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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tricky, Tricky

Watch closely now. The "magicians" in Lansing are about to pull
a "nothing-up-my-sleeve" trick to make it easier to pass the governor's
wobbly modified pension tax.
In trouble from the get go, the governor's so-called compromise
on the unpopular tax on retirement checks is not doing much better
which is why the chair of the House Tax Policy committee is taking a
back door route to enact it.
Instead of an up or down vote on the merits of the pension tax
itself, which could mean almost certain defeat, Rep.Jud Gilbert
(R-Algonac) wants to tuck it into the governor's plan to revamp the
Michigan Business Tax.
That means if lawmakers vote yes on the new 6% corporate business
income levy, they are at the same time automatically approving the
pension tax.
So what?
This slight-of-hand maneuver is designed to give some cover for
lawmakers who are antsy about backing the pension concept and fear
voter back lash at home.
Here's how it works. They vote for the business tax and when
constituents complain about the pension tax going on, too, lawmakers
can say, "I had no choice. We need to revamp the business tax in order
to make the economy grow and unfortunately included in the bill was the
pension tax. I did not put it there and would have preferred that it
not be in there, but what was I to do?" (cue the alligator tears.)
Now there is some chatter that combining the two ideas into one
bill may be illegal but Gilbert does not seem concerned and forges
ahead setting up a possible court challenge if this scheme works.
That's the risk, but magic is always risky.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Close But No Cigar

Somewhere out there in TV land sits a former Michigan governor
who must be saying, "Why didn't any of this stuff happen to me?
For eight long and tortuous years, ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm
waited for the illusive economic recovery to arrive on her doorstep.
She left office, still waiting.
Gov. Rick Snyder has been in office just over a hundred and days
and woke up to read that the state's economic forecasts were off by
$500 million meaning half a million dollars appeared out of nowhere.
Here's why.
General Fund collections: Up $178 million.
School Aid Fund: Up $65 million.
Sales tax collections: Up 37%.
Business tax income: Up 26%
Withholding tax revenue: Up $67 million.
It may be premature to sing Happy Days Are Here Again, but the
Fat Lady is in rehearsals to do just that.
Whereas the former female governor toiled over how to cut the
budget because she had to, the new guy is faced with cutting the budget
because he wants to. There will be pressure from lawmakers to use some
of the $500 mil to restore cuts to education and other essential
programs, but others will argue it should go into the state's depleted
Rainy Day Fund.
It's the kind of philosophical debate that any governor would be
willing to tackle, but here's the harsh reality which makes politics so
unfair. None of this is the result of anything Gov. Rick Snyder has
done but some of it is the result of what she did.
But guess who will get the credit?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That Darn Internet

Gov. Rick Snyder finds himself exactly where three of his
predecessors found themselves: subject of a recall effort. Suffice it
to say, however, that Governors Granholm, Blanchard and Engler were not
shivering in their boots over the prospects of being bounced from
You see the recall bar for governors is very up there
around Venus and Mars.
Recallers need 800,000 petition signatures to place the thing on
the ballot and to withstand a legal challenge from the governor's
legal eagles, they need another 200,000 names as a pad. That means
thousands of names must be gathered everyday for 180 days to even have
a shot at this thing.
So Mr. Snyder is not worried..except.
Except for that darn Internet.
It was not in full bloom when governors G, B, and E were in town
but it is now and recall organizers could use it to make a little
The fortunate thing for the Snyder crowd is the fact that
signatures can not be collected over the Internet. Good thing because
otherwise he would not have to worry about the daily commute from A2 to
the state capitol.
Recallers can use the Internet to rally the troops; to post
locations where petitions can be collected person to person and one
could develop a hefty email list that might increase the chances for
But still the task is daunting given that the movement has a web
location but no money.
Hence the governor is not losing sleep over this one, but his guys
will still keep an eye on all this..just in case. After all ousting
him from office was not one of the Snyder "reinvent Michigan"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

R's Push Back Governor

Nobody expected Republicans to roll-over and play dead when it came to the new governor's budget agenda and recent events have boldly underscored the fact that just because Rick Snyder wants it, members ofhis own party may balk at doing it.

This must be a shock to the value system of the former CEO who pretty much had it his way when it came to major decisions. He gave the order and all his underlining's snapped to it. The Michigan legislature is not Mr. Snyder's company as he is slowly finding out.
Item: The governor does not want to cut Community Colleges.
House Republicans cut them by 15%.
Item: The governor wants to cut $470 from every school kid in the state. The measure was ready to move last week but was suddenly ranked as some House Republicans think that cut is a tad extreme.
Item: The governor wants to use a surplus in the K-12 school aid fund to pay for higher education cots. Obviously the school lobby went bonkers and has apparently found some legislative friends who believe the "thievery" should be reviewed.
Welcome to Lansing Mr. New Governor.
Now if Mr. Snyder is upset by all this, he has not let on in public where he continues to wax on about how the legislature is his "partner" and has a right to do its own thing.
You bet it does. Lawmakers get paid to review, rewrite and yes, even reject those items it deems inappropriate. That's why they call this a representative Democracy. Had the founding Dads wanted a benevolent dictator, they would have written one into the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gov. Cries Uncle on Pension Tax

