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Politics
4:07 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

More revenue than expected for Michigan's next fiscal year

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January.

That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services.

That came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing.

State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs.

“What we’ll do is with the one-time money, we’ll look for one-time expenditures," said Nixon. Budget Stabilization Fund is obviously a piece, a good place to put one-time money, as well some of the other spending pressures we have in the budget.”

Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Nixon says he doesn't think that will mean radical shifts in the budget bills lawmakers hope to finish by month's end.

The budget news accompanies forecasts that Michigan’s economy will continue to grow at a slow pace – with many of the new jobs coming from higher-paying fields. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped again in April, hitting 8.3 percent.

When people who have quit looking for work are counted, as well as ­part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 17.8  percent.

Environment & Science
1:54 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Spring brings more bear sightings in West Michigan

Ken Thomas wikimedia commons

There's been a spate of black bear sightings in West Michigan over the past few days with at least one birdfeeder as a casualty.

Residents in Greenville, about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, saw a bear wandering around a residential neighborhood and sightings have also been reported in nearby Lowell and Vergennes Township this week.

Wildlife authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources don't know if it's the same bear being spotted, or more than one.

Bear sightings in general in many parts of the Lower Peninsula have become more common over the past few years.

Last year, the Environment Report's Rebecca Williams took a look at these southward-drifting bears and spoke to Adam Bump, a bear specialist with the MDNR:

[Bump] said a lot of the time, the bears are young males that get pushed out during the breeding season. They’ll head down looking for new territory.

“It’s not that we’re completely full up in the north – it can’t take one more bear – it’s just that we’re getting more taking the chance and moving south.”

He said bears like to travel along rivers and forested corridors and they appear to be finding good routes to travel...

Bump said some female bears appear to be moving south too. And some might be setting up camp... and having babies.

“We think we have an established population now as far down as Grand Rapids, possibly into Ionia County. We're getting more and more reports of bears in southern Michigan, even bears that are too young to have moved, so they had to have been produced in southern Michigan.”

This past February, Williams and producer Mark Brush got the chance to tag along with MDNR biologists in Oceana County as they tranquilized a black bear to replace a radio tracking collar.

Now that the warm weather is here, the collared bear is likely loping around in search of food.

You can see the bear in a deep sleep in the video below.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
12:48 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Goal: Cure Alzheimer's disease by 2050

Ann Gordon Flickr

The National Institutes of Health has set a goal to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease by 2050.

Henry Paulson is the director of the University of Michigan's Alzheimer's Disease Center.

"I'm a 100-percent supporter of this," he says. "This is a huge medical problem. We have over 5-million people who have Alzheimer's now in this country and as we get older, the number is increasing rapidly. So this is a crisis and although we understand a lot about the mechanisms of the disease, we still don't have effective therapies. So this push, this additional support I think will drive toward those therapies that we so desperately need."

16-million Americans are expected to have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia by 2050.

The Obama Administration has allocated $50-million for Alzheimer's Research. N-I-H will spend an additional 30 million on two national studies.

"One of the things I like about the announcement yesterday is there are two major studies that they emphasize that are going to be funded right away," Paulson says. "One is a symptomatic study, that is the intranasal insulin, is looking to see if that can improve symptoms in people who have cognitive impairment. The other study is a preventative study from families who actually have inherited caused dimentia which is not what most people have."

Paulson says many investigators with the U of M's Alzheimer's Disease Center will be applying for additional funding for Alzheimer's research.

- Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
12:09 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Moderate economic growth forecast in Michigan

The Michigan State Capitol.
Jimmy Emerson Flickr

A UM economic forecaster is predicting moderate economic growth for the state until 2014.

The Detroit Free Press reports that George Fulton, director of the Research Center on Quantitative Economics at the University of Michigan, gave the forecast at today's revenue estimating conference at the state Capitol.

From the Freep:

Private sector job growth will continue in 2013 and 2014 but at a more moderate pace than the rapid growth seen in 2011 and the early part of 2012, Fulton said.

"We see a sustained but moderately paced recovery from now until 2014," he said.

The revenue estimating conference is part of finalizing the state's 2013 budget.

Officials try to reach consensus on how much revenue the state can expect in the coming years.

MPRN's Rick Pluta is covering the conference and will have more for us later.

Politics
11:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Will Gov. Snyder turn back his salary this year too?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder turned back all but $1 of his pay last year, but he's not sure what he'll do this year.

