Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Governor Impatient

If the governor had another name it would surely be Gov. Impatient.
By her own admission she concedes that she wants everything done yesterday and if not before. So imagine the shock to her system as she again finds herself embedded in another budget mess with no end in sight.
"It's ridiculous," she blurted out the other day, "that we're now at the end of August and we're not there yet" on a budget agreement. Is your head nodding in agreement as you read that?
Asked why it is taking so long, she opined that no one expected to make all these "incredibility painful" decisions about cutting deep into state services and at one point she caught herself as she was about to say something negative about her "partners" in the budget process. She quickly swallowed those words and stayed on a positive note.
She even rebuffed an opportunity to take a shot at her GOP Senate nemesis Mike Bishop. The Oakland County lawmaker and the governor are not the best of buds.
Bishop recently accused her of "orchestrating" a state government shutdown to force lawmakers to boost taxes.
"I'm not going to take the bait," she demurred but in a flash of passion she suggested it was "Utterly preposterous" that she wanted to close state government.
Even though nobody asked her, you can tell she is running out of patience with these guys and vice versa. But she has no choice. She can't make a deal by herself and she's not ready to call anybody out for messing this up.
"Ever yone is bargaining in good faith," she reassured an unconvinced capitol press corps, which has chronicled this gang that can't shoot straight for too many years.
Capitol observers know that if everyone wanted the budget done, it would get done sooner than later, but not with this bunch.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Gambling Coming

Michigan lottery devotees, heads-up. There could be a new game in your future if the horse racing industry and others have their way.
Called Lucky Tab II, players would pull a piece of paper out of the glitzy Las Vegas-type machine and if the numbers on the tab match those on the machine, you're a winner.
And state coffers would be too if the backers are right. With a budget deficit looming, added lottery profits of between $500 million and perhaps a billion smackers over three years would help a lot.
For the first time the governor publicly checked in on this although her office has been aware of it for over two years. She says it would be a "very wise move" for budget writers to explore t his option and others including slot machines at race tracks. The gov wants to link the profits=0 Ato funding the Michigan Promise for college students and maybe displaced employees in the No Worker Left Behind program. Voters in 2004 rejected Racinos however.
Rep. Mike Simpson is carrying the water for the industry and lobbyists on Lucky Tab II. While it would be tough to get this through the legislation with stiff opposition from Detroit and Indian casinos, there's a chance they can stick language in a budget bill ordering the lottery czar to just do it. But their first option is for the governor to just order her lottery guy to do it. Her lawyers are telling her don't do it.
But whatever happens, if Lucky Tab II comes to life, it will likely head for the courts first where the lawyers will have at it, before you have a chance to become rich.

Just Lock the Doors

      It was only a matter of time before somebody suggested it and sure enough a former financial emergency manager has talked about appointing a financial czar to do what the governor and legislative leaders so far have been unable to do, i.e. solve the budget crisis.
     Louis Schimmel who saved the city of Hamtramck years ago was all over NewsRadio 950 the other day putting the czar thing on the table and even hinting that bankruptcy might be another option.
     With all due respect to Mr. Schimmel…it ain't gonna happen.
      It is true that a benevolent dictator/financial manager could resolve the budget mess in a matter of hours by unilaterally doing whatever needs to be done.
      But the last time anyone checked, this was a representative democracy where all the voices get to be heard, and yes, sometimes the voices go on and on and nothing gets done, but no one ever said the democracy had to be neat, prompt and without in-fighting.  In fact you could make the argument that a protracted debate on how to fill in a $1.8 billion dollar budget hole is healthy as all sides get to talk.
    However, there is a time to end the talk and do something and with just over a month to go before a shutdown deadline, many in this town believe that time to act was yesterday.
    The governor and four legislative leaders have been meeting, some progress has been made but still no solution and still no around-the-clock negotiations as far as we can tell.
    Instead of chatting about frivolous bankruptcy and/or money czar options, perhaps Mr. Schimmel should embrace something more realistic:  Put all the players in a room with no windows, no air conditioning, no water and food and lock the door.
    That would be one sure fire way to make the representative democracy work and infuse some badly needed urgency into the budget crisis.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paul Scott Who?

