News

Pages

State Budget
6:53 am
Thu February 17, 2011

Governor Snyder to outline budget proposal today

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his budget proposal today to the state Legislature
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Update 6:46 a.m.:

Governor Snyder has given a copy of his $45 billion budget plan to the Associated Press. The AP reports:

Rick Snyder is asking for "shared sacrifice" from everyone from senior citizens to state workers, public schools to city halls as he seeks to make up a huge budget gap with a massive budget overhaul.

Even before Snyder presented the plan to lawmakers Thursday, he was defending it. He says it would put the economically troubled state on sound financial footing.

It would cut spending for schools, universities and local governments while ending many personal tax breaks. It would eliminate before- and after-school programs, cut hundreds of state jobs and ask public employees for concessions.

6:30 a.m.:

Governor Rick Snyder will unveil his budget proposal today at 11 a.m. in Lansing. As the Associated Press reports, the proposal is expected to make, "sweeping cuts to spending and gets rid of billions of dollars in special tax exemptions, including those for seniors."

The state faces a projected $1.5 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. 

State Legislature
6:38 am
Thu February 17, 2011

GOP leaders won't reject Snyder pension tax plan

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of http://senate.michigan.gov

Republican leaders in the state Legislature say they want to give Governor Rick Snyder time to roll out his entire budget proposal before passing judgment on pieces of it that have become public.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’s been briefed on the entire budget proposal and is telling people to be patient.

“We’re a little premature making an evaluation of an overall big picture solution. I commend the governor for not being afraid to take on a tough issue and not being afraid to take on a tough issue, not being afraid to roll out a plan. But this is his day, this is his budget. It’s his time to throw out his plan."

The governor is expected to propose lifting the tax exemption on pensions as part of a plan that will also include repealing the Michigan Business Tax, but replacing only part of the revenue.

The governor will make his formal budget proposal to the Legislature this morning at 11 a.m.

Auto/Economy
8:30 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Libraries feel strain of more readers, fewer resources

Detroit Public Library
Detroit Public Library

People losing their local Borders bookstore may turn to their local library for books and DVD’s. But that may put an even bigger strain on Michigan’s already-struggling libraries.

Libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with.

Read more
Environment
5:30 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Report warns corrosive tar sands oil boosts risks of pipeline spills

A map of oil pipelines carrying tar sands in the U.S. and Canada
From the report "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks"

Update 5:30 p.m.

The NRDC responded to the ECRB statement saying they "stand by the information provided in the report - which is well documented and reviewed." From the NRDC statement:

The lack of transparency from the oil industry is part of the issue here. A clear accounting of the public health and safety issues associated with these products and the infrastructure associated with them is simply not available. The example of Enbridge’s CEO denying tar sands were involved with the Kalamazoo River disaster until pushed by reporters with undeniable evidence is one example of this lack of transparency.

Update 2:55 p.m.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta, Canada, "an agency that regulates the province's energy resources," has issued a response to the report.

They write that the report "contains misleading statements on pipeline safety in Alberta and on the characteristics of diluted bitumen." From ERCB statement:

The report also states that “there are many indications that DilBit is significantly more corrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude.”  Analysis of pipeline failure statistics in Alberta has not identified any significant differences in failure frequency between pipelines handling conventional crude versus pipelines carrying crude bitumen, crude oil or synthetic crude oil.

1:27 p.m.

This past summer, an oil pipeline in Michigan spilled more than 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The spill is still being cleaned up by Enbridge Energy Partners, the company responsible for the spill.

Now, a new report says the type of oil running through the pipeline could lead to more spills.

Read more
Politics
5:29 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Legislation would require spending disclosure by Detroit pension boards

sushi ina flickr

Detroit’s two pension boards would be required to post all of their spending online, under a bill before the state House.