The governor finally caved on his demand for an across the
board tax on all pensions and by rying uncle, he has demonstrated he is
willing to compromise and on that front he should take a bow.
When he proposed a tax on public and private pensions last
February, he bravely put up a good front and argued it was the "right
thing to do." Only problem was, from the opening salvo, this thing was
DOA as senate Republicans quickly and decisively dumped all over the
The governor took his time tossing in the towel but in the
he proved he could count and he could not get to 20 votes in the
Senate, so instead, he agreed to revise his program and now the
modified pension tax has a better chance of seeing the light of day.
He also proved that he was willing to compromise which is not
dirty word. He, of course, said nothing about caving in, choosing
instead to to say his original plan was a "starting point for
discussion" implying that he knew he would have to alter the plan all
Give some credit to the Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville
who leveled with the governor when he needed to be leveled with.
Richardville is an old hand at writing a compromise and Mr. Snyder saw
the handwriting on the wall that he was getting no where fast.
In this case, he discovered that just because he thought he
right, that did not mean that everyone would agree with him and that's
a good lesson to learn as he seeks to mold other "deals" on other
issues down the road.
Being right is one thing, but knowing when to chuck that
attitude is a more important trait to own and the new governor has
shown, he gets it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poor,Poor Katie

It doesn't happen often, but when the history of the past finds

itself super-imposed on history in the making, it can be rather
disconcerting. Such was the case the other day with the
earth-shattering revelation that the Katie Couric "experiment" as
anchor of the CBS Evening news had gone down the tubes.
At the same time that was making news, a reporter was weeding
through a 2007 book, Reality Show, which chronicled the courting of
Ms.Couric by the wizards at the network that Uncle Walter built.
"Reality Show" by the noted journalist Howard Kurtz was an
insightful read into the inner machinations of how all the current
anchors got to be where there were but the stuff on the first female
anchor was prophetic at best and deeply revealing at worst.
Seems the former Today Show co-anchor had a major gene missing
from her reporting DNA namely news judgement or the lack of same.
Item: The 2006 election saw a seismic change in the political
landscape in the nation's capitol. With a war-crippled President Bush
in the White House, the GOP witnessed the loss of both the U.S. House
and Senate. Democrats winning control was a mando story and Ms.
Couric's rivals realized that. Brian Williams at NBC and the
bespeckled Charlie Gibson over at ABC lead with the story.
The CBS anchor lead with the death of CBS correspondent Ed
Bradley had died the day after the earth shattering election. Not only
did she ignore the D takeover in the lead, she devoted half of the news
cast to the passing of her colleague.
Bradley must have been spinning in his grave at the lack of news
savvy on her part.
Item: The balance of Democratic power in the Senate hung by a
one vote thread so when the Democratic Senator from South Dakota
suffered a potential career and life-ending stoke, this was major news.
All of the networks were sensitive to the fate of Tim Johnson but
this was more than a personal story, it had far-reaching political
ramifications. If Johnson could not serve the GOP would have as many
votes as the Democrats and Vice President Cheney could break the ties.
Once more the boys at NBC and ABC got it and once more the
anchor at CBS did not.
Ms.Couric started her newscast with, "I'm Katie Couric. And
it's beginning to look a lot more like Christmas in the checkout lines...",
she waxed on about a story that deserved to be in the rundown but not
at the top of the newscast.
Kurtz reports that "Couric later concluded that they had made
the wrong call."
No-double duh!
Perhaps the only amazing part of this story is that she lasted
as long as she did.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bridging the Gap

The Snyder administration has a new theme song: Bridge Over
Troubled Waters or in this instance, No bridge.
The governor in January made a bold move by endorsing a second
span between Detroit and Windsor. House Democrats were elated since
that was their top legislative priority in that 20,000 jobs would flow
out of the thing, if it ever got built. Legislative Republicans were
anything but elated.
And the new governor is discovering the "if" is huge.
He publicly glows that "We're doing fine on the bridge."
With all due respect to the eternal optimist, he's in denial.
And that is not a river in Egypt!
He does not have the GOP votes to pass this. Period.
The chair of the senate transportation committee says he is
neutral which is as good as a no vote and his counterpart in the house
is saying he is open to it, but he does that out of deference to his
GOP governor.
You see lots of Republicans worship at the alter of the private
sector and many feel the owner of the Ambassador Bridge should be given
a chance to build the second span. The gov's guys contend Mr. Mouroun
can bid on this public- project but that has not appeased the R's.
Over a month ago, the administration revealed it was preparing a
compromise to bridge the gap and it would be coming out in two weeks.
That two weeks went by and sources said it would be within the next two
weeks and those two weeks came and went too.
Now the governor proudly announces that this thing will be teed
up next week when lawmakers return to work. But it may be sitting on
the tee until steps up to hit it and so far no one has volunteered.
All this means, the governor will need some Democrats to get this
done, but the D's will want something in return and once they have him
over the barrel, they will ask for the moon and the stars.
And then was does Mr. Optimism do? If he caves to the Democrats,
the Republicans will be unhappy, but if he does not bend to the D's,
his chances of getting the bridge are not good.
Somebody cue Simon and Garfinkel.

