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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Say Yes to Minnesota, Hey

House Democrats made a big deal out of their New Year agenda being
all about new jobs for Michigan. O.K. it's not an original concept but
when you just got your clock cleaned in the last election, you start
over with the basics and that's about as rudimentary as it gets.
So there must have been some red faces among the 47 House
Democrats when it was reported the other day that they had hired a firm
from Minnesota to scrounge up some campaign contributions for 2012.
There are no Michigan firms that can make phone calls from a
boiler room in the basement of some grungy office building?
Of course there are, but when confronted with this little Say No
to Michigan pratfall, the Democratic spokesperson noted that the
Minnesota firm had "unique attributes" and to make matters worse, she
added, there was "no other firm of its kind in Michigan."
Oh my.
Realizing that this was an embarrassment, she tacked on, "We will
consider Michigan firms as we move forward."
Well if there are no other firms of its kind in Michigan, how can
they consider them as they "move forward?"
It's just another example of how politicians profess one thing
and do another.
The unique aspect of the Minnesota operation was that it
probably was cheaper and like everyone else, Democrats went for that
rather than foster jobs back home as they agenda suggested.
The Minnesota operator who made the mistake of calling someone
who tipped off the media, was very direct. She noted that the GOP
tidal wave had over taken the House Democrats who lost a boat load of
seats and the "Republicans would try to pick off more seats" next time
out. So could you donate $50?
The response, in jest, "Can I gave $20,000?
The woman in the computer boiler room confessed, "I don't have
a screen for that."
Maybe that's what made the Minnesota operation so unique.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Trust Me on the Job Thing

A huge thank you to State Senator Mark Jansen. He had the guts to
address the elephant in the room the other day when the tag team of
Snyder, Calley and Nixon laid out its bold, and slightly explosive new
budget to reinvent Michigan.
The governor took 30 minutes of lawmaker's precious time to piece
together his blueprint for creating new jobs and my oh my it sounded
grand but then the West Michigan Republican asked this question:
How many jobs will this program create?
The audience must have braced itself for the consummate business guy
turned governor to knock this one into the upper deck. After all he had
access to the University Michigan economic models being from Ann Arbor
and all. And if their computer was on the fritz, given all of his
business connections, he could have found somebody to run the numbers
so he could answer the straight forward question.
But alas. Gov. Snyder was not even there. He wanted to hang around
but split leaving his poor Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and budget director
John Nixon to deliver the bad news answer.
Turns out the Snyder whiz kids did not have the foggiest notion of
how many jobs would be created if the budget was implemented.
Say what?
Nope not a round number, not a ball-park number not a made-up
number. There was no number at all.
So, how do we know the Snyder blueprint will create one lousy job?
Well there is the theory that if your pass a new-fangled business
tax, they will be knocking down the doors to get into the Wolverine
state. That's what candidate Snyder hinted on the campaign trail with
apparently no proof to back it up.
Reporters picked up where the nosy senator left off and asked the
same question later the same day.
This time it was the governor's turn to sheepishly concede that
there were too many variables in the business tax equation for anyone
to figure this job thing out.
So the non-career politician was relegated to acting like a career
politician. On this one you will simply have to trust him.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hoop Talk

The U of M hoop guys could have used a little help on the
free-throw line the other night against the Badgers and they had a guy
on the bench to do it. Unfortunately he was on the spectator's bench.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor and ex-NBA star Dave Bing were
in the crowd but apparently there was not enough time to get His Honor
out of his suit and into something maze and blue to get the job done.
While the two could not help the Wolverines, they were talking
steps to help each other. The governor is on a trust-building mission
and taking some time off for "some fun", as he put it the other night,
is one way to get there.
In fact nobody around here can remember the last time, if ever, a
sitting governor sat down with a sitting mayor of Motown but this is
Rick Snyder doing his thing.
"It's good open communication being honest and open, talking about
the problems cause we're both here to solve problems and not spend time
on politics," the governor tells FOX2 at the game.
The mayor was drinking the same cooperation Kool-aid: "I think
trust is very very important, so if he tells me something he is going
to do or not going to do, I want to make sure I can take it to the
bank. And so far that's been the case."
You could just feel the governor getting all goose bumpy inside
cause this is what he wants with mayors, lawmakers from both sides of
the aisle, and even the media.
It's refreshing as he appears to be willing to go anywhere,
anytime (to borrow a shop worn phrase) to get the trust thing done
which must be done in real time.
Even though his guys lost the game with a last minute buzzer shot,
he and the mayor get high marks for doing it.
Ya gotta wonder, however, did the mayor explain the finer points of
using your elbows when in trouble?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dueling Rallies