The legislation is a response to stories published in 2009 about board members’ travel expenses. The boards’ trustees, their attorneys and staff racked up bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for trips to places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

State Representative Tom McMillin in the bill’s sponsor:

Read more
Public transportation
4:57 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Obama’s budget includes money for ‘Silverline’ rapid bus transit

Public transportation officials in Grand Rapids are excited about one detail in President Obama’s budget announced this week. A proposed rapid bus transit system in Grand Rapids is one of ten new construction projects that Obama would like to fund in 2012.

Read more
Changing Gears
4:55 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Live Panel Discussion: "Don't Go! What will keep you here?"

What will keep future entrepreneurs from leaving the state?
Alex Proimos Flickr

Keeping the brains here at home.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the Changing Gears project are partnering on a panel discussion about "brain drain" being held at 5 p.m.

Read more
Arts/Culture
4:51 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Aretha Franklin planning a return to the concert stage

Aretha Franklin
(ktkatrina) Flickr

The Queen of Soul's health has been of much concern of late.   But, after making a pre-taped appearence on the Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin's health looked much improved.

The Associated Press reports Franklin will return to the concert stage this Spring:

Read more
Economy
4:40 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Borders files for bankruptcy

Borders Books

Update 4:37 p.m.

Independent bookstores are waiting to see what kind of impact Borders’ bankruptcy will have on business. Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Nicola Rooney, owner Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.

Rooney expects business to pick up at her store now that one of the Borders in Ann Arbor is slated to close. She said Borders’ financial problems are not emblematic of the book business in general:

"No, it’s not the death knell of bookstores by any means. They did a lot of things wrong over the years…and at any time there were things they could have done differently that they did not, and this of course from someone who knows maybe two percent of what was really going on inside, because you never know the real story," said Rooney.

Rooney blames Borders's problems on its poor website strategy, and frequent management changes.

Update 12:07 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reports that of the stores slated for closing so far, four are in Michigan:

  • Dearborn
  • Utica
  • Grosse Pointe
  • Ann Arbor - the Arborland location.

Guerra spoke with Ann Arbor resident Jack Love about the bankruptcy:

"I’m sad. They’re nice places to go, pick up a book, look through it, of course Borders has more than just books: coffee, book readings, public gatherings," said Love.

Guerra says Love partly blames himself for Borders’ financial problems - he’s a book fiend who buys most of his books online at Amazon.

Update 11:58 a.m.

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog has posted a list of the top Borders creditors - Who's Owed What in Borders' Bankruptcy.

Not surprisingly, book publishers top the list. Penguin Putnam Inc. is at the very top. They're owed $41,118,914.

Update 11:33 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody just spoke with Rob James, the president of EXP Realty Advisors. EXP specializes in real estate valuations for companies in bankruptcy.  James told Carmody that "no doubt about it" the Borders store closings will have a ripple effect in the retail industry:

"It's going to put a lot of strain on the shopping center industry and its going to hurt a lot of landlords," said James.

Update 11:07

Here is the list of stores Borders plans to close

Update 11:00 a.m.:

The company has released a list of stores it plans to close. We'll have that list posted shortly.

The Wall Street Journal reports the company has secured a loan that will keep the company going while it goes through bankruptcy reorganization. From the WSJ:

The Ann Arbor, Mich., company also said it has lined up a $505 million loan from GE Capital to fund its operations while in bankruptcy. Access to such a loan is subject to court approval.

In its bankruptcy petition, Borders listed assets of $1.28 billion and liabilities of $1.29 billion as of Dec. 25.

Borders' five largest unsecured creditors are the book publishers Penguin Putnam Inc., Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster Inc., Random House and Harper Collins Publishers.

AnnArbor.com has some extensive coverage of the bookseller's bankruptcy filing, including a live blog. Nathan Bomey of AnnArbor.com reports on some of the scenarios that could unfold during the bankruptcy reorganization. They also highlight some of the missteps in Borders history. From AnnArbor.com:

Among the company's biggest mistakes was allowing Amazon to manage its online sales from 2001 to 2008.

