Politics & Government

Politics
1:48 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

"Kill the Bill!" A second day of labor protests at the state capitol

under the state capitol dome
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

"Kill the Bill....Kill the Bill" shouted hundreds of municipal labor union members as protests continued for a second day at the state Capitol in Lansing. Hundreds of unionized firefighters and police officers marched on the Capitol.

They are calling on the Legislature to reject a bill that would repeal the requirement that puts local government labor disputes into binding arbitration.

Local government officials say binding arbitration leads to expensive settlements.  Unionized workers say binding arbitration is a fair way to settle disputes, and its a concession unions made in return for giving up the right to strike.   Jason Sneft is a firefighter from the city of Jackson. 

“This is probably step in a long couple years of many steps of trying to eliminate union actions.”

Drivers honked their horns in support as uniformed firefighters and police officers lined both sides of the street in front of the Capitol. The binding arbitration measure is not scheduled for a vote yet.

The House is expected to vote on another bill that would give state-appointed local emergency financial managers the power to discard union contracts.

Politics
8:47 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Analysis: Protests in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana

Pro-union protesters in Madison, WI.
Mark Danielson Flickr

Protesters headed to Lansing yesterday to voice their displeasure with the budget cuts in Governor Snyder's budget proposal.  People were also there yesterday in support of the cuts.

Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry discussed the protests on Michigan Radio this morning.

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Politics
11:24 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Detroit Mayor's State of the City: "We are a work in progress"

Mayor Bing speaks at the Michigan gubernatorial inauguration ceremony in January.
Joe Ross Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s moved the city in the right direction.

But in his State of the City speech, Bing also warned that Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would jeopardize that progress. Snyder attended Tuesday night’s speech at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

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Politics
4:28 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Protests in Lansing

The Capitol in Lansing
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 4:28 p.m.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed a report on the protests in Lansing saying they were organized by "public employee unions, and attracted state and local government workers as well as teachers who had a snow day." From Pluta's report:

They’re fighting against anti-union bills sponsored in the Michigan Legislature, and to show support for union rallies in Madison-Wisconsin and Colombus-Ohio.

Sally McNamara is a teacher in the Adrian Public Schools:

"I’m here supporting the children of our state and our nation. Are we in debt? Are we in trouble? You bet we’re in trouble. Is it really hard-working people who are driving us down in the gutters? No. It’s not."

Pluta says dozens of Tea Party protestors also gathered to rally in favor of the proposed budget cuts.

1:41 p.m.

Protestors came to Lansing today to voice their opinion on the proposed cuts by the Snyder administration and to protest bills in the Michigan legislature they see as anti-union.

The Detroit News reports that "unofficial estimates put attendance at close 1,000" people:

After a brief rally and march to the Capitol, members streamed across to the House office building to call on legislators, and about 200 construction workers poured into a hearing room where testimony was to be taken at noon on a bill to repeal prevailing wage requirements.

Members plan to cram the gallery of the House chambers this afternoon where lawmakers are slated to discuss bills that would grant authority to emergency financial managers to toss out collective bargaining contracts.

The Detroit Free Press says the protestors in Lansing were inspired by the protests taking place in Wisconsin:

Many protesters...said they thought Snyder's proposal was an attack on unions similar to a bill being pushed by Wisconsin's new Republican governor. They said they were inspired to turn out by eight straight days of protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people to the Wisconsin Capitol.

The Detroit News reported on Tea Party protestors who turned out in smaller numbers in Lansing today. They're supporting Governor Snyder's proposed cuts and some hope Snyder will take a similar stand on unions that the legislature is taking. From the Detroit News:

Tea party supporters Annamaria Evans of Clarkston, Pat Miller of South Haven and Jack Stone of Lake Orion said they want Michigan to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, just as Walker has proposed in Wisconsin.

Miller, a member of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots, said he wants to see Snyder get as tough on unions as the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature is.

Some of the signs spotted in Lansing:

  • "Recall Snyder"
  • "Don't Tax Grandma"
  • "Get Back to Work"
  • "I'm Not Getting Paid to Be Here"

And some of the chants:

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Union members protest changes to Prevailing Wage law

The Michigan House of Representatives. Union members protested today in a State House committee room.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Hundreds of outraged union members filled a State House committee room and the surrounding hallways to protest a proposal to eliminate Michigan’s Prevailing Wage law. Many union members people began chanting and banging on the walls of the committee room.

Unions say the law makes sure workers are paid fairly and that union members get work.

Some Republicans want to get rid of the Prevailing Wage law, saying developers and contractors could save money on construction costs by making wages more competitive.

Jeff Mowry, a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333, says the proposal to get rid of the wage law is not a direct attack on the collective bargaining rights of unions, but it still tries to hurt unions. 

 "You know, that’s the scary part – everything gets very complicated and very confused but it sure seems like it’s all tied together. And it seems like this is just one piece of a great big puzzle that’s looking to take away our collective bargaining rights, yeah."

Some Republican lawmakers say eliminating the prevailing wage law would save about 10% on construction costs and could create more jobs in the state.

Chris Fischer with the Association of Builders and Contractors gave a presentation to lawmakers on how the state could save money by eliminating the wage law.

Fischer says the chanting was distracting, but he was not deterred.