For a moment there it looked like things could get interesting on the
capitol steps.
As fate would have it, in the balmy 20 degree heat the other day,
there were two competing groups vying for lawmaker's attention.
In one corner upwards of 500 UAW folks worried about seeing
Michigan turn into a Wisconsin and in the other, a mere handful of
dedicated Tea Party folks hoping lawmakers would pass all the budget
cuts the governor has proposed.
The T.P. crowd slowly walked up the sidewalk on the northeast side
of the capitol….the one that leads to the capitol steps where the union
guys and gals were.
A reporter watched intently anticipating the co-mingling of
competing agendas, philosophies, and attitudes.
Turn those cameras on.
Earlier the union leaders had warned their members. "There will be
some Tea Party members there and they want you to make a scene and put
it on You-Tube. Don't do it."
The elderly T.P. contingency continued to walk until they got about
half way there when, out of nowhere, comes this State Police Capitol
cop setting up shop between the two groups.
"Would you voluntarily go back?" the burly Sgt. quietly asked.
They complied.
The TV cameras were shut down.
But it was not over.
The anti-government group walked to another position just east of
the capitol steps and under the watchful eye of Austin Blair whose
statue and life-like image stands watch.
It was dueling rallies as each side showed off their signs and
maybe exchanged a few cat calls but that was it.
The governor celebrated this "demonstration of democracy" but did
not venture near either group.
He told us he was smart.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snyder Folks on Different Pages

Gov. Rick Snyder runs a tight ship and message discipline is what
the captain demands..except the captain doesn't always get his way.
Here's the inside skinny on how the administration is speaking with
two different voices when it comes to pushing the budget through the
In the past governors would propose budget cuts and lawmakers would
be forced to vote for each one of them. The Snyder crew has a "better"
idea: Pass a budget giving the department directors the authority to
make the cuts and then the voters back home can't blame legislators.
Actually it's a semi-ingenious concept that appeals to almost every
lawmaker: The concept is self-preservation. Lawmakers who vote for
cuts sometimes face hostile voters who don't like the cuts or the
But here's the rub. While key players in the Snyder inner circle
are hawking this strategy to the career politicians, the non-career
politician in the equation is not.
During an interview last week, the governor was asked about this
approach and without missing a beat he opined, "I wouldn't do that."
Oh. Oh.
He's saying one thing and his minions are doing just the opposite.
The governor says, "I respect them (lawmakers). They are my
One of two things is in play here: Either he does not know his
lieutenants are free lancing or he did not want to admit in public that
it was going on.
The deception would be too much like former Gov. John Engler and
Mr. Snyder is no John Engler.
Or a third option, maybe he doesn't want to know so that he does
not have to confirm it is going on?
There's nothing illegal about wanting to protect lawmakers from
casting a tough vote. What the wet-behind-the-ears lawmakers don't
realize is that they are ceding to the governor the legislative
authority to decide where your tax dollars go. Citizens pay lawmakers
to do that and if citizens find out what's going on, they could be
angry with this ill-advised abdication of duty.
As well they should be.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gov: We're Not Wisconsin

Sooner or later, you just knew this would happen. The new
governor would have to have a little Come to Jesus meeting with some
legislative Republicans over their conflicting priorities.
Job one and two for the governor is the budget and business tax
reform and he's fearing some of his pals in the House have spent a
little too much time talking about eliminating the prevailing wage,
Right to Work and repealing binding arbitration for cops and
The governor confesses, "These are not issues that are high
priorities." He says everyone should be "building for the future" and
not dealing with "conflicting issues like that."
As Artie Johnson on Laugh-in use to say, "V-e-e-e-r-y interesting."
While he asserts that he respects the the legislature and pledges
to work with members, he does admit to "some level of concern as to how
they might impact the budget and tax policies" referring to the time
and energy being expended on those labor issues.
Put more succinctly, the more time spent on that, the less time is
spent on his agenda.
To underscore the point, word has it there was a meeting on
Tuesday to discuss these apparent conflicting agendas and the GOP
Speaker of the House basically said, we can chew gum and walk at the
same time; meaning work is being done on the budget and house
Republicans want to work on other stuff, too.
There is always a natural tension between the governor and his
legislative leaders. Ask Ms. Granholm and former Speaker Andy Dillon.
And this current exchange is the first example of that with the new
chief executive.
Perhaps some of the conservative R's want to piggy-back on the
labor unrest in Wisconsin where the governor wants to stop collective
The governor here wants no part of that saying, "We are two
different states." Could it be there are some members of his own party
who wish he was a little more like the gov. in the cheese head state?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Strange Bed-Fellows