“They never really harnessed the power of the Internet,” said David Dykhouse, a manager of Borders’ Arborland store from 2002 to 2007. “As someone once said, the Internet is the comet that killed the dinosaur. I’m afraid Borders is one of those dinosaurs.

8:09 a.m.

Borders Group is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization after a long struggle to stay afloat. Borders had a difficult time keeping up as the book and music businesses changed beneath its feet.

The 40-year-old Ann Arbor company plans to close about 30 percent of its stores, or about 200, over the next few weeks. The company will receive $505 million dollars in so-called debtor-in-possession financing from GE Capital and others to help it reorganize.

Borders has recently delayed payments to its vendors, landlords and other creditors. Big-box bookstores have struggled as more people buy books online, in electronic form or at grocery stores or discounters such as Walmart.

Read more
Commentary
3:32 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Two Plus Two

 Tomorrow, Governor Rick Snyder will present to the legislature his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The state is currently running a deficit of close to two billion dollars.

The governor also wants to make changes to the business tax system that would further add to that deficit. Keep in mind that by law, a balanced budget has to be enacted by September 30th.

Read more
Arts/Culture
3:04 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Second annual Detroit Independent Film Festival lineup announced

DIFF Logo
Detroit Independent Film Festival

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Independent Film Festival has announced their lineup for this year's 5-day festival. 

Highlights include the premiere of Mike Allore's short film "World of Art," which will open on the first night of the festival at the Ren Cen 4 Theatre at the Renaissance Center.

The festival will feature more than 80 films, two opening night receptions, and the Michigan Film Awards on March 12. The Michigan Film Awards are presented in cooperation with the Uptown Film Festival in Birmingham.

The 2010 Michigan Film Award for Best Michigan Feature was Tracy, produced by Brian Fee and Dan Scanlon.

The festival opens March 9.

The festival is in its second year.

Politics
3:01 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Longtime Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee wants time in Congress to be even longer

Congressman Dale Kildee (D) tours an auto parts plant in Flint
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Dale Kildee won his first term in the United States Congress in 1976. Next year, he plans to run again. The Associated Press reports Kildee's spokesman says the octogenarian politician has always planned to run for another term. 

Read more
Offbeat
2:08 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Robocop fundraising goal met, robotic cop to be honored

"You called for backup?"

Cross a robot and a cop and you get a cult classic. Maybe not an instant cult classic (coming to love a robotic cop takes some time, after all), but 24 years after its release, all signs point to a statue honoring Robocop in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

A group working to build a statue in Detroit of the fictional crime-fighting cyborg RoboCop says it has reached its fundraising goal of $50,000. Brandon Walley of Imagination Station said Wednesday he's "very positive" the sculpture will become a reality and could be erected on land the nonprofit owns near the hulking, abandoned Michigan Central train depot in southwest Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is skeptical. He told the AP that he doesn't "see where we get a lot of value" for honoring the robotic police officer.

The AP says "the issue got its start Feb. 7 when Bing's social media manager responded to a query on Twitter about it."

And in case you don't know the plot of Robocop, IMDb gives a summary of the movie this way: In a dystopic & crime ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.

Maybe Robocop can rest in peace knowing people in Detroit will immortalize him.

The movie was full of one-liners - for those who've seen the movie (and remember it) do any one-liners stand out?

Politics
2:00 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

This week in Michigan politics with Jack Lessenberry

The Lansing Capitol
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Each Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on state politics. This week, the focus is on Governor Snyder’s budget proposal and what cuts he might suggest.  

Read more
Politics
10:54 am
Wed February 16, 2011

Budget battles target greenhouse gas rules

A new poll showed that the majority of people in Michigan support EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses
Michael Caven flickr

The details of the United States and Michigan budget cuts are beginning to leak out.  The United States Congress is trying to come together on a plan to cut a huge amount of spending. Governor Rick Snyder will be delivering his budget proposal for next year on Thursday.

One area of debate is how the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A new statewide poll shows voters in Michigan would support these rules, but Republicans in the US Congress are moving against them this week.