Monday, April 4, 2011

DeVos for U.S. Senate?

Maybe Betsy can do what Dick could not. Maybe Betsy DeVos can win
a statewide race next year.
Word has it that some GOP-types have approached the spouse of the
former GOP candidate for governor, to inquire as to her interest in
taking on U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow next year.
Mrs. DeVos has never run for anything except state GOP chair and
she held that post until she had a very nasty and very public falling
out with John Engler. The issue was school vouchers: The DeVos family
was for it; Mr. Engler said it was a loser of an issue and the voters
eventually agreed with him.
A source described her as "intrigued" by the notion, but being
intrigued is one thing, deciding to launch an expensive and
time-consuming campaign is quite another. Plus, if DeVos got it, it's
likely she would have to spend even more to win in what could be a
crowded GOP primary next year. Although she might scare some folks out
of the race if she and her hubby opened their check book early on to
signal their intentions to spend whatever it takes to win.
Given the fact that the DeVos retirement account took a $35
million hit during the ill-fated Dick DeVos race for governor in 2006,
they might decide that once was enough.
Nonetheless there could be a Betsy for U.S. Senate Facebook page
showing up on the Internet soon just to test the waters. If only
Dick's name and that of long time aide Greg McNeily appear, so much for
The thing about the divine Mrs. D is that you either love her or
you don't and it's been a while since that head count was taken. Let
the counting begin.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Offending the Governor

For eight years, legislative Republicans took one shot after another aimed at the Democratic governor. Sometimes it was easy pickin's but now those same GOP folks have a more delicate tight rope to traverse.

One of their own is running the show and the R's have to be careful about what they say about Gov. Rick Snyder. The most embarrassing incident so far was his endorsement of the second span between Detroit and Windsor. Republicans sat on their hands while Democrats gave the gov a standing-o during his State of the State.
Sen. Republicans have been more vocal about opposing the Snyder pension tax and they will even go behind closed doors again to draft some budget alternatives, but there is no civil war.
The governor has played his part well. He acknowledges that the legislature has a right to pursue its own agenda, even though it may be counter to his own.
What else can he say?
He can't blast them just as he hopes they won't blast him.
So far, the governor has chalked up two major victories with the help of his party with no help from the D's.
The item-pricing repeal is a done deal. And sending in some one to save cities and schools from drowning in red ink, was adopted in record time…which is pretty good for this new bunch of lawmakers. The aforementioned bridge is another story. Republicans are sitting on their support while saying they want to work with the governor on this.
What else could they say?
But increasingly Mr. Snyder is going to need some Democrats to cough up some bridge votes and in private he has asked how many he can get.
He can get enough, but it will cost him. D's know they have him over the barrel, so the price tag will be high. The governor must give them something they want and if and when he does, it will be tough for the Republicans to keep their mouths shut.
The temptation to say something naughty about their governor will be real.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Keeping a Procedural Promise

Give the House Republicans a little credit: They refuse to violate

one of their promises they made when they swiped control of the house
last November even though the temptation to do it is off the charts.
This is a tad convoluted but read on.
Before a bill becomes law, the house, with a two thirds vote, can
give the measure what they call immediate effect e.g. it becomes law
the moment the governor signs it. Without, I.E. the new law has to
wait until 90 days after the legislature adjourns at the end of year.
So I.E. is a big deal but rather than hold a formal vote to see if
two thirds of the membership favors it, the tradition has been to "fast
gavel" the I.E. motion.
It goes like this: All those in favor of immediate effect say
aye..all those opposed say nay and without adding up the votes, the
speaker than declares, "Immediate effect is ordered."
It's rather anti-democracy but when one party controls the house
this option is often used that is until the R's came in. They promised
not to fast gavel anything even though it is the politically expedient
thing to do.
And there's a hot button issue to end state health care benefits
for live-in and non-married partners of state employees that is on hold
because of that pledge.
Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Oakland County) calls it the "shack-up bill."
The problem is there are not enough R's to give the thing I.E.
and so far only four Democrats are willing to vote for it.
The temptation to fast gavel this one is enormous but here's
where the credit comes in, whether you like the measure or not, the R's
promised not to subvert the voting process and they are not.
They get style points for that, but so far the benefits continue
to flow which drives the R's bonkers.