the economy has changed. The decline of the auto industry requires a reconfiguring of our tax policy and structures. What seem like new taxes are not additional taxes. They are making up the loss that resulted from our changing economy," say others.

The two positions are not equally valid. One takes into account the real changes to our economy, the other does not. One is ideological, the other rational.

No one likes new taxes. But the agreement reached in the eleventh hour on Monday has flaws, in particular the service tax on consulting. Consulting has become a large part of our economy and is knowledge-based. The auto companies rely heavily on consultants in Michigan as a part of outsourcing. The new tax builds in a competitive disadvantage for companies serving this need, according to non-partisan analysis of the Citizens Research Council.

"Michigan faces many challenges. Michigan needs good news. Michigan needs a sense of self and hope and possibility," say all.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tax increase aftermath -- recall threats loom

Democrats and Republicans voted to increase the Michigan income tax and create a service tax component to the sales tax. There isn't a tax in the world that everyone likes. The services to be taxed are presumably non-essential activities, but somehow, greens fees didn't make the list -- a shameless nod to the clout of class in the legislature.

Anti-tax activists in Michigan are freshly emboldened -- they finally have something concrete to protest. And they are threatening recall actions against DINOs and RINOs and even Governor Granholm. But what they are really threatening is to punish legislators who had the guts to break ranks. The Republicans are getting ready to eat their own. Being a proud card-carrying member of the GOP means never breaking ranks, never choosing to acknowledge that still small voice within (unless it's coming from an ear piece at a press conference or during a debate).

The new taxes are not perfect and reasonable small business persons have concerns about administering and collecting the new monies. They also question why some services, but not other obvious choices must bear the new burden. These are legitimate questions that citizens and legislators need to discuss.

But this isn't the debate we're hearing from those hoping to make hay at the moment. Instead of constructive criticism or dialog, opponents offer shrill, combative, politicized rhetoric -- the fuel of negative campaigning.

Here are some articles to check out on the current situation:
Protax votes may carry a high cost Detroit News
Group may fight new state tax on services Crain's
Lawmaker's benefits, pay still could become issue MLive

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Jimmy the Greenspan -- update on odds of recession

Globe-trotting, book promoting Greenspan has spoken, again, on the odds of recession:

LISBON — The odds of a recession in the United States are between one-third and one-half due to the credit crisis sparked by problems in the U.S. subprime mortgage sector, former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan said on Wednesday. (source)

Mr. Greenspan pitches his book

Maybe that should have been "Mr. Greenspan makes book?"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Michigan wine -- local focus sustains industry

(cross-posted at Michigan Messenger)
The world is awash in wine, but that's not hurting Michigan's wineries.

Focusing on local identity, marketing, and agritourism, Michigan’s wine industry continues to grow during the current global wine glut. The Michigan Department of Agriculture recently reported that wine grape acreage in Michigan increased 12 percent from 2003 to 2006.

The majority of Michigan-made wine is sold in winery tasting rooms and by local retailers. Michigan wine makers see plenty of growing room in the Michigan market due to increased consumer sophistication and the movement to support local agriculture.

“Michigan wineries are not marketing on a global basis and that’s a good thing, because there is a global oversupply of wine,” said Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Michigan's more than 50 commercial wineries produce about 375,000 cases of wine annually. Though a small drop of U.S. domestic production – which in 2006 topped 209.4 million cases – it is a profitable and growing bucketful for Michigan wineries.

Jones says that Michigan consumers are learning about wine and consequently purchasing more local wines, even to the extent that producers cannot keep up with demand for specific wines. “There is tremendous demand for Lake Michigan shore cabernet sauvignon; we cannot produce enough of it to satisfy the needs of our Michigan industry.”

St. Julian Winery, Michigan’s oldest and largest winery, has five tasting rooms that account for about half their business. St. Julian is expanding its tourism market with a new tasting room across from Cabela’s, an outdoor outfitter in Dundee, which claims to be Michigan’s top tourist destination based on number of visitors.

