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, May 31, 2011

Bass Ackwards

   Starting next January when the state's latest version of a business tax takes effect, they will be knocking down the doors to create jobs in Michigan.
   Or will they?
   Asked the other day to promise that the state's jobless rate would go down with a new 6% corporate income tax, Lt. Governor Brian Calley refused to promise but would only say Michigan will now do better compared to surrounding states.
   Here's the dirty little secret in all this chit chat about lowering taxes and standing back and waiting for the job flood gates to open.  If you are a biz executive thinking about moving to Michigan, the first question you asked is not about the tax rate.
    You may find that hard to believe, but according to researcher Lou Glazer, it's true.  If fact the tax rate questions doesn't come up until much later in the conversation.
     Turns out the first question on a CEO's mind concerns the quality of life in a state and more importantly what kind of school system will the CEO be getting his or her kids into.
     And there's the real ironic twist in what just happened in this town.  The Snyder administration indirectly siphoned money from education to help underwrite the $1.7 billion business tax cut.
     So if you believe Mr. Glazer is right, that means the new governor got it wrong.  The money should have gone into the schools with less money for the biz tax cut.
     Glazer has found that the state's that are really doing well actually have higher taxes with Minnesota being the best example.
     So while it sounds great that two-thirds of the businesses in Michigan won't pay any taxes, the school aid fund with lose even more money next year because of that.
     Hence the Snyder critics claim the governor got this one bass ackwards.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bipartisanship..Not This Time

   Yes, it was a cultural shift to see this new governor and a brand new bunch of lawmakers do something that others have failed to do in decades.  The passage of the new budget, four months before the October 1st deadline is something to boost about.
      "It was a team effort" Gov. Rick Snyder told reporters while refusing  to single himself out for praise.
      But turns out there were only Republicans on the "team."
     So where were the Democrats?
     Didn't this more moderate GOP governor say he wanted to reinvent Michigan with bi-partisan suppport?
     Well on the budget and the center piece of his turnaround plan, a new business/pension tax, the governor gets a fat zero.  Nary a Democrat offered a yes vote on either...not a one.
     It's not that Mr. Snyder didn't compromise and it's not that the D's didn't get something.  He did and they did.
     The school aid cut started at $470 a student and ended at $100 but with strings attached.  The Democrats were not impressed.
     The governor wanted to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit for needy families on the cusp of making it into the middle class. Democrats wanted to preserve the program and they did, although the gov reduced the grant.
     The governor also modified the pension tax but he did that to get GOP votes as Democrats would have no part of that, either.
     Let's face it.  There is a reason why the governor has an R after his name the Democrats a D.  They view government, spending, and priorities through a different prism and that is reflected in this budget.
     "I still want to work with the Democrats" the governor confided in his office after the news conference putting the budget to bed.  And the Democrats, now that the budget is out of the way, say they want to work with him, too.
      They'll get a chance real soon on building a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
      This'll be fun to watch in that the governor's biggest challenge is lining up his own party to play along with the more than eager Democrats.
      He'll need bipartisanship or the bridge remains on the drawing board.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ms Kabira Khumalo Please open the attached file for more "information please get back to me

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

R's Helping Detroit--What?

    Candidate Rick Snyder had the audacity to run around the state, in GOP neighborhoods, and tell them he wanted to partner with the City of Detroit.  His tune has not changed since he became governor.
    But when he cut revenue sharing even the governor's business buddy, Mayor Dave Bing, had to concede that was a "different kind of partnership." But now comes an opportunity for the governor and his GOP legislative side kicks to do something on the positive side.
   Mr. Bing needs the GOP legislature to grant him the authority to continue the city income and utlitity taxes.  Without that, he's a fiscally dead duck.
He may still end up that way, but getting this stuff is essential.
   Ordinarily having the city over the barrel would be an opportunity for Republicans to extract a pound of flesh.  After all mention Detroit in outstate Michigan and it does not win you votes if you are a GOP lawmaker.
    But Sen. Bert Johnson of Detroit feels no gun to his head as the debate is set to begin.  "Everybody understands the precarious position the City of Detroit is in with it's finances," he states the obvious.
     The governor gets it. He says the tax extensions are "probably the right thing to do."  Ditto from the Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville who has discussed all this with Mr. Bing.
     In many ways this is an easy vote for the R's in that most of their constituents don't pay either the income or the utility tax.  Some suburban lawmakers may have voters who pay the non-resident tax, so maybe they will get a bye from voting for the extension. But there are still enough left over R's who will join the Democrats to get this done.
    Bipartisan cooperation to help the City of Detroit. 
    Give the GOP governor credit for walking the walk and talking the talk.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Saturday, May 21, 2011

So What? Now What?