Truth be known the news media round here must be secretly hoping
that what is happening in Wisconsin will repeat itself here…you know
the attack by the new GOP governor on union collective bargaining
After all the visuals out of Madison are wonderful: Teachers
sleeping on the floor, protestors waving banners and a legislature in
gridlock. It doesn't get any better than that.
But apparently Gov. rick Snyder wants no part of that. Over the
weekend he was asked on Detroit Public TV about preserving collective
bargaining rights and he opined, "that is the system in this state and
we're going to work with the system."
"We appreciate hearing that," responds Mark Gaffney who runs the
state's largest union, the AFL-CIO. But Gaffney knows the governor is
only one voice in this debate and what about all the ultra conservative
GOP-types who reside in the Michigan House and Senate?
He wonders if those folks "can get the message" from their
governor to lay-off the C.B. stuff?
It's a reasonable inquiry in that those folks did not listen to
the governor when he asserted that he wanted nothing to do with any
Right to Work legislation. The governor sees that as very divisive and
would pit labor against business and that's the last thing he wants.
Going against their governor's wishes, modified RTW legislation is
in the hopper right now and if the GOP can do that, why not legislation
to wipe collective bargaining off the books?
Gaffney is looking at a laundry list of 33 measures which he says
are all anti-labor and they "look a lot like Wisconsin."
Wouldn't it be an unbelievable turn of events if one Mr. Gaffney
and one Mr. Snyder ended up on the same side battling members of the
governor's own party?
That would top the story across the lake in Madison.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Granholm Network Debut

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm drew upon her eight years of
experience in Michigan and told a national TV audience that shutting
down the federal government would be a "disaster" and the battle in
Wisconsin is not about wage concessions but attacking collective
And with that she launched a new phase of her career to include
Meet the Press commentator. Decked out in a white jacket and black
sweater, the ex-governor took questions from program host David Gregory
who was not bashful about cutting her off when she got a little windy
on the collective bargaining issue.
Reflecting on what's unfolding in Wisconsin where Gov. Scott
Walker is trying to undo collective bargaining with state worker
unions, Gov. Granholm noted that the workers gave in on concessions
last Friday, so she wonders why the governor was still not satisfied?
"This is not about cuts, it's about collective bargaining," she
observes while being paid a nifty salary to spout her insightful
commentary and analysis.
She applauded the show of democracy by the labor members who
flooded the capitol in Madison.
On the possibility that the President and Congress might reach a
budget impasse resulting in a shutdown of the national government, Gov.
Granholm blurted out, "I've seen this movie," meaning she presided over
two such shutdowns in Lansing while on her watch.
If it happens in Washington, she warns the citizens will
ask,"What the heck just happened?" She says politicians are sent to
Washington to solve problems and if they don't meet the budget deadline
later this month, "It is a disaster…A pox on everyone," she said.
Her performance was not over the top, she had no pithy exchanges
with any of the other three panelists as the format does not foster
that, and on balance she did not fall off her chair and her hair looked
nice and when you get right down to it, on TV news, that's about all
you have to do to be a hit.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's Fair Is Fair

If Gov. Rick Snyder is all about fairness, some believe he's being
unfair to education.
In the first Snyder budget, there is a hefty $470 per pupil cut to
K-12 education and just for good measure a 15% whack for higher
The governor concedes he has a hidden agenda in lowering the money
boom on these folks. He wants to motivate them to make up that loss of
state aid by making some painful cuts on their own by squeezing out
more concessions from their already squeezed workers.
But what about the schools and universities that have already done
that? Should they take an across the board hit when they've done what
the governor wants?
Reasonable folks would conclude the fair answer would be "no."
Dr. Lou Anna Simon who runs the show at Michigan State says she's
revamped the health care paradigm and realized cost savings. She was
hoping the Snyder guys would take that into account.
And her colleagues in the K-12 system had the same hope.
But what can they do?
Well, out of fairness, the first thing the Snyder administration
should consider is some mechanism for determining who has done a good
job and therefore should not be penalized.
But what constitutes a good job? And who will decide the metrics
of that, to borrow one of the governor's favorite catch phrases?
Perhaps this can be done in the legislative process which might
be tricky but it's worth thinking about.
Every school and university that feels they measure up to the
Snyder demand should have their day in court to prove it and depending
how good they are at lobbying, they might get a reprieve from the cuts.
Then again that is a lot of heavy lifting for legislators and the
governor but if this is all about fairness, it might be the right thing
to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Elderly Muscles Flexed