Since there's no mechanism for the state to withhold his paychecks, the governor still receives his $159,300 salary.

He told reporters Wednesday that he's "going to do something different this year" but doesn't yet have a figure in mind.

Snyder quipped that he plans to "check with my wife" before settling on one.

The Republican governor announced in his 2011 budget address that he'd work for $1 during his first year in office as part of the "shared sacrifice" needed to balance the books.

State workers are scheduled to get a 1 percent raise in October, but also will start paying 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Commentary
10:24 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Commentary: Defector’s Ethics

It’s rare for a politician to switch political parties, but not all that rare. Don Riegle, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, was originally elected to Congress from Flint as a Republican.

After six years in office, he switched and became a Democrat during the Watergate scandal. Naturally, he wasn’t very popular with his former Republican friends. But you have to say this for him. He did so more than a year before the next election.

Read more
News Roundup
8:23 am
Wed May 16, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Michigan’s Budget

A conference today at the state Capitol will determine how much money the Legislature will have to work with for the current and upcoming fiscal years. “Preliminary estimates suggest the state is in for a windfall adding up to tens of millions of dollars. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’s not interested in committing that money to new spending. He says the surplus is not all that big compared to the total budget… The Legislature has set a target of having the budget wrapped up by June 1st,” Rick Pluta reports.

GOP Senate Candidates

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates seeking state or federal offices to file to run in Michigan. And, it looks like the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary will be crowded as five candidates have filed nominating petitions. They are former judge Randy Hekman, businessman Peter Konetchy, co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions Gary Glenn, former-congressman Pete Hoekstra and charter school CEO Clark Durant. The winner of the August 8th primary will face Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in November.

Anti-Fracking Ballot

People who oppose a form of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" are officially launching a petition drive to ban the practice in the state. Tracy Samilton reports:

"Horizontal hydraulic fracturing" uses slant drilling to inject chemicals or water into rocks to fracture them, in order to extract oil or natural gas. LuAnne Kozma is the campaign's director. She says fracking uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate water. A spokesman for a company with exploratory wells in Michigan says the state has some of the most rigorous safety regulations in the nation for fracking. Petition organizers must get more than 322,000 signatures by July 9th, to get the issue on the November ballot.

Politics
7:59 am
Wed May 16, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

allieosmar Flickr

Every week we check in with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on what's happening in state politics. On tap for this week:

The state holds a revenue estimating conference today... we'll get a better idea of how much money the state will take in and the political consequences of a possible budget surplus. Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates who want to run for many local and statewide elections. We ask: who's in, who's out, and what were the big surprises. And, a petition drive is underway to ban"fracking" in the state constitution.

Election 2012
7:51 am
Wed May 16, 2012

MI GOP Senate primary could be crowded

Former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra is one of five candidates running in the GOP's August 8th Senate primary
Republican Conference Flickr

Five candidates have filed to run in Michigan’s Republican U.S. Senate primary. Yesterday was the deadline for candidates for most state and federal offices to submit their petitions to appear on the August primary ballot.

The campaign is already underway as the five GOP hopefuls appeal to prospective Republican primary voters. They’re arguing over who is the most conservative and who presents the best chance for the GOP to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Retired judge Randy Hekman says he’ll put his conservative credentials up against anyone else in the field.

“We’ve got 90 days to show who we are, how we differ from others, how we’re going to fix our country, move ahead and win this thing," Hekman says.

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra, charter school CEO Clark Durant, businessman Pete Kontechy, and Gary Glenn – co-author of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions — have also filed.

“Jobs is going to be the Number One issue that I’m going to be talking about, but then you’ve also got some cultural issues. President Obama did me a favor last week when he came out and endorsed so-called homosexual marriage," Glenn says.

Their petition signatures still need to be officially counted and certified. Candidates also have until Friday to change their minds about putting their names on the ballot.

Auto
7:30 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Retirees await details of Ford’s offer to pay pensions in lump sum

From left to right Ford retirees Larry Mcknee, Robert Matsui, Allan Yee, and Bill Reckinger meet up Friday afternoons for golf.
Alex Schulte Michigan Radio

90,000 white collar Ford retirees will soon have a big decision to make. Should they stay in the auto company’s pension plan? Or take their chances with a lump sum payout instead?