   So what?
   For many of the unwashed who may have bumped into the story last Thursday, they must of wondered, so what if the governor and the Gop leaders have a "deal" on the budget?
   Try this on for size.
   No government shutdown for openers.
   The self-imposed May 31 deadline that the governor boldly, and some said foolishly set last January, means lawmakers will not be working into the mid-night hour on Sept 30 to finish the budget.  They are getting in done four months before the October 1 deadline.
   That's not too shabby for a non-career politician governor and the 61 new members of the Michigan House who have never written a state budget before.
   Other so what's.
   Schools that have a July one budget deadline of their own can write one with full knowledge of what the state government is doing for them and in this instance "to" them.
   It could have been a $300 slice per pupil which is now down to about one hundred bucks but schools have to jump through some Snyder "best practice" hoops to get the money.  They call it "strings attached" but despite some grumbling the education lobby is pretty much stuck with this thing but it is on time.
   The early completion might help to erase or modify the "Gang that can't shoot straight" image that has plagued former governors and lawmakers.  They always talked about meeting a July one deadline but that came and went and their credibility went with it.
   With the new gov in town, running the state like a business, maybe they all get a bump in the polls?
   But here's the sticky wicket for image worried politicians.  With no budget to keep them busy during the summer, what will they do to justify their full-time pay checks?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Setting Record Straight

   In the biz, this is called a "make-good."  It seeks to correct several erroneous conclusions that were drawn by some who read the recent blog/column on the Finland school system.
   For those who missed it, and shame on you, it noted that somehow the Finnish had found a way to grind out smart students without a ton of government interference and minus a boat load of "reforms" designed to boost test scores.
    On the whole that country is clearly onto something but two important factors were left out of the original story.
    High school kids in Finland score very high on tests compared to the rest of the world.  Come to find out, that is due in part to the weeding out of lower performing students who are not allowed into high school.
    Or put another way, if this country had the same policy most of the under-achievers would be shuffled off to some other program and would not get a chance to finish high school.  That would certainly produce a higher graduation rate and test scores off the charts.
    Secondly, it was reported that Finnish kids do not enter school until age seven but that was misleading in that that country offers a host of pre-school services to those children before they enter school.
     Hence the impression that pre-schoolers were left to play with their Game Boys, and nothing else, was misleading.
     Turns out this new data turned up after the publication of the first story and the corrections came from American educators who felt slightly abused.  Apologies to all and hope this sets the record straight.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where's the Data?

     You've heard  the governor is driven by data. But somehow he can't slap a number on how many jobs his new biz tax will create; he just knows that it will work, so suck it in and trust him already.
      According to the Snyder administration there was no way to quantify the jobs number.  Apparently in this big wide world there is no computer modeling program that could regurgitate a jobs figure.  At least that is their story and they are sticking to it.
      But wait a minute.  That conservative think-tank up in Midland issued a news release the other day trumpeting the "fact" that the new 6% flat-rate corporate income tax will produce "57,000 jobs" in year one and 120,900 by the year 2016."
     How is it the Mackinac Center was able to grind out these numbers when their pal who is running the state could not?
     One of two things is happening here:  The governor didn't want to run the numbers or there really isn't a way to quantify the figure and the center is just making this stuff up. 
      Now the center will deny that allegation, which then means the governor didn't try hard enough to answer the question.  Either way something doesn't smell right.
      Others have joined in the debate.
      Former state treasurer Bob Kleine who worked for Governors Granholm and Engler does not sight any data but concludes, "No one knows for certain but the evidence says it will not" create jobs.
      The governor often points to a recent survey conducted by the small business guys.  He says they will use the tax cut money to create jobs, but the survey suggests that is third on the list.
     The report hints the extra savings will go into the benefits and pay checks of employees first, followed by the purchase of new equipment and then new jobs.
     Another report in the early 1990's concluded that a 10% across the board cut in state and local taxes would produce a 2% spike in employment, but here's the kicker, it would take up to twenty years.
     Maybe the bean counters at the Mackinac Center have a response to that?