"It is difficult to make a factual presentation when there’s a lot of white noise in the background. It is disconcerting, but the bottom line is prevailing wage does come at the expense of two things Michigan does not have right now – and that’s jobs and taxpayer dollars."

Union members were told they will be able to testify on the wage law when legislation is before the committee for a vote.

Detroit
6:56 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Mayor Bing to deliver State of the City address tonight

Mayor Dave Bing earlier this year in Lansing as he attends Governor Rick Snyder's inauguration
Corvair Owner Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. It will be the mayor's second address since he won a special mayoral runoff election in May 2009. The Associated Press reports, "Bing has said the speech will elaborate on the city's achievements during his short time in office."

Government Shutdown
8:29 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Upton expects federal government shutdown can be avoided

Congressman Fred Upton
Photo courtesy of the Republican Conference

One Michigan congressman is downplaying warnings of a federal government shutdown next week.

Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate haven’t agreed on a continuing budget resolution to keep the federal government going beyond March 4th.

Representative Fred Upton expects the US House will offer the US Senate a way to avoid a shutdown. 

“My sense is that will we also in the House pass a short-term continuing resolution and send that to the Senate early in the week.  Which will allow them to say…here’s a two week extension so we don’t have a shutdown by the end of the week…as well as the long-term…and then we’ll wait and see what the Senate does.”  

Upton expects Congress will approve a short-term budget resolution before any federal government services are effected. 

State Budget
7:43 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder seeks allies in budget fight

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for allies in his fight for deep state spending cuts. The governor received a warm reception at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today in Kalamazoo. 

Governor Snyder spoke to an audience that largely backed his candidacy last year  and is very receptive to his budget plans that call for revising d Text - 16 lines]the state's business tax and deep cuts in spending. But many are also concerned some the governor's plans might hit close to home.

Snyder urged the business leaders to accept part of the sacrifice.

"The only way we are going to do this is talk together and help those people who think they didn't get a fair shake or that they're being disadvantaged when they probably were not." 

Labor unions and social service groups worry that the poor, children  and others might pay a bigger price under the governor's budget plan. Snyder says the state must address its billion and a half budget  deficit now and now just kick it down the road.

War in afghanistan
7:23 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Senator Carl Levin cautiously optimistic about success in Afghanistan

Senator Levin speaks at Grand Rapids Community College Monday about prospects for success in Afghanistan.
Derek Devries Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says success depends on two factors. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says the Obama administration should stick to the July deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and make sure the country can continue to build up its own security forces.

The committee’s ranking republican Senator John McCain opposes the deadline.

Levin told a gathering in West Michigan Monday the deadline has helped the Afghanistan police and army exceed recruitment goals. He called a large, effective home-grown security force in Afghanistan “the Taliban’s worst nightmare.”

“Because it would demonstrate that contrary to their propaganda the war against the Taliban is not a war of foreign occupiers seeking control, that it is instead a war that the Afgan people believe in.”

Levin told a crowd in Grand Rapids that President Obama's deadline in July to begin transferring power to the government of Afghanistan has put pressure on the situation in a good way.

Politics
12:04 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Unions to fight proposed state laws

As protests in Wisconsin continue, leaders of Michigan labor unions fight proposals in the Michigan Legislature
Mark Danielson Flickr

Leaders of Michigan labor unions are fighting proposals in the Michigan Legislature that they say would hurt collective bargaining rights. The Associated Press reports:

The Michigan AFL-CIO said Monday it opposes more than 30 bills pending in the Legislature including those that would give emergency financial managers of cities and schools the power to terminate labor union contracts. Unions representing public employees also are opposing bills that would change how binding arbitration works for police and fire departments.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said some of the measures are an "assault" on the collective bargaining process that calls for unions and employers to negotiate contracts.

Union leaders also said they are concerned about some budget proposals from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, including measures they say hurt schools, the middle class and low-income residents.

Commentary
10:35 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Budget Alternatives

Well, it’s been four days since Gov. Rick Snyder presented his so-called “atomic bomb” budget, and opposition has started to harden. There are those who are concerned about the poor, largely because of the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

For example, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson said yesterday that this amounts to a “government-sponsored shift of capital away from the most needy citizens to those who are already more comfortable.”

Senior citizens’ groups are upset because the governor wants their constituents to have to begin paying Michigan income tax on their income, just like everybody else does on theirs.

The film industry is screaming about the potential loss of the film credits. The education community isn’t happy with the cuts they’d have to take, though they seem to be bearing them with more grace.

But the interesting thing to me is that none of these groups seems to be offering any kind of alternative plan. They want what they want, but don’t have any kind of broader vision.

Yet something radical does have to be done. The state is running an enormous deficit that has to be gotten rid of, and our old automotive-based economy doesn’t work anymore, not the way it did.

So the question for the critics is, if you don’t like the governor’s plan, what are you going to offer instead?

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Governor Snyder
8:56 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today where he will speak to the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo. He's set to speak at 12:30 p.m. and a question-and-answer session is also scheduled. As the Associated Press reports, it's expected the Governor will spend his time defending the budget proposal he released last Thursday:

Last week, Snyder proposed a $45.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts for schools and getting rid of many personal tax breaks. His plan includes a corporate tax change that would save businesses $1.8 billion a year.

Snyder has been working to defend the plan. Critics say it means that the poor and the elderly, public education and local governments would be the ones picking up the tab for businesses.

State Budget
6:39 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Lt. Gov: Sndyer administration