The offer Ford Motor Company announced in late April is believed to be the first of its kind for such a large ongoing pension fund.

Lump sum the buzz at Ford retirement clubs

In Michigan there are more than 30 clubs for Ford retirees. The lump sum option is the conversation at retiree club meetings right now.

“Retirees are going to have to make a decision about mortality, about death; their own. That’s not something we do every day,” Ford retiree Charles White said. White worked at the Dearborn campus for 29 years in engineering management. He retired in 1996.

Read more
Environment & Science
6:24 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Signature collecting begins in earnest for anti-fracking petition drive

People who oppose a form of oil and gas drilling known as "fracking" are officially launching a petition drive to ban the practice in Michigan.

"Horizontal hydraulic fracturing" uses slant drilling to inject chemicals or water into rocks to fracture them, in order to extract oil or natural gas.

LuAnne Kozma is the campaign's director.

She says fracking uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate the water.

"Another huge concern is this deadly toxic gas called hydrogen sulfide gas, or H2S."

A spokesman for a company with exploratory wells in Michigan says the state has some of the most rigorous safety regulations in the nation for fracking.

Petition organizers must get more than 322,000 signatures by July 9, to get the issue on the November ballot.

Read more
Health/economy
6:21 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Allegiance soon to be Jackson's first teaching hospital

The city of Jackson is getting its first teaching hospital.

Allegiance Hospital will soon start accepting medical students and residents to train them for their future practices.

Dr.  John Lake is Allegiance's Program Director for Family Medicine.

He says the hospital's start up costs could run into the millions of dollars - but it will be worth it, because being a teaching hospital keeps instructing physicians "on their game," and having residents improves patient care.

"There will be time to spend with patients to explain a lot of things to them," says Lake, "And I think (in) more of a depth than we would normally have time for because (the residents) will be there 24/7."

Lake thinks having a teaching hospital will also be good for Jackson, providing a spark to the local economy.

He says about 20% of doctors end up practicing where they do their residency.

Read more
Transportation
5:58 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

State announces milestone in long-delayed Gateway Project

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley at the truck road opening Tuesday.
Michigan Department of Transportation via facebook

State officials celebrated a major milestone toward finishing the long-delayed Gateway Project Tuesday.

They opened a road that will route trucks directly to the Ambassador Bridge from surrounding highways.

The Gateway Project is meant to better connect the bridge and highways. It’s also supposed to keep heavy truck traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods.

Read more
Investigative
4:28 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Money Talks: Even when the donors are secret

It appears a superPAC and other political groups are coordinating their purchases of TV ads running in Michigan.  This means a more efficient use of secret money to influence voters.

Michigan TV stations across the state are running a series of ads critical of President Obama and his administration.

Here's an example of one of the ads.

Read more
Offbeat
4:05 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Windsor man, accused of jewel theft, blocks police investigation

user jurvetson flickr

When you think of a jewel heist, you probably imagine a cat-like thief dressed in all black slinking around a bank vault or dark mansion with a set of lock picks. On the trail is a clever police detective who needs quick wits to make the bust.

But a recent caper in Windsor is proving to be a bit more irregular.

According to CBC News, Windsor police have a man in custody after he allegedly not only stole a diamond from a jewelry store, but swallowed it in a effort to dispose of the evidence. Now they're playing the waiting game.

A clerk at the jewelry store became suspicious when the man fumbled the $20,000 stone, the CBC reports, and the jeweler determined that it had been switched with a fake. They managed to stall the suspect until police arrived.

More from the CBC:

Sgt. Brett Corey said the man is being kept in a special cell, without a toilet.

"We are monitoring his bowel movements, if you will. Our forensic identification people are the lucky ones who have to go through the waste to obtain the diamond once it passes," Corey said.

But things aren't coming out exactly as planned.

The suspected thief was arrested last Thursday, but as of this morning, he was still holding back the evidence police need to clinch their case.

Here's the report from the CBC:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Auto
2:45 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Former Ford Chairman and CEO Harold "Red" Poling dies at 86

Harold "Red" Poling, former Ford Motor Company Chairman and CEO.
Ford

Harold A. Poling, a former Ford Motor Company chairman and CEO who was credited for reviving the company in the 1980s, died at age 86. The Detroit Free Press reports Poling passed away on May 12 in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Ford Motor Company released this statement after the news of Poling's death.