Al Quinlan conducted the poll funded by the Energy Foundation, a pro-renewable energy group.

"We asked people simply whether they favor or oppose the EPA regulating these emissions the results were 64% favor, 27% oppose. And there was broad based support across partisan lines."

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is a leading opponent of EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

Science/Medicine
10:18 am
Wed February 16, 2011

Access to medical marijuana uneven

Confusion continues to reign over medical marijuana dispensaries
Dominic Simpson flickr

There are still some open questions about how the state will implement its two year old Medical Marijuana law.

The state has not said how dispensaries of the drug should be regulated so some cities allow the dispensaries and others do not.

These differences have put a few cities in court. Advocates say the state is missing an opportunity by not regulating the dispensaries.

Karen O’Keefe is with the Marijuana Policy Project, a supporter of the original law.

 

"States that have regulated dispensing, a lot of them subject medical marijuana to sales tax. Some of them also have modest business taxes and there are fees. So in addition to helping patients have access and clearing up some of the confusion that localities are facing it would help the state financially."

 

Groups on both sides of the issue plan to continue to push the state to weigh in on the issue this year.

-Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom

News Roundup
7:08 am
Wed February 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Report: "Fireworks" over part of Snyder's Budget Plan

Chris Christoff, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Detroit Free Press, says Governor Snyder plans to "eliminate Michigan's generous income tax exemptions for retiree pensions and IRA withdrawals as part of his budget plan" to be released tomorrow. Christoff wrote "a source familiar with the plan" says doing away with the tax exemption could generate more than $1 billion in revenue. From the Free Press:

Many expect Gov. Rick Snyder to set off political fireworks Thursday when he unveils a budget and tax revision plan he says will be simple, fair and efficient...Perhaps nothing will boom louder than a plan to tax pensions and other retirement income the same as all other income -- at 4.35%.

A Snyder spokesperson would not comment on the "speculation." Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, told the Freep that Snyder will "will hear from a lot of retired employees in this state that are not going to be happy with that one." And an aide to republican State Senator Jack Brandenburg said the plan is "a nonstarter."

The Associated Press writes that Michigan's benefits for retirees are one of the most generous in the country:

The Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says Michigan's benefits are twice as generous as those of second-place Kentucky. A retired couple in Michigan can have more than $100,000 of income without having to pay any state income tax...

Political pressure in the past has made it hard to reduce senior tax breaks to help the state's bottom line, even as Michigan steadily loses more to the tax breaks as the number of older taxpayers grows.

Governor Snyder will release his budget plan tomorrow.

Prison staff fear privatization is coming

Almost everything in the state is on the chopping block. There has been talk of privatizing parts of the prison system as a way to save money. The Associated Press says the Governor's budget plan will look at cutting around 10 to 20% out of the state's corrections budget.

State workers in prisons fear that will mean privitization. The Associated Press spoke with United Auto Workers Local 6000 spokesman Ray Holman:

The Prison support staff fear the governor may outsource their jobs to private companies to save money.

"If you're cutting $400 million ... you're going to have to go after something," said Holman, whose union represents tens of thousands of state workers, including prison support staff. "We stand to take a substantial hit." 

Former GM exec may return as advisor

The Detroit News says former GM executive Bob Lutz may return to the company as an advisor. From the Detroit News:

General Motors Co. has been in talks with former product chief Robert Lutz about bringing him back as a paid consultant, The Detroit News has learned.

The details were unclear Tuesday, but the 79-year-old Lutz continues to have a close relationship with GM, and the two have been in discussions about formalizing an advisory role, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

Lutz was known as a plain speaking executive at GM who was skeptical of the commercial appeal of electric cars and hybrids. As the Guardian reported when he retired in 2010, Lutz once described global warming "as a total crock of shit."

The Guardian writes that Lutz "predicted the internal combustion engine would reign supreme for at least a further decade, and that it would be "years and years" before alternatives make up even a tenth of the market."