AARP is flexing its aging muscles. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
For most of its existence the Michigan branch of the American
Association of Retired Persons has been an on again, off again major
player. Recently it has moved center stage.
It is a force to be reckoned with for one obvious reason: Senior
citizens vote and in large numbers and every member of the House and
Senate knows it.
So when it came time for the legislative Republicans to carry the
water for their new governor on the item pricing repeal, everyone
thought this would be a slam dunk.
They were popping the champagne corks even before the repealer was
introduced because, after all, the governor has 63 votes in the house
and 26 in the senate which is more than he needed in each chamber. They
could hardly wait to chalk up Gov. Snyder's first legislative win.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the cork popping: AARP
Oh. Oh.
The organization offered to chat about a compromise but it would
not compromise on the ability of seniors, or anyone else for that
matter, to determine the price of a product before the cashier got hold
of it.
Since 1976 that's way it was and AARP was digging in to keep it
that way.
To measure the group's impact, a house committee two weeks had the
measure teed up for a final vote.
Instead the chairman surprisingly announced the vote was on hold.
Hum. AARP's opposition had an impact and it looked like the bill
might be in trouble.
But talks commenced and now AARP has signed off on a compromise
that some still don't like, but now that the old folks are on board,
look for this to breeze along its merry way to Mr. Snyder's desk and

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Manna From Snyder

Pull up a chair. This will be interesting.
The new governor has advanced his first budget and the opposition
could not be happier. It finally has something to whack Gov. Rick
Snyder with.
Get use to this story line because you're going to hear a lot of it
in the coming days. It goes like this,"The governor is granting a tax
break to his cronies in the business world and is doing it by squeezing
money out of seniors and children."
The only think missing is the ole line, "he is also attacking
orphans and widows."
State Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer has been stewing every
since the Ann Arbor business guy beat Brewer's guy for governor.
Privately Brewer lamented the honeymoon that Mr. Snyder has enjoyed and
even chided the news media for going along with the post-election
euphoria..which is a stretch but its just Marky being Marky.
But now. Wow. Manna from Snyder.
A budget that cuts $470 from state aid to every school kid; a new
tax on senior's private pensions; a slice to to higher education and on
and on it goes with a total of over $1 billion in service cuts.
The governor says this is all part of his "shared pain"
philosophy that he first outlined in his Inaugural address…"a little
pain now for gain lagter on."
Balderdash cries the opposition which could hardly wait to get
to the word processor to begin the anti-Snyder drum-beat on how unkind
he is to the needy.
"We have protected the social safety net," he reassured
lawmakers at his first budget briefing.
His opponents counter, if that is protection, count us out.
Ah yes..let the budget games begin.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grab the Pitch Forks?

Give him the benefit of the doubt.
That one phrase best describes what has been going on in this town
ever since Rick Allan Snyder became governor.
Most of the "players" are not quite sure what kind of leader he will
be and minus any "evidence" to suggest he's no up for the job, everyone
says, let's just wait and see.. There will be plenty of evidence with
the release of his first budget Thursday.
The Better Michigan Future coalition is waiting to see. It's
composed of some forty special interests including major labor unions,
the social safety net crowd and others that generally look to Lansing
for help.
"We're pretty anxious," reveals the BMF campaign manager which
pretty much describes the mood in this town as everyone awaits the
first Snyder know that "atomic bomb" document that will be
dropped within hours.
Frank Houston is keeping the groups powder dry. No sense
sharpening the "pitch forks", he advises, until everyone sees what the
spending cuts look like.
But if it is as bad as some fear, the group is ready to jump into
action by taking this story to the grassroots. Houston calls it the
"outside game."
It's a great strategy on paper: Rally the troops at home to put
pressure on lawmakers to stop all the spending cuts.
Problem is most of those "troops' like all the spending cuts. In
fact when the former governor boasted about cutting more services than
anyone else in history, that generated zero complains from most
citizens who did not notice or did not care about the holes in that
social safety net.
Houston concedes "apathy" is a challenge "without a doubt."
But will this time be different? If there are Draconian cuts to
police, fire and education programs, will the hinterland rise up?
Noting worse than a pitch fork, with no one to hold it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