“Red Poling was an extraordinary leader who had a profound impact on Ford Motor Company and everyone who worked with him.  With a list of accomplishments that span 43 years, including leading the company through a remarkable turnaround during the 1980s and 1990s, Red was respected by all for his leadership, his passion for being the low-cost producer and  his genuine affinity for people.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

The Detroit News reports Poling made difficult decisions in the 1980s, including decisions that led to plant closures and layoffs, that returned the company to profitability.

But earlier than most American car executives, he studied Japanese practices such as just-in-time parts delivery.

"I took some very harsh actions back then," he told The Detroit News in 1993. "Ford was losing large sums of money, and there were no road maps for turning a company around. So it was all up to me."

Poling focused on quality. During the 1980s, Ford was counting on the new Escort to shore up sagging sales. But Poling delayed the introduction of an automatic transmission for the car until quality problems had been solved.

He also delayed the introduction of the Taurus by nine months until quality issues had been resolved.

The Detroit Free Press reports when Poling retired in 1994 "the company was preparing to launch a new Mustang, introduce its first minivan with the Windstar and sell the tiny Aspire subcompact car," and that he was part of a management team that "approved $3 billion to develop the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable." 

As a child, Poling said he spent a lot of time with his father who was a mechanic. “We’d grind valves, change piston rings and clutches and do lots of other jobs. It was serious work but to me it was interesting.”

One of four children, he enlisted in the Navy and then went to graduate from Monmouth College before receiving his MBA from Indiana University.

The Freep reports Poling's "all-time favorite car was the 1932 Ford Model A, the first car he bought, used, but in good shape."

Crime
2:26 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

New report highlights challenges for Michigan's juvenile lifers

user FatMandy flickr

Teen offenders in Michigan are worse off than teens in other states.

That's according to a new report from Michigan-based Second Chances 4 Youth and the state chapter of the ACLU

Read more
Politics
2:06 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Projections: Less money for Michigan in next fiscal year

Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The House and Senate fiscal agencies have come out with their revenue estimates ahead of Wednesday's revenue estimating conference, and the news isn't all good.

Both say they expect the state general fund to take in less revenue in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 than it will this year as companies pay less money because of the business tax cut that took effect early this year.

They expect the drop to be bigger than they forecast in January.

Next fiscal year's school aid revenues may be slightly higher than forecast.

The directors of the House and Senate fiscal agencies will meet Wednesday with state Treasurer Andy Dillon to set revenue estimates lawmakers will use as they finish work on the budget for the upcoming year.

Commentary
10:22 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Commentary: Robbing the poor

A year ago, in their zeal to give businesses an enormous tax cut, the governor and the legislature considered virtually eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. In the end, they didn’t quite kill it. Instead, they merely took most of it away.

When they did, there was hardly a whimper of protest from the Democrats. About the only group which seemed upset was the non-profit and non-partisan Michigan League for Human Services.

Read more
Environment & Science
10:04 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Michigan retailers importing cherries

Smeltzer Orchards in northern Michigan had to import cherries - for the first time ever.
Bob Allen

When you scoop up ice cream with cherries in it this summer or add a handful of dried cherries to your salad chances are the fruit won’t be from Michigan. Or even from the United States.

Extremely unusual weather this spring has crippled the state’s entire tree fruit industry. The bulk of the nation’s tart cherry crop is produced here.

The official estimate for the size of the cherry crop won’t be in for a few more weeks.

Even the most optimistic projections for the amount of fruit on the trees amounts to less than ten percent of what the state typically grows.

Tim Brian is president of Smeltzer Orchards in Benzie County.

He grabs a stem from a tart cherry tree and with his thumbnail slices open several buds.

"And right there you can see that brown pistil right there, that’s cooked. There isn’t a single good one in this whole cluster."

A bizarre stretch of hot weather in early March woke trees up from winter dormancy. That was followed by more than a dozen nights of hard freezing temperatures.

Brian thinks there will be entire orchards that won’t be harvested at all this year even if there is a scattering of fruit in them.

"I mean, with $4 fuel, even if there is only ten cherries on a tree that’s not going to be economically feasible to harvest."

Smeltzer’s has been in the business for well over a century.  The company runs a medium sized processing plant that freezes and dries cherries.

Inside the plant, a dozen people are pitting and sorting sweet cherries. The thing is… these cherries are from Chile.

"Normally we would not do this. This is actually the first time we’ve done something like this."

Read more

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