To be blunt, most normal folks haven't given a second thought to who might replace Terri Lynn Land for Secretary of State, but there are lots of abnormal folks in this town who have. In other words, the hunt for a replacement is full speed ahead.
In fact on the GOP side, there are four contenders in the race already, none of whom you've heard of. Want proof?
Cameron Brown, Ann Norlander, Joanne Emmons and Michele McManus are running. See, unless you're a relative, they are complete unknowns.
Now comes a possible fifth contender from Flint: Paul Scott.
Paul who?
C2 He's a freshman GOP lawmaker who is a quick study, has a strong image on the tube and some higher ups in the state party are urging him to get in.
=C 2 Scott would be the only minority in the field if he did, but he's not there yet.
He's thinking about it and has to be convinced that he has the "passion" to run statewide for the first time.
Scott admits he knows nothing about convention politics which is where the nominee will be hand picked by the GOP delegates a year from this month. The others are cultivating the grass roots but it's not too late to get in for Scott.
"I'm flattered by it," he smiles.
Secretly democrats in Genesee County would love to have him run statewide because they'd have a better chance of winning the normally democratic seat.
Scott says he will run for his old house seat first, but now this flirtation with another office so early in his infant political career may hand the democrats an issue to exploit.
The D's could say Scott is using hi s house seat as a stepping-stone to higher office, which sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who sent him to Lansing to be their representative.
Could democrats do that?
Yep which is part of the reason Scott is weighting very carefully this possible Secretary of State bid.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mr. Insider Surfaces

You'd be amazed at the number of players behind the scenes that help shape events in Lansing but they rarely get their names in print. While the politicians crave the bright glare of the media lights, often times these backroom folks can only do what they do because they remain out of view.
However ever once in awhile they surface which is what happened to Richard McLellan the other day. Desperate for a guest for the Off the Record broadcast, the call went out. McLellan joyfully agreed to show up.
McLellan has a forty-year history in this town dating back to the Milliken years. McLellan was kicking around the headquarters of the Michigan GOP steadfastly not making a name for himself when one day walking down the street he bumped into Don Gordon.
=0 A
Gordon was working for then governor Bill Milliken.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Gordon inquired of the young man he knew was working for the GOP.
McLellan was between engagements but before the day was done, he was the driver for the governor and from then on, as they say, the rest is history.
Along the way he became a close confident of Gov. John Engler even heading his transition team for the first Engler term.
Now comes the next pack of would be GOP governors and McLellan is getting a look-see at them as they pay homage to the semi retired Lansing attorney/insider.
Here is his take on the five.
Mike Cox: =2 0Hard worker, can raise20the dough, but can he forge a good working relationship with the legislature? "He has a ways to go," McLellan observes.
Pete Hoekstra: Can he raise the money? He would be one of he "strongest" candidates for the job.
Mike Bouchard: "Might be the best governor. Whether he runs a good campaign and raises the money" are two unanswered questions.
Rick Snyder: "I don't take him seriously." He "insulted" the business community when he said he would not take political action committee contributions.
Tom George: "Good guy" but "don't see him being serious candidate."
Now back to obscurity for Mr. M.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Governor Hardball. Maybe.

     No one can deny that the current governor is probably one of the best modern day governor's at capturing an audience's attention.  Even after six years, those who are left from the original team still call her a rock star.
    However when it comes to working a legislative deal or using the power of her office to advance her agenda in a divided legislature, she is no Madonna.
    However, magically, seven years into the mission, she demonstrated a nifty move the other day that was almost John Engler-ish in craftiness.
    Maybe it was an accident, but regardless, the other day she blurted out that she had, almost on the hook, a buyer for the abandoned Ford Wixom Plant in Oakland County.  The beast has sat there for the past two years. 
    But there was one hitch.  She needed the legislature to cough up some extra tax credits to close the deal and as fate would have it, and here was the genius in letting the cat out of the bag, the Wixom plant is in the district of Sen. Nancy Cassis. She's been on a crusade to hold up more tax credits until there is more proof that the money is working to create jobs.
   So there was Ms. Cassis sitting on the governor's bill while the governor daintily dangled 12,000 jobs in front of the aforementioned Oakland County senator who wants work for her constituents.  By making it public, the governor is exerting tremendous pressure on Cassis to get off the dime and move the governor's tax credit bill.
   On top of that, Cassis wants to water down the governor's Hollywood Film tax credit.  Now is it possible the governor will play hardball and advise the senator that the Wixom plant might not happen, if Cassis doesn't back off the film credit stuff, too?
   That's what John Engler would have done.
   Does Gov. Granholm have the same guts to toss a high hard one at Cassis?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Would He Do That?