He Wouldn't Dare--Oh Yes He Would

Other governors have momentarily considered doing this but quickly
chucked the concept as being politically impossible.
Gov. Rick Snyder could give two-hoots about that which is why he
is embracing a historic and first-time ever tax on private pensions.
Talk about your cultural change.
For years the state has dolled out about $700 million in tax
breaks to those retired folks living off their private sector pensions.
If business guy/Gov. Snyder has his way, the state will take a chunk
out of those checks to help balance the budget.
Here's why others before him dared not go there: (1) The unions
will go bunkers and (2) Conservative Republicans will call this a tax
In fact even before the plan is out, one of them did.
Sen. Jack Brandenburg of ultra conservative Macomb County calls
the Snyder idea "political suicide and it's not the right thing to do."
The fire-storm of opposition will be bi-partisan. Detroit Sen.
Coleman Young Jr. objects saying, "This is wrong. It's disgusting."
That doesn't phase the governor one iota and it probably eggs him
on to redouble his efforts to get-er done.
It will not be easy and at this read, he's got one vote that we
know of.
Rep. Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt) thinks Mr. Snyder is onto to
something."I agree. It's the right thing to do" and Opsommer, with a
private pension, is willing to pay the tax..
Wonder if his Tea Party colleagues will do the same?
Michigan State University economist and tax expert Dr. Charlie
Ballard would vote yes if he could. He concedes nobody likes to pay
taxes but just because you retire does not mean you stop being a
citizen in need of services.
Give the new governor style points for treading where others
have feared to go.
His decision certainly underscores another point: He is not
worried about getting re-elected cause this ain't (sic) the way to do

Bobb Bops Into Town

He rolled into the town the other day with what looked like a
custom made white shirt. complete with French cuffs. He had at least
two body guards or maybe three at the ready as he addressed the house
and senate education committees on the issue of saving the Detroit
School system.
Robert Bobb cuts a wide path as the Emergency Financial Manager for
the struggling DPS and the assembled lawmakers wanted to know how he
was doing.
He was brought in two years ago to eliminate the school deficit.
Instead the deficit has gone up.
Do you deserve a passing grade? a snotty reporter wanted to know.
"I'm extremely proud of the work we've done," he began his defense
of not doing the job he was chosen to do.
Turns out, he says, things would have been worse had he not been
Some of his critics might say, that's like the captain of the
Titanic saying his ship would have gone done faster had he not hit only
one iceberg.
For the most part, in this town Mr. Bobb has received high marks
for helping to right the sinking DPS ship. He's taken names, filed
charges against those who were stealing from school coffers, he's
locked horns with the local school board and some residents, and
appears fearless in his efforts to eliminate the deficit which he
discloses could take five more years.
Mr. Bobb was asking lawmakers to give him some legislation that
would permit the borrowing of money at a lower interest rate to meet
next month's payroll. It is not unusual for many schools to head for
the bond market before their employees head for pay-less pay-days.
He assured everyone that the state would not be at risk, but not
everyone was buying that.
"By definition there is a risk," asserted Rep. Tom McMillan
(R-Oakland County.)
Mr. B. wants lawmakers to act on his request quickly, but by his
own admission, the legislation he wants, has not been introduced.
He won't get a passing grade from lawmakers on that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gig-Saw Puzzle Guy

Gee. That guy sure looked familiar. There was the signature and
scruffy looking gray beard but instead of a suit and tie, he was decked
out in blue jeans and a winter parka. And he was sitting in the very
last row when normally he was sitting at the head of the room
addressing lawmakers.
Now he addressed no one and just listened.
It was Robert Emerson, the former Democratic lawmaker who never saw
a tax hike he didn't like and most recently he was the budget director
for the last governor…what was her name, anyway?
Seems as though Emerson misses the smell the grease paint and the
roar of the crowd.
"Sure. Yeah," he tells a correspondent who use to cover Emerson's
every move.
He was there is listen in on the debate over saving the Detroit
Public Schools. Emerson is now unemployed as he becomes one of the
statistics that he use to include in his budget work. Oh, he will
eventually get a job but appears in no hurry to land one.
That was going to happen at the end of January he reports, but now
looks like the end of the month is the revised target date for getting
off the jobless roles.
In the meantime, he's watching the new governor's messy budget
situation from the sidelines for a change. But when he is not attending
hearings, what does he do to fill the time as he decompresses from his
intense days in the capitol?
Gig-saw puzzles.
Sure enough. Down in his basement he concentrates on tiny little
pictures and tries to put them in the right place…not much of a change
from what he did before.
He boasts he just finished a puzzle about a "hot air balloon
Hot air?
Looks like he just can't get away from government work.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ouch on This Cultural Change