Read more
Politics
4:43 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Another step toward eliminating the item pricing law

The item pricing law gives retailers indigestion.
Shawn Campbell Flickr

Update 4:23 p.m.:

Rick Pluta, from the Michigan Public Radio Network, says the House will likely vote on a repeal of the Item Pricing Law tomorrow. Pluta spoke with the sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Lisa Lyons. She says individual price tags wouldn't be required, but stores would be required to prominently post prices so consumers know how much things cost:

"It does eliminate the antiquated requirement that every item be priced which has been in effect since before I was born, but it also upholds and provides for consumer protections that Michigan shoppers have come to know, expect and they deserve," said Lyons.

2:06 p.m.

The Michigan legislature is a step closer in repealing the state's Item Pricing Law.

The law requires that most items on store shelves carry an individual price tag.

The Lansing Bureau of the Detroit Free Press reports:

Legislation to rescind the requirement that almost all retail goods sold in Michigan be individually priced cleared its first hurdle in the state House this morning, winning approval in the Commerce Committee on a 16-3 vote. The measure was approved after its sponsors agreed to an amendment that will require retailers to clearly display prices in close proximity to the item for sale.

Governor Syder has said that a repeal of the law will send a signal that Michigan is a business-friendly state. Retailers say the law is antiquated and drives up prices.

Rick Pluta reported for the Michigan Public Radio Network that

The last effort to repeal the law was five years ago, but it failed under the threat of a veto by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Proponents of the law say the individual price tags protect consumers from being overcharged.

Politics
4:12 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Michigan AG: Prison releases should not be part of corrections cuts

It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.
Derek Key Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state should save money in the corrections budget by cutting the costs of incarceration - not by closing more prisons or releasing more inmates.

Schuette says he hopes that's the strategy Governor Rick Snyder will display when he unveils his budget proposal on Thursday.

Schuette says he advised the governor to focus on reducing the cost-per-inmate by bidding out more prison services:

Read more
Politics
2:50 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Flint's financial plan on hold

The weather ball in Flint can't predict the city's economic future.
Jame Fairbrother Flickr

Update 3:50 p.m.:

The city of Flint did not get approval today from the state for a $20 million bond.   The city needs the money to pay its bills.

The state Treasurer’s office asked the State Administrative Board to table the bond request, which it was expected to approve. The Treasurer’s office is concerned that the city doesn’t have a plan to deal with its long-term debt.   

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is optimistic the city will get some help from the state. 

“I’m confident the city of Flint and the state Treasurer’s office will work together on a short-term, if not a long-term solution here in the next few weeks.”

Flint faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit.   The city has laid off police officers and dozens of other employees and has reached pay cuts with other city unions. But it still might have trouble making payroll in the coming months. 

Update 2:50 p.m.:

The State Administration Board put off a decision on the city's budget plan this morning. The city wants to borrow money in the form of $20 million in bonds to cover its budget deficit.

The Flint Journal has an update from Flint City Councilman Josua Freeman:

By the end of this month or next month, the city will only have about $500,000 in cash on hand, Freeman said. That's not nearly enough money to meet the payroll expenses of $1.5 million to $2 million every two weeks, he added.

"If nothing changes and we don’t improve our cash flow, we're not going to have enough money to operate," Freeman said.

If the city cannot make payroll, a state takeover or Chapter 9 bankruptcy might be next.

12:42 p.m.

The city of Flint wants to issue bonds to cover it's $17 million budget deficit, but state officials have yet to green light that plan.

The State Administration Board was scheduled to vote on that plan today, but it appears plans have changed.

The Flint Journal is reporting the Board voted to remove the city's request from its agenda today. The Journal reports that led to a cancelation of a Flint City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow:

Tomorrow's City Council meeting to discuss a $20 million bond request from the state has been canceled.

The meeting, which was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, was canceled after The State Administration Board voted to remove the city's request from its meeting agenda this morning...That move came at the request of the state treasurer's office...City Council President Jackie Poplar said she was made aware of the situation and had no comment until she receives further information.

Pages