      He wouldn't do that, would he?
      The governor says he won't but was it wishful thinking or does she really believe it?
      The reference here is to the possible scenario under which President Barack Obama, desperate to find a new home for Gitmo inmates, picks Michigan over the governor's objections.
      Gov. Granholm says her homeland security questions have not yet been answered by the Obama administration and minus assurances that the 200 or so Gitmo residents won't create a threat to Standish and Michigan, the governor won't sign off.
      But does it matter?
      There's a debate over the governor's authority to veto any presidential decision she does not like.  They call it state's rights.  The Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox believes the governor can block the decision if the president makes it.
     GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who is gobbling up a ton of free media on his staunch opposition, guesses the president can pretty much do what he wants, but coming in over the governor's objections would be "a bad decision."
     And on that the democratic governor agrees.
     Asked this week if the president says yes, can she say no? She offered, "I don't think it will come to that." And then she adds, "I don't think they would do that.  It would not be wise."
     Indications are she really believes that and it is not wishful thinking. She notes that the new president has been "very sensitive and differential" to the governor's apprehensions.
     Yet when push comes to shove, the president made a campaign promise to close the make shift prison but to do that, he has to find new digs for the suspected terrorists.
      Let's see:  Pay off on a campaign promise he made to the nation and stick a democratic governor with a decision she will not like.
      He wouldn't do that…would he?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tax The Other Guy

     The best tax policy, as they say, is the one that doesn't tax you but somebody else which is why the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons will turn their attention from winning games to winning a yet to be fought battle in Lansing.
     With the word that the governor has re-dredged up slapping the six-percent sales tax on sporting events, movie and concert tickets, the entertainment industry will move into high gear to kill the idea before it multiplies.
     This is not the first time this has surfaced. Former Oakland County Senator and then senate budget chair Shirley Johnson floated the idea ions ago and when they counted the votes, it was entertainment industry: One and Ms. Johnson: Zippo.
     But that was back when the state was not on the brink of drowning in red ink.  Now economic condition are worse, if you can imagine that, and the governor, who has refused to even admit that she is=2 0pushing the idea, is hoping the "fairness" issue will trump the intense lobbying from the sport's barons.
     It's only fair, the reasoning goes, that if you can afford to watch the Tigers lose, you can afford an extra three bucks on a fifty-dollar ticket.
     But the other side doesn't give a hoot about fairness.  You can hear the Ilitch family and their allies:  We are having a tough time as it is putting fannies in the seats and now they want to make it even tougher?
     The new tax would raise about $87 million for other state services such as the cop patrols around the stadia, the food inspection of the hot dogs they sell, and other related services.
     Somebody has to pay for this stuff, but there aren't many volunteers when it comes to paying more money.
     The governor also wants a new one penny tax on bottled water and betya the bottled H20 crowd won't like that either.
     Too bad she can't tax oxygen.  Then everybody would be upset with her tax policies not just a few special interests.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Too Much Speculation, Sorry

    Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has taken a shot at the "Lansing pundits" who get paid to speculate on who is running for this office or that. But when it comes to her running for the state senate or Michigan house, she says, "We need to give these guys a map."
     Did she dare imply that the omniscient political punditry class is lost?  Oh my.  Obviously she is not running for anything…just yet.
    Land, of course, was recently running for governor until she belatedly concluded her heart was never really in it, as she told the Grand Rapids Press.  Now she is supposedly running around the state on behalf of somebody who is still running for governor, but there is increasing speculation (sorry can't resist) that Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard may be joining Land on the sidelines before too long where they could commiserate on what might have been.
    Land told the Press she has no interest in serving in the Michigan legislature even though many folks reported she was thinking about it as she tries to find a map regarding her own future.
    She clearly has one.  She was elected SOS on two occasions although she never broke a sweat since the democrats never mounted even a semi-serious challenge to her.
    She also confesses since her youth she has thought about the U.S. Senate but looks like incumbent democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow could be there for life.  So while Land marks time waiting for one of them to head out to pasture, the speculation (not again) centers on her running for the West Michigan Congressional seat now occupied by Republican Vern Ehlers.  He shows no signs of retiring either, but if he did, Land would run in a New York minute.
     That's why the stuff about serving in the legislature made some sense…while Land waits for a C ongressional opening, what does she do to keep her name in front of the voters for the next four or so years?
     She does not rule out running with Bouchard as his Lt. Governor.
     Speculation (one last time) is, she should find another Plan B.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Growth Industry

     Some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it and me?  I'm with my friends.
     That might well be the best way to sum up the an agonizing debate over the prospects that Barack Obama may send us some suspected terrorists who now live in the gulag at Guantomano Bay.  In fact this week the prez sent two emissaries to check out a prison up north to do just that.
      No one knows if they will end up in Standish, but this week at the first public hearing on the possibility, everyone was all over the lot on the merits of "Gitmo comes to Michigan."
      With the state about to shutter the maximum-security prison, the governor is more open to housing crooks from California than the inmates at Gitmo, but her view is not shared by all.
      While the governor frets, Alan Kilar from the UAW, which represents workers at the prison, has no fears. "I don't think it's a worry."  Kilar wants to save jobs.
      And so does his union brother Mel Grieshaber who runs the state Corrections Officers outfit.  He, on the other hand, wants no part of the Gitmo crowd.  "All of the jobs will be filled by the feds or the military.  What good does that do us?"
      Then there is local Arenac County Commissioner Mike Synder who would welcome the Gitmo guys with open arms.
      "They are human beings.  They are not supermen. They won't bring bombs."
        However having them=2 0in Standish might attract outsiders who do carry bombs?
       Snyder rejects that claiming that if two or three Arabs show up in downtown Standish, the "sheriff will know about it in two or three minutes."
       Rep. Joel Sheltrown from the area worries more about the California inmates that could included hardened gang members whose families may follow the convicts to Standish.  Then what?
       All of this made for delightful theatre for the media which is tired of the budget deficit story.
       Turns out Michigan may be on the verge of a true growth industry.  Pennsylvania is making noises it likes Standish too for housing some of its crooks.
C2      Say yes, to Michigan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Moss Messes Up

         My oh my Oakland County Rep. Chuck Moss was rolling along very nicely, thank you very much, during his maiden voyage on the Off the Record broadcast the other day.
         Well until he got tongue-tied on a very simple inquiry.
         The conservative GOP lawmaker was waxing on and on about how his party was not going to balance the budget on the "backs of the poor" and in fact he noted, "Everybody is going to feel pain."
         Question:  Does that include you?  Did you take a pay cut?
         Moss had apparently not anticipated the question and didn't even bother to notify the House GOP P.R. whiz kids about his appearance. They might of given him a better answer.
         Did you take a pay cut?
         He began saying he voted for a 10% cut but he failed to explain that the vote was only a recommendation to a state pay panel to impose the 10% cut.  And if the panel approved it, the cut would not take effect in time to solve the current budget crisis.
        So did you take a pay cut?
        "We're not allow ed," he fumbled for answer number two.
        Not so.  Many lawmakers have written checks to the state returning part of their $75,000 plus salary.
        So, for the third time, did you take a pay cut?
        Finally an honest answer;  "Nope."
        Well then, please explain to your constituents why you should get your full salary when they are taking benefit cuts left and right.
       "We've cut our offices. We've cut our own staffs."
        Bully for you.
        Suffice it to say, Moss looked awful.  (Judge for yourself at for the Off the Record broadcast.)
        But to his credit, after the taping, Mr. Moss wrote a check to the state for $2000.
        Bet he wishes he had done that before.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is There a Doctor In the House?