Governor Rick Snyder's much celebrated honeymoon with the
Michigan Legislature could end at 11 a.m. this Thursday and senate
Republicans may be the first to leave the bedroom.
That's right, senate Republicans.
Candidate Snyder promised to change the culture in Lansing and by
changing the way the state budget is written, he will take a stab at
that but he may get stabbed back for doing it.
You see the time honored cultural tradition in this town has the
governor proposing the budget and lawmakers disposing of it. Slicing
and dicing the governor's spending ideas in the house and senate
appropriations committees is a holy assignment for these legislators.
But instead of giving them line after line of detailed spending
suggestions, the word is the new governor will "roll-up" his spending
targets into three to six lines with the hope that lawmakers will pass
those dollar amounts and let the department directors decide where the
money should go.
Can you say stepping on toes?
Can you say diminishing the legislaive branch into a rubber stamp?
Can you say this won't fly?
The GOP chair of the Senate budget committee can.
"It's not likely," indicates Sen. Roger Kahn as he stakes out his
turf in what could become a nasty turf war with his GOP governor.
The Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville asserts that the
detailed "line item" tradition should be preserved.
And on that the Senate Democratic Leader agrees. Sen. Gretchen
Whitmer says if the new governor is for transparency, i.e. letting
everyone know what he's doing, then rolling up massive budgets into a
few short sentences is "the antithesis of transparency."
As he was walking out the door last year the former GOP Senate
Leader Mike Bishop observed that former Gov. Jennifer Granholm did not
treat the legislature as a co-equal.
If this speculation is true about handing lawmakers a skimpy
budget, the same charge may be leveled at the GOP governor on Thursday
and both parties will be doing the leveling.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tazer. Tazer. Tazer.

Over the last forty one years, one has seen lawmakers do lots of
crazy stuff. One night during a very emotional debate over marijuana a
religious female Detroit legislator used an ashtray to bop a pot
smoking colleague from Ann Arbor on the head. 
  Years later in the state senate, a little shrimp of a senator
tangled with a guy twice his size right in the middle of the center
aisle. Championship wrestling it was not, but it was darn close and
darn entertaining even if it broke the decorum of the House of Lords. 
  Enter Rep. Rick Jones who has joined that House of Lords and he's
back on his mission to give average citizens one more tool to fend off
would be crooks. 
  The former sheriff failed last year to legalize tazers for bounty
hunters, reserve police officers and those who own a concealed weapons
  But before he whiffed on it, he allowed himself to be tazered before
a house committee. 
  It was vintage Jones who lusts for headlines, but then who in this
town does not? 
  He stood up, was held by two deputies and the guy in front of him
shouted out, "Taser" as the lawmaker melted to the ground, like the
wicked watch in the Wizard of Oz, to the amazement of everyone in the
room including a hoard of TV cameras which recorded the bizarre event
for posterity. 
  Jones recently reintroduced the bill to legalize "devices that use
electro-muscular disruption (EMD) technology." 
  But alas, he declined the offer to be tazered again. 
  After all two teenagers were killed last year when the cops used the
device on them. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fwd: Winners and Losers

One of the biggest applause lines in his first State of the State
was when Gov. Rick Snyder tossed some red meat to his conservative
base: The role of government is to support success—not to pick winners
and losers. 
  Tell that to the Michigan Manufacturers Association which is
shaking in its boots because a draft plan of the governor's new
business tax makes the big companies..dare we say…losers. They would
cough up more money to the state than they do now. 
  The winners, if the plan is implemented, are the smaller
businesses, many of which, won't pay a dime under the new flat rate
tax. They will pay through the personal income tax however. 
  Business guy/gov. Mr. Snyder wants to eliminate all the tax
credits that many companies receive and by doing so he creates the full
employment bill for Lansing lobbyists. 
  The governor observes that over the years those lobbyists have
quietly and systematically stuck tax breaks inside the tax code on
behalf of their clients, which is what they get hefty retainers to do. 
  Mr. Snyder, on a self-imposed mission to reinvent the culture in
this town, believes that is "an indication of political power" which
may be the understatement of the month. 
  Rather he would wipe out the tax code and start over and if a
business wants a tax break the governor wants the lobbyists to go
through the budget process to get there. 
  Grasp the extent of this cultural reform: Everyone loses the tax
breaks they now get, and if they want them renewed they will have to
convince lawmakers and eventually the governor that those credits
produce jobs. 
  Meanwhile the MMA, which represents the Detroit Three, Dow
Chemical and a host of other biggies, ponders what to do next. At this
read it appears on a collision course with the new GOP governor but the
chances are very good that will be avoided as the administration is
willing to give the group a break on the personal property tax which it

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fwd: Where's Nancy When They Need Her?