Monday, May 16, 2011


From: Barry Mapule
TEL: +27 833 683 978


In order to transfer out (US$15 Million) Fifteen Million United States Dollars from First National Bank (FNB). I have picked up the trust and courage to write you this letter with divine confidence that you are a reliable and honest Person who will be capable for this important business transaction believing also that you will never let me down either now or in the future.

My name is Mr. Barry Mapule a senior Auditing Officer with the FNB in South Africa There is an account opened in this bank in 2000 and since 2002 nobody has operated on this account again. After going through some old files in the records, I discovered that if I do not remit this money out urgently it would be forfeited to the government.
The owner of this account died since 2002. No other person knows about this account or any thing concerning it, the account has no other beneficiary and my investigation proved to me as well that this company does not know anything about this account and the amount involved is (US$15 Million) Fifteen Million United States Dollars.
I want to transfer this sum of Fifteen Million United States Dollars into a safe foreign account abroad. I am contacting you based on the fact that you are a foreigner because this money can only be approved for payment to a foreigner, more so it can not be approved by any local bank here, as this money is in US Dollars hence the former owner of this account is a foreigner too. I know that this proposal will come to you as a surprise as we don't know ourselves before. However I got your contact from a trade consultant here in South Africa though I did not disclose the purpose of my seeking for a foreign business partner to him.

I have involved a very senior official in the Operational department and we have agreed that after the transfer of the money into your account, you shall be entitled to 30% of the total sum. We the officials will take 60% while 10% is for expenses. All necessary precautions have been taken to ensure 100% risk free situation on the side of both parties.
Please note that this deal can only take place on the following conditions: -
1. You will provide the bank account and other relevant Particulars/information for easy and onward Remittance of this money.
2. Absolute confidentiality and sincerity will be required and guaranteed, considering our (me and my partners) positions in the bank.
All things being equal, this transaction will be within 10 working days as soon as we hear from you. Please treat with utmost confidentiality. Contact me as quickly as possible through my phone number: +27 833 683 978 or E-mail address.

Mr. Barry Mapule.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Deal?

     It wasn't much but there was a faint hint of bi-partisan cooperation during the recent senate vote on the governor's biz/pension tax.  The Democrats actually gave the gov something and he returned the favor..or did he?
      For weeks the senate Democratic Leader has belly ached about not being included in budget chats with Gov. Rick Snyder and his two side-kicks in the house and senate.
     Sen. Gretchen Whitmer wanted to help but that came with a price and all this came to a head during the heat of the tax battle last Thursday.
      Here's the inside skinny.
      Lt. Gov. Brian Calley desperately wanted to vote on the tax issue but the only way that could happen was with a 19-19 vote.  Then his vote would provide the historic 20th vote for passage.
      But here was the rub.  Ms. Whitmer was threatening to send some of her Democrats off to Ohio or some other exotic locale.  Then they could not vote and there would be no tie for Calley to break.
       Somebody went to her with this suggestion: If you provide all of your votes, we will buy down the governor's cut to education which was originally pegged at a hefty $470 per pupil.
       Whitmer was intrigued and long story short, she got an agreement from the other side to shave the cut down to around $245.
       In addition, Whitmer knew that some Detroit Democrats were worried that the GOP would never allow a vote on bills to extend Motown's income and utility taxes.  Hence she asked for and got a pledge from the gov's guys that the vote would be held.
       Note that the front office did not promise to supply votes, only to allow it.  She was pleased.
       But come to find out, that vote was going to happen anyway, but nobody told her that.
       Regardless this was bi-partisan cooperation but apparently not with the governor per se.
      Asked about the "deal" the governor wonders, what deal?  He never signed off on it but his senate leader may have without notifying the governor.
      Regardless, it's been learned that this week the governor will endorse using some of the state's surplus to buy down the school aid cut, so in the end, Ms. Whitmer will supposedly get what she wanted anyway.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Told Ya So