     As the beloved news media gets ready to exploit another round of the Swine flu story, a debate is unfolding over building more medical schools to produce more physicians to fight it and other diseases.
     The latest entrant is Central Michigan University.
      It's a free country and if CMU wants to peruse this, they have every right.  But while the country is free, med schools are not and last time anybody checked, the state is not exactly flush in bucks.
      The ultimate question is:  Is this a necessity or a luxury?
      There is a projected shortage of doctors but the state already has three med schools at MSU, the U of M, and Wayne State and has one more ready to come on line at Oakland Universit y and the Broncos at Western Michigan want a piece of the action, too.
      Why stop there?  What about the Uppers?  No med school in the Upper Peninsula.  What about Alpena?  There's nothing for the thumb. And no school in Ludington on the other side of the state either.
     You get the point.  Where does it end and at what cost?
      There are several issues underneath all this.  First every university lusts for a med school because it adds to the school's  prestige which adds to its fund raising prowess.  Second, we are talking about convenience here.  Let's be honest if a kid in Alpena wants to be a doctor, he or she can get on U.S. 23, which ends up in Ann Arbor; they don't need one in their backyard.
      This has not reached critical mass in the legislature as of yet, but it will and what will the politicians say? The ones from the central Michigan region will side with Central Michigan and the loyalists from the Big Three schools will seek to block the competition.  And in the midst of the worse economy the state has ever seen, we will have a debate over pouring more money into yet another med school.
     Which proves once more that that word "No" is the least used word in this town.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No Guts-No Tax Hike

     During these dog days of summer when the legislature hasn't been around much, capitol correspondence are eager to cover anything that moves so when the social safety next crowd showed up the other day, everybody and his uncle was there to cover them.
    The message from the "net" folks was not really news:  They want lawmakers to stop cutting social welfare programs.  But then something curious occurred.
    When you are doing TV news, you are also looking for something visual, so why not ask the 12 or 13 folks standing at the podium to raise their hands if they supported a tax hike on beer and smokes?  Since the coalition was already on record backing the sin taxes, you expected to see very hand shoot up like a 4th of July Roman candle.
    Most of the hands did, except for the guy who was anchoring the news event.  While all the other hands waved in the air, Paul Long from the Michigan Catholic Conference stood mute with hands at his side.
    When the gig was over, being a curious sort, the question was asked, "So.  Your hands?  You couldn't lift them or what?
    "The Michigan Catholic Conference does not take a position on tax issues," came the startling response.
      They don't do what?!
     The affable Mr. Long asserts that the board of directors has a long-standing policy to stay out of tax fights, so Long pleaded the Fifth.
     OMG seems an appropriate response. Her e was the church calling for lawmakers to stop hurting the poor and one of the only ways to do that is to raise more money to protect them, and Long was punting on the critical tax hike issue.
     "We'll leave that to the governor and lawmakers to figure out," he sheepishly smiled without acknowledging the absurdity of the no tax stance.
     No guts…no money for the needy. 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shot Of Courage

        If only they could administer a shot of  political courage to lawmakers in this town.
        But alas no drug maker has such a concoction so the head of the chamber of commerce and the former senate GOP leader tried to administer a little verbal medication instead.
        For two years the road-building lobby has been demanding more dollars to repair the crumbling highway system in the state.  The last time lawmakers did that was in 1997 under then GOP Governor John Engler.
        And that's the point Rick Studley from the chamber and Ken Sikkema from a local think tank were making.  It's O.K. for republicans to vote for a gas tax hike and they won't be kicked out of office if they do.
        In fact the trend around the country has been, according to Sikkema, that republican governors and legislators have been leading the way on these revenue hikes.
        "You can survive," Sikkema reassures jittery R's
         Studley applied a little more suave saying there is a difference in a user fee, which a gas tax apparently is, compared to a general tax hike on anything else. And he believes voters understand the difference or do they?
         Therein lies the political dilemma.  If voters treat the gas tax just like any other tax increase, it produces considerable risk for lawmakers running next year.
         And no matter how loud or how long Messrs. Studley and Sikkema try to calm nerves, the medicine may not take…self-survival being what it is.
         Give credit to at least one guy.
         For weeks the governor's office has complained that democrats need republicans to co-sponsor any revenue hike for the roads so that the voter backlash, if any, is bi-partisan.
         Sen. Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac) has raised his hand and will push the bill this fall even though he is running for the house next year.
         There's at least one GOP lawmaker who shows some political courage.
         But is it a contagious disease?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Here We Go Again