Paw Paw based St. Julian distributes in 14 states, but David Miller, vice president of wine production,also appreciates the strength and influence of the buy local movement. He says that in addition to unique character and taste, local products are better for the environment.“We have a very small carbon impact when you look at the amount of energy it takes to get wine from here to Grand Rapids or Detroit, compared to a California wine or Australian wine or South African wine.” He added, “It’s good for us. It’s good for the local economy and it’s good for the planet. What more could you ask for?”

Even Walmart in Kalamazoo is tapping into the buy local buzz with a set of billboards featuring local producers, including St. Julian Winery. Located on route 131, the sign reads “Buy Local, Live Well” with a picture of Miller and a plug for St. Julian “grown in Paw Paw” and available at “your local Walmart.”

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, more than 800,000 tourists visited Michigan’s 50 wineries in 2005 for a direct economic effect of $8.6 million. The Old Mission Penninsula is home to Chateau Chantal, a winery/chateau founded in 1993, that combines wine production and destination tourism. “Grapes tend to like some of the same pieces of land that people like: high ground with nice views. Overlooking the water is even better. Grapes like that,” said Jim Krupka, president and CEO of Chateau Chantal.

Krupka stresses the relationship of his business to sustaining agricultural land use in northern Michigan. “By growing our business, we are finding ways to make more and more farms economically viable.”

Krupka and Miller expect industry growth to continue apace. Krupka’s winery is growing 10 percent year to year. Since 1997, St. Julian’s production has grown from 45,000 cases annually to 120,000 cases. Jones says that Michigan wines account for only 5% of the wine consumed in Michigan.

“We are at a tipping point of sorts. The quality of our wines continues to improve and we are seeing increased sales, more foot traffic and more pull through the retailers,” said Miller. His company will continue pursuing retail sales throughout Michigan and other states.

“There is passion for Michigan in what we are doing -- passion for land preservation, for the industry and for our products,” said Krupka.

Jones stresses that wine production is a complex business with high start-up costs ($15,000 per acre to put land in production), a maze of state and federal regulations, and a development period of about ten years before products are stable and reliable. She says in spite of those hurdles, new growers enter the business every year. “The people that got into the business in the 1980s are now reinvesting in more land under development. Their success is signaling to other new comers to enter the business. There’s plenty of demand.”

Not a time to celebrate, unless you're at the MGM Grand re-opening party

The day after Republicans and Democrats in Lansing reached a temporary solution to Michigan's budget crisis, the MGM Grand hotel/casino re-opened in Detroit.

It is the best of times and the worst of times in Michigan. It's obscene and perennial: court the uber wealthy in full view of the destitute. Say it will help.

According to conventional wisdom (or the wishful thinking of Michiganians desperate for good economic news) the facility will jump start Detroit as a travel destination. John Conyers says we're competing with Las Vegas and that now we have something Chicago lacks. The press is following suit, fawning with terms like "Detroit's palace of dreams." The local papers managed to quote enthusiastic visitors comparing the place to the best Vegas offers -- beautiful, wonderful.

Chicago is not trying to compete with Las Vegas; it doesn't have to. It already has a vibrant economy, education sector and arts and entertainment culture. And its real estate market is not tanking.

Yesterday, George Boyer, MGM Grand Detroit's president and chief operating officer must have repeated several hundred times that the facility took "the chic of Manhattan and combined it with the sizzle of Las Vegas and brought it to Detroit."

Yes, and dropped it down blocks from blighted neighborhoods filled with people in need of economic assistance, better education, health care, protection from predatory lending and a giant infusion of hope.

The Free Press reports:

With three permanent casinos -- plus one in neighboring Windsor -- the metro Detroit area can claim Midwest gambling dominance, much as Las Vegas owns the west and Atlantic City has the east.

Well, that should take the sting out of massive losses of high paying manufacturing jobs. More low paying service jobs (about 1000) in a facility catering to the wealthy from elsewhere -- and the suburbs. Take that, Detroit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Not a time for celebration, says Gov. Granholm

cross-posted yesterday at Michigan Messenger

This afternoon a subdued Governor Granholm held a press conference on today's budget agreement.