    Chalk up another one for the Nerd.
    For a guy who knew very little about politics, Gov. Rick Snyder has cobbled together a very impressive record in his five short months in office capped off this week by passage of his budget centerpiece.
    It was not easy but when the dust settled, the new gov had a new flat rate business tax and a modified pension tax on some retirees and his reinvention Michigan train is rollin' right along.
    Last week the doubters in town figured there were too many Republicans who adhered to the old notion that they would oppose anything that even looked like a tax hike. Seven did.  But 19 of them somehow set that aside and gave Mr. Snyder a yes vote.  His Lt. Governor Brian Calley then delivered the 20th vote for passage.
    Then within a couple of hours, 56 house Republicans followed suit and presto change-o the deed is done.
    While the governor deserves credit for pulling this off, it should be noted that he did it with GOP control of both houses.  Had he produced a goose egg, the boo-birds would have been all over him for being a lack-luster leader.  Instead it looks like he really does know what he is doing.
     Go back to last winter when the governor first proposed the politically incorrect pension scheme. His own team of more seasoned vets lectured the new guy in town that it would never pass.
     "It's the right thing to do," he repeated every time he was told to forget it.
      Mr. Snyder has shown he was right although every Democrat in town disagrees.  Doesn't matter.
      Are you getting ready to say, "I told ya so?" one wag asked the governor.
      "I would never say that," he smiled but in his head, he's certainly justified in thinking it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This is not what the governor had in mind when he coined the phrase
Relentless Positive Action. Seems like some of the ultra conservative
R's in the Michigan House missed that memo because they are passing
stuff that goes contrary to the RPA/Snyder agenda.
Item one: Those right-wingers want universities doing stem-cell
research to fill out lots of forms and send them along to the state.
Item two: Those same universities, that grant health care benefits
to unmarried partners who are living together, could lose 5% of their
state support if they don't shut-off those benefits.
Gov. Rick Snyder is against the reporting and remains non-committal
on item two although he admits the 5% penalty was not his idea.
And that's the point. None of this stuff is.
Recall when he ran for governor he did not come within a country
mile of any social wedge issues which have become the crack-cocaine of
the far-right of his party including anti-gay rights, abortion, death
penalty and more recently the stem-cell issue which, by the way, a vast
majority of Michigan voters said they wanted.
That does not phase some GOP legislators who carry the water for
Michigan Right to Life on this one.
The governor continues on his mission to finish the state budget
before the end of this month and these side shows, albeit very
important to some lawmakers, are anti-RPA. Instead of debating the
numbers in the budget, time is diverted to these questions.
Everyone knew it would come to this, but the governor can not
criticize his "pals" on the right because it's not his nature to do so.
But he knows this is a distraction, but some in the house and senate,
didn't get that memo either.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Counting to Twenty

In a way playing the political game in the legislature is very
easy; all you have to do is count to 20 in the senate and 56 in the
house. It's getting those vote that causes all the problems.
Even though the new governor optimistically reports "We are on a
path" to twenty votes in the senate, the path is not clear, straight,
nor easy. The challenge continues to be, as it has been from the
get-go, Mr. Snyder's fellow Republicans.
And the journey has been complicated by a political "hit piece"
that mysteriously showed up in the mail boxes of GOP lawmakers in both
the house and senate.
It warns that if GOP legislators side with the governor on rising
the tax on some retirees, the State Democratic Party chair, Mark
Brewer, will most certainly come after those R's in the house next
year. The fake flyer warns that Mr. B. will "explain" to voters that
Republicans taxed seniors to give tax relief to big business.
Macomb County Sen. Jack Brandenburg got the anonymous mailing and
was asked would Mr. Brewer do that?
The ultra-conservative former quarterback turned lawmaker answered
the question with one of his own, "Do sharks go to the bathroom in the
Somebody get Jacque Cousteau on the horn.
Brandenburg and other senate Republicans are balking at the
pension tax and the governor and his senate lieutenant Sen. Randy
Richardville continue their coaxing effort to convince them otherwise.
Problem is the measure is a tax increase on some retirees and Mr.
Brewer knows it, even though the gov and Richardville contend it is an
overall tax cut for business.
If the duo can't move enough GOP guys from the "no" to the "yes"
column, the centerpiece of the Snyder reinvention strategy will be for
The governor believes he can count to twenty.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gallery of Govs Expands