        Same story.  Different party chair.  Here we go again.
       Two years ago during the infamous government-shutdown-budget- deficit-battle, the state GOP chair, Saul Anuzis, stuck his big nose into the middle of the legislative negotiations and some in the GOP legislative leadership ranks did not like the unwelcome intrusion.
       Those leaders were trying to work a deal to raise new revenue to balance the books and there was ole Saul, looking over their shoulder demanding that they not raise taxes.  One of those leaders confided that Anuzis was making a tough job even tougher with all his very public anti-tax railing.
      Fast forward to right now.  Anuzis is gone and Ron Weiser is the new chair and he's picking up where Saul-baby left off i.e. every time there is even a hint of raising new revenue , there is Weiser's P.R. machine grinding out another anti-tax hike press release.
     The latest batch suggests that the GOP has two plans to balance the books without raising taxes and "to raise taxes now is to gamble away the future of the state."
     Here's the problem with that rhetoric:  The dirty little secret is some legislative republicans are quietly working with the democrats to raise new revenue…the very thing that the state party is advising against.
     And when it comes out that indeed some GOP lawmakers are doing this, Mr. Weiser and company will look silly, hypocritical, ignorant or all three.
     Apparently the memo to Anuzis to shut his mouth was never shared with the new guy and so the Weiser team is out there beating up on the Granholm Cherry folks for boosting taxes while at the same time the co-conspirators from Weiser's own party are doing the s ame thing. This will ultimately be embarrassing for those R's who will look out of step with the chairperson.
     Let's see if the Republican Party issues a news release on that little ditty.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Text-Message Queen Look Out

      The governor should be grateful that she has a driver, because if lawmakers vote to ban text messaging while driving, she'd be doing time behind bars big time.
      The governor, Queen of text messaging, spends more time with her Crack..err Blackberry than she does with her kids.  And of course she has lots of company but the national Transportation Secretary this week is urging state legislatures to get on the stick and ban the practice in traffic and looks like Michigan might fall in line.
      "I expect a vote on it after the summer break," reports Dearborn Rep. Gino Polidori who's been on mission to not only ban texting but cell phone usage as well.
      So far he is O for life on both fronts but the chair of the House Transportation Committee here has promised to put this up for a vote soon.
      "On text messaging," an upbeat Polidori observes, "We have the votes."
        He is not nearly as sanguine when it comes to hanging up cell phones behind the wheel.  "To many of the guys do that," he notes referring to his colleagues who probably don't want to create a law they can't or won't obey.
       The federal government for about five years has been sitting on evidence that taking your eyes off the road for even five seconds, dramatically increases you changes of a crash.  Hope they didn't spend too much of your money to find that out.  It's just common sense, a no brainer, but up until now lawmakers in this town have not acted.
     Assuming Polidori is successful in the house, he has to tackle the decidedly more conservative and libertarian state senate where they never met a ban on anything they didn't hate.
     The job of lawmakers is to protect the public.  It says so right there in the constitution and a ban on texting and driving does just that. 
     Wonder what the texting queen will do when she has no chauffeur?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Simon Says....