Looking exhausted and speaking soberly, Granholm called the compromise a comprehensive plan to prevent massive cuts to education, public safety and health care. She thanked the legislators who reached agreement on a package of cuts, reforms and revenues.

Granholm called it a historic agreement for Michigan that will "set the state on solid fiscal footing and allow us to move forward and invest and build the next Michigan." She expressed confidence that "this fiscal plan will allow us to do the things that we know are important to rebuilding a state that has been so challenged by the global shift in manufacturing jobs and policies that got us here in the first place."

She said this was not a time for celebration. There are massive cuts -- about $440 million -- that will be made in the next 30 days. "These are going to be tough. And we know whenever somebody is cut, they don't like it. These cuts will be difficult, but they must be done," she said.

She said the combination of cuts, reforms and revenues will be difficult, but that it is a balanced approach to resolving the structural deficit in the long term.

She stressed that the increase to the income tax is temporary and "will start to roll back in 2011." She said her preference would have been for economic indicators rather than a date to trigger future reconsideration of the income tax. The tax returns Michigan's income tax rate to its 1999 level.

The new income tax rate will make Michigan's rate the fourth lowest in the country.

"The combination of the income tax and service tax means about $1 per person per week," she said.

The new revenues, she said, will make it possible to maintain current funding levels for education, public safety, Medicaid, health care, which was a major goal of the budget negotiation.

She was not specific about the nature of the reforms or cuts, except that they will affect corrections and bring public employee benefit plans in line with private sector norms.

"The solution we crafted enables us to put the state on stable, solid financial footing once and for all. We are not going to solve this budget deficit with one-time fixes," she assured her audience.

Speaking about economic development she said, "I am not going to assess blame. I want to move forward in a bipartisan way with my partners in the legislature. But really with citizens and the businesses of Michigan to create a vibrant economy and take advantage of our natural niches." Among those she included "the area of alternative and renewable energy."

Acknowledging the difficulty of the votes that brought forth the compromise, she chided "extremists" taking up recall actions against legislators who voted their conscience. "I am very angry at those on the fringes who would attack legislators who voted their conscience to put Michigan on solid footing." She urged citizens to refuse to sign recall petitions.

Defending legislators who voted for the comprehensive changes she said, "These legislators came to Lansing to fix problems and many of them last night cast what would be the toughest votes in their lives." She said the purpose of the votes was to prevent massive cuts to education, public safety and health care.

"People need to pat them on the back and say 'thank you' for moving us forward."

She also attributed to term limits complications in the negotiation process.

Monday, October 1, 2007

AP reports Michigan averts shutdown

"Gov. Jennifer Granholm called off a partial shutdown of Michigan's state government early Monday after lawmakers reached a budget deal aimed at plugging a $1.75 billion deficit.

Senate approval of a measure to expand the state's sales tax to services was the final obstacle to ending the shutdown, which lasted a little more than four hours.

Granholm was expected to sign a 30-day extension of Michigan's budget, which expired at midnight. The continuation budget will keep government running.

"This budget agreement is the right solution for Michigan," Granholm said in a statement. "We prevented massive cuts to public education, health care and public safety while also making extensive government reforms and passing new revenue. With the state back on solid financial footing, we can turn our focus to the critical task of jump-starting our economy and creating new jobs."

The Legislature also agreed to raise Michigan's income tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. Structural changes to state government — including the management of teacher and other public employee benefits — also are part of the deal."


It's not as fun as a snow day.

A poignant fun fact from the Detroit News:
A shutdown will cease horse manure clean up on Mackinac Island. I thought that started last weekend.

Impact of Shutdown -- questions and answers from

Frequently Asked Questions for External Parties (to the state) (like "will we get paid?")

Frequently Asked Questions for State Employees

Michigan shuts down government (New York Times)