Doing something I’ve never done before tonight: Watching the State of the State address on TV. Governor Granholm has a lot riding on this one as she’s set to announce her “No Worker Left Behind” initiative that’s aimed at addressing the thousands of Michigan workers, such as yours truly, who are out of work due to the cutbacks at the Big Three as well as the announcement by Pfizer that they’re shutting down their Ann Arbor facility. Early word has it that it’ll involve investment in training and schooling of Michigan workers as well as more effort put towards attracting more high tech companies to Michigan.
Currently she’s talking about the need to diversify Michigan’s economy. We’ve been too dependent on the automotive industry for too long. The good news is that, outside of the auto industry, companies in Michigan are seeing double digit growth. The 21st Century Job Fund is seeing lots of positive attention from folks looking to start new businesses in Michigan and one field the governor is excited about is Alternative Energy. Tonight the governor is announcing a new initiative over the next three years to attract even more alternative energy companies to Michigan. She wants to take Michigan from the state that put America on wheels to the state that breaks America’s dependence on foreign oil. Plans on the table to get Michigan to get 10% of its energy from alternative sources within 10 years and then double that within the next 10 as well as to get 1,000 ethanol pumps at gas stations around the state for folks who have cars that can make use of it.
The state has managed to trim down the number of employees by 7,000 people since 2000 and the Michigan government is smaller than it was in 1973. Currently is tied for third best managed state government and is number 1 for use of technology to improve state government. Asking local and city governments to consolidate and conserve resources as well as school districts. Increases in state revenue sharing will be dependent on showing that consolidation and conservation efforts are being put into place.
More investment in Michigan’s child welfare system to increase the number of case workers and do more background checks on people in the foster care system. Reforms to Michigan’s prison system to deal with growing costs such as low cost alternatives for non-violent offenders. The governor ties the need for investment in education into this issue.
Just stated that she refuses to slash the school budget in the middle of this year. Now she’s touting the accomplishments of recent standards on improving academic scores in just about every district in the state. Plans to set the bar even higher for schools and more investment in early childhood education. Wants kindergarten to be a requirement for all kids (I didn’t know that it wasn’t) and wants to set a requirement that all kids be in school until they are 18 revoking an 1895 law that says it’s OK to drop out at 16 in Michigan. Talk of reinventing the high school experience.
She’s discussing the new Michigan Promise program that aims to guarantee all high school graduates with the funding to get a two year degree. The first class under this program will be starting this fall. Just announced that for the next three years the state will offer free community college tuition for unemployed workers to get additional education — the aforementioned No Worker Left Behind. Launching the Michigan Nursing Corp to address the shortage of nurses in Michigan. Now on the Michigan First Health Care program. A program to grant universal health care to uninsured citizens.
She’s just called for the removal of barriers in Michigan on stem cell research in the state. Implied that if the legislators won’t do this that the citizens will with who the vote for in the next election. She’s moving quickly through her speech as she’s now on about the need to revitalize Michigan’s cities. Michigan housing commission will be working on tearing down 5,000 blighted homes in various cities to improve neighborhoods. More investment to increase the number of firemen and policemen on the job. Wants to introduce legislation to replicate the Kalamazoo Promise in other cities in addition to the Michigan Promise (which was based on the Kalamazoo Promise). Says that in order for Michigan to move forward we must invest in the education of our citizens.
Discussing the current fiscal crisis created in part by the elimination of the Single Business Tax without a form of replacement for the $2 Billion in state revenue it generated. Talking about how since she’s been in office she’s cut the budget every single year and is working with 40% of the budget of her predecessor. She says that trying to deal with the $2 Billion hole in the budget with additional cuts wouldn’t work and would cripple the state’s ability to provide services. She plans to introduce a big revamp to Michigan’s tax code in addition to some cuts to address the fiscal crisis.
She’s just launched a preemptive attack on the “naysayers” (read: Republicans) who are already denouncing her budget when she hasn’t even unveiled it yet. Just got her first half-standing ovation: Democrats going nuts, Republicans sitting and clapping politely. Says that just cutting business taxes isn’t enough to bring companies to Michigan which already has lower business taxes than the national average. Quotes Bill Gates as saying that 21st companies are less worried about business tax in a region as they are in the quality of the workers to be found there. Companies don’t want to invest in a state that isn’t investing in education or that don’t have enough police to respond in an emergency. Back on the we must invest in our people and state tack.
And it’s done. Very interesting overall and I was surprised at how many standing ovations she got throughout the night. The first two-thirds of her speech had both democrats and republicans standing until the last third of the speech in which she threw down the gauntlet on the budget and tax cuts and then the republicans pretty much kept to their seats. She covered a lot of ground and there weren’t a lot of specifics, but that’s pretty much par for the course.
Don’t know how useful this entry will be to anyone not in Michigan (or even anyone in Michigan) and I don’t know if I’ll do anything like it again, but I figured what the hell.