Where's Nancy Cassis when we need her?
Almost single-handedly, the former Oakland County GOP Senator
worked feverishly to dismantle the widely popular Pure Michigan ad
When the backers of the Tim Allan spots trotted out a report
suggesting for every one dollars spent, state coffers got about three
bucks back, there was the chair of the senate Finance Committee
bemoaning the "doctored" data. And give her credit, she was able to
bottle up one funding mechanism after another.
That give the former governor fits as she desperately wanted to
continue the campaign to have at least one successful program on her
resume as she walked out the door.
But now there's a new sheriff in town and lo and behold he stood
up before the entire state the other night and not only did he embrace
continued funding for the commercials but he bought into the data that
suggested the state made money on the deal.
Oh my. Wonder if Ms. Cassis and her hubby were watching and
wonder what he gave her to claim her down after that?
It appears that Gov. Rick Snyder has preempted all the
conservative GOP carping about the ad campaign.
In a house committee the other day, the Republicans were falling
all over themselves to embrace the commercials as the tourist industry
folks smiled.
The data suggests that $93 million has flowed into the state as a
result of the 5 million trips others have made in the Great Lakes
That is Pure Michigan at its best some would argue.
The former senator might counter it is Pure something else, but
she's not around any more which is why the tourism lobby is smiling.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fwd: skub blog tuesday

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu, Feb 3, 2011 10:11 am
Subject: Fwd: skub blog tuesday

-----Original Message----- 
Sent: Thu, Feb 3, 2011 7:13 am 
Subject: skub blog tuesday 
Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines.  
  This one is dead.  
  The new governor did a silly thing the other night. He established a
goal that can't be met. Points off. The three previous governors failed
at goading lawmakers to finish the state budget ahead of the October
1st deadline. There is no reason to believe Gov. Rick Snyder will do
any better even though he really believes he can.  
  Can you say rude awakening?  
  The budget deadline is one of those few visible elements of state
government that the typical Joe and Josephine can actually understand:
either lawmakers hit it or they don't.  
  And when they miss it, the government shuts down. That story usually
gets in the paper and on the tube and even folks who flunked civics,
determine that is bad..even though some would be pleased if the
shutdown was permanent, but we digress.  
  Now comes the new gov. in town who has moved the deadline to May 31st
so that lawmakers can march in their Memorial Day parades and boast
about getting the job done ahead of time.  
  When he revealed the accelerated time frame from the previous July
1st date to the new one, everyone in the house chamber erupted in
thunderous applause.  
  Wowie, wow, wow. Some of the newbies in the audience must have
thought: This guy is a real leader and we will follow him.  
  Reality check.  
  Mr. Snyder will present his draconian budget slashing spending
outline the middle of February. That will give the two budget
committees exactly three and one half months to complete the job.  
  Who is he kidding?  
  Over half of the house appropriations committee has never done this
before. Never.  
  It could take them three months to figure out the difference between
a line item and boilerplate language.  
  In normal times when money was flush, this might be possible. But
times ain't normal and the state ain't flush.  
  Faced with a formidable deficit of $1.7 billion and counting,
lawmakers are not going to rubber stamp the new governor's first budget
no matter how much they like him. The lobbyists, special interest
groups and everyone and his uncle who does not want a cut, will see to
  And in reality a budget deadline for lawmakers is not like one in the
private sector where the CEO needs to get widgets out on time.  
  There should not be a rush to get the job done. Democracy, they tell
us in the civic class you flunked, should be deliberate so that all
sides can weight in.  
  Three and a half months won't cut it.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jack's Back