As is the tradition, governors who are no longer governors get their
portrait hung in the state capitol rotunda and Jennifer Granholm is the
latest edition to the gallery.
Some governors have included symbolic items that reflect their
accomplishments. Former Gov. Jim Blanchard, for example, had a tiny
Chrysler car in the picture to underscore his role in saving the number
three automaker.
Wags in this town have had fun wondering what the state's first
female CEO might add to her legacy.
On a serious note what about an Electro-lux vacuum cleaner? When the
Greenville manufacturer stiffed the governor and moved all those jobs
to Mexico, Ms. Granholm's economic fate was sealed for the rest of her
tenure. She never presided over an economic turnaround.
Likewise she could have a miniature Chevy and Dodge in the portrait
as she became the first governor to preside over the bankruptcy of two
of the formerly know Big Three.
On a lighter note: A dart board with the pictures of Andy Dillon
and Mike Bishop in the bulls eye. Her "relationship" with the former
Democratic Speaker and former GOP leader consumed hours of rancor
between the trio.
Or how 'bout a U-Haul truck to symbolize the mass exodus from the
state under her watch.
There does seem to be a consensus that a windmill will be on the
canvas which reflects her strong commitment to alternative energy. And
while on that subject, why not a small table fan to go along with her
"blown away in five years" line that will haunt her forever?
And finally, would it not be a hoot if the former governor chucked
her high heel shoes in the portrait for a pair of flip-flops as she did
have a slight propensity to change her position on issues over the
The portrait for posterity was done with private donations. Read:
none of your tax dollars were used.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shoe on Other Foot

Dust off the word "hypocrisy" because it is likely to get a heavy
work out in the unfolding debate over recalling state lawmakers.
When Macomb County anti-tax gadfly Leon Drolet targeted about a
dozen lawmakers for recall because they raised the income tax, the
Democratic Party leaders went ballistic.
They argued that trying to boot out legislators who had the courage
to do that was wrong, un-American, you pick the adjective.
Now comes an effort to oust a GOP lawmaker who introduced the
legislation allowing a local emergency manager to, in effect, cancel
Democracy. If a local government or school is headed for bankruptcy.
the EFM can run the whole show leaving locally elected officials to
watch it all from the sidelines.
Rep. Al Pscholka (r-Stevensville) is not amused. He's got the
first recall target on his back and protests, ""It is sad and shameful
that some would use others as political pawns on behalf of their own
agenda to take the spotlight off their own poor performance."
Boiling that down, he's fingering local officials who have been
temporarily neutered by the EFM for backing the recall to cover-up
their own ineptness.
Let's be clear the recall mechanism is in the books and from time
to time has enjoyed widespread support despite efforts by some
lawmakers to rewrite the law to make the process more difficult.
So now that a Republican is subject to a possible recall, what will
Democrats say about that with the shoe on the other foot?
They have two simple choices: Be consistent and denounce the
effort as they did when their colleagues were under attack or they can
look up the definition of hypocrisy and go with that.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pump Price Relief

Enough already with this lousy four bucks a gallon gasoline.
On the eve of what promised to be a lucrative summer tourism season
in this Water-Wonder Land, now know as Pure Michigan, this is the worst
thing that could happen.
Who the heck wants to drive up to the bridge when you could take the
gas money and fly to someplace warm?
To grant some relief at the pump, there's been some chatter about
suspending the gasoline tax for the summer and in Michigan that would
mean an automatic savings of 19 cents a gallon.
But given a chance to embrace this notion, the governor declined.
His critics will argue, what does he care, the taxpayers are filling up
his black SUV every other day?
Gov. Rick Snyder sees this as a short term fix and he's loathed to
engage in any of that stuff. He is all about long term fixes and views
the temporary hold on the gas tax as counter to his desire to bring
"stability" to the state's economy.
He argues it's the short term fix that got us into this mess in the
first place and a "short-term thing isn't going to make a difference"
so "as a practical matter," he's a no vote.
Some motorists might disagree as they do the math: Buy 20 gallons
of gas and knock off 19 cents for each gallon. That's almost four
bucks in your pocket and not on the outrageous bottom line for the oil
So far no legislator has moved on this although one could predict
that somebody will. It's just too juicy of an issue to ignore and
think of the publicity, positive P.R. such a move would attract.
But the governor is not about P.R. as he doesn't worry about playing
to the grandstands for popular support.
If he was, he never would have endorsed a tax on retirees.