     There must be something to the notion that some folks really do bleed Green and White.  In fact two of them reside in Cowles House.
     For those of you with a predilection to bleed Maze and Blue, Cowles House is the president's home at Michigan State University and in it lives Roy and his spouse Lou Anna Simon. He's First Hubby.  She's el presidente.
     Almost five years ago after the MSU Board picked her, Dr. Simon retired to a small room near her office.
     The idea of running the university that she loved so much was just sinking in.  In that interview she reflected that while growing up in Indiana, little Lou Anna really wanted to be a catcher on the New York Yankees.
     She said she would settle for being MSU president but then she confided, "I will only stay three years."  It was a curious thing to reveal just moments after getting the job.  At the time she was not sure the thing would last; nor was she sure she wanted to make it last any longer.
    Now five years into the assignment she reflected the other day on why she is sticking around.
    She says she enjoys the confidence the MSU Board of Trustees. And that is saying a mouth-full because that board can be a challenge.
    Secondly, when she took the assignment, she  figured Michigan's lousy economy would be on the rebound before her three years were up so she could waltz out the door knowing her alma mater was in good shape.
    She and everyone else were wrong.  And so she dug in and plans on remaining dug in until the budget mess is resolved.
    "When people place confidence in you, you can't leave," she reflects.
     Besides she quickly adds, "Roy and I love this place" and she adds, "You can't leave in the middle of this mess."
     Go Green.  Go White.
     Let's hear it for loyalty…a rare commodity these days in any job. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sin Tax Hike?

    If you drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and who doesn't in this state, this is a lousy way to start a new week.  The governor is willing to hike the sin taxes on both.
    All this surfaced during one of those infamous closed door-high level meetings last Thursday as the governor and four legislative leaders huddled to find some way to fill in the $2 billion hole in the state budget.
    The governor proposed a 'list of options" that included doubling the beer tax and slapping another twenty-five cents on a pack of smokes.
     The beer tax is now a measly 1.9 cents per twelve ounces.  That would go to 3.8 cents and net about $42 million in new money.
     The tobacco tax would go from $2.00 a pack to $2.25 and raise about $53 million.  That would be on top of the 62 cent a pack increase imposed by the federal government on April 1st.  Pretty soon smoking around here is going to get expensive.
     But just because the governor is willing to go there, that does not mean the four leaders will tag along.  House Speaker Andy Dillon said last week that Michigan's beer tax would be out of line with other states in the region, so he's against it.
     And the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who generally has no aversion to hiking taxes, won't touch the beer tax.  Rep. George Cushingberry says it would be a form of political suicide since folks who drink beer in this state, also vote.
    And if ole "Cush" can figure that out, betya the other 147 lawmakers, many of whom are running for something next year, can too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cherry Vs.Dillon

         Next to collecting money from contributors, politicians love getting their mug on the tube, their voice on the radio and their name in print when it doesn't cost them a dime.  In political parlance they affectionately call it "free media."
        If anybody has been keeping score recently a guy named Dillon has racked up a ton of free coverage and if a guy named Dillon was running for governor that would be a huge advantage.
        In strong contrast a guy named John Cherry, who is running for governor, has gotten very little ink as he moves around the state on his "time to reinvent state government" summer tour.  Yawn. Yawn.  Suffice it to say, Cherry is not playing to SRO crowds.
       House Speaker Andy Dillon, on the other hand, has dominated the news cycles with his concept to plunk 44,000 public workers into a state operated health insurance fund.  He has captured the imagination of editorial writers and it's only a matter of time before one of them draws this contrast: Andy Dillon is the agent of change.   Cherry is the status quo.
      Since the 2010 contest for governor is all about change, that's not good news for the Cherry-pickers.
      Dillon has not announced his candidacy and the popular wisdom at this read has him staying out of the democratic primary. Lt. Gov. Cherry has it all but wrapped  up as his endorsements keep pouring in while Dillon amasses his headlines. But headlines don't win democratic primaries.
     There is no panic in the Cher ry camp but rest assured they have an eagle eye on Dillon who has supporters who continue to nudge him to run.
     Cherry is working on his own headline "change" story that could emerge later this fall.  He wants to downsize government from 18 departments to about 8.  It's a bold move and the editorial writers will love it….if Dillon doesn't beat Cherry to it.