If you were in a barroom brawl, you'd want to have this guy on
your side.
Jack is back.
Macomb County Sen. Jack Brandenburg is a former quarterback, he
could have been a gun-slinger in the ole west, and he cuts a wide path
around these parts as the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
As such, turns out, he is not on the governor's side when it comes
to revamping the state's business tax.
Gov. Rick Snyder is promoting a 6% flat tax to replace the wildly
unpopular Michigan Business Tax. The Snyder concept is opening to
pretty good reviews, but enter Senator B.
He favors a plan to eliminate all the business taxes…that's right
all of them.
It is vintage Brandenburg at its best or worst depending on your
philosophical bent.
He's had it with nibbling around the edges of tax reform which
lawmakers and former governors have been nibbling at for ions.
Mr. Brandenburg concludes the Snyder plan does not "go far enough"
and his idea is a self-described "bold stroke" that sends the message
that "What's good for business is good for Michigan" as he tells the
Macomb Daily.
Well that takes care of that.
Not so fast.
Wiping out the tax adds another billion or so dollars to the $1.5
billion of red ink floating around this town.
Big Jack will have an answer for that, too: Just cut more state
services to make up the difference.
Of course all the special interest groups that make a living by
squeezing state tax dollars out of the capitol, will cry foul and point
out that they can't take anymore cuts thank you very much.
And what about the governor?
He's a guy who campaigned on reducing taxes and Mr. Brandenburg
has called his bluff. This is now put up or shut up time.
If the governor labels this no-tax concept as irresponsible,
there goes the conservative GOP base up in arms. And if he embraces
it, those who thought this was a moderate governor who was willing to
work with all sides, will conclude he is John Engler reincarnate.
Once more one of the governor's fellow Republicans, Big Jack., has
put the governor in a lose-lose position.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Job

It was probably the correct call but every time the legislature
does something such as this, you gotta wonder, how does this play with
the citizens who sent these folks to Lansing?
Before one drop of snow hit the capitol lawn, there was the senate
GOP leader Randy Richardville declaring that session would be scrubbed
for the rest of this week.
"It was common sense," he explains.
He woke up on Tuesday morning, took one peak at the Weather
Channel and concluded it would be unsafe for the state's 38 senators to
be struggling to get to the capitol in the midst of the world's worse
ever blizzard..or so the news media would have you believe. (After all
a little hype to boost audience numbers during a sweeps month is hardly
a mortal sin...or is it when they get it way wrong?)
Soon after that the House Speaker Jase Bolger pulled the same
trigger sending his 110 members home until next Tuesday.
Fact is, these folks weren't doing much of anything anyway.
Richardville correctly points out the governor's budget won't be out
until the middle of this month and other work could be done on the
phone so why take the risk?
But take the rest of the week off?
Well turns out lawmakers don't come in on Fridays and Mondays even
when it's 90 degrees outside. And as far as taking Thursday off,
Richardville again correctly observes it did not make sense to send
Upper Peninsula senators home on Tuesday and ask them to come back on
Thursday assuming they could get back to town.
However most working slugs won't take the rest of the week off
just because of the storm on Wednesday. And those same folks were
mighty upset that they had to work on Wednesday when lawmakers did not
and they flooded one Detroit radio station with their, shall we say,
In fact it go so bad that Rep. Vicki Barnett of Farmington Hills
called in to explain she and her colleagues were willing to stay in
town and work, but the leadership "told us to go home."
Yet the legislative leaders have a come back for all the
criticism: Even though legislators are not in the state capitol, that
does not mean they are not working back home…if you count shoveling
snow part of their state job description.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Job Gap Gets Wider

Narrowing the gap between the haves and the have not's in society
is a long standing goal and despite the desire, the gap is getting
wider and the number of gaps is getting larger.
Years ago it was a money gap.
Now its an information gap as the haves have easy access to the
Internet while the have not's are reduced to lining up at the library
to go there, if they have a library to go to.
There is also the educational gap which should shock no one.
But at a recent economic forecasting session in this town, the
affable researcher from the University of Michigan, George Fulton,
nailed this one with his data.
Simply put if you have a sheep skin you have an easier time
finding a job. It's always been that way, but now the gap is gapping.
Amazingly in 2001 it made little difference if you had a
four-year degree. There were still plenty of assembly line jobs to
walk into but then, with the steady decline of that, the gap got worse
until now, workers sans degree are truly disadvantaged.
And here's the vicious cycle. To get into college you need a
good high school education. Kids who are poor, generally end up in
poor schools which means they may not qualify.
And even if they do, the cost of higher education continues on
an upward spiral as state support has declined dramatically over the
years. During the glory days, 70% of university funding came from
Lansing. Now the bulk of it comes from moms and dads who pay higher
And as the price of college climbs, poorer children get priced
out of the market even though universities are making a good faith
effort to provide loans and scholarships.
If the new governor wants to reinvent Michigan this is one place
to start but with what? More money? There is none and the gap goes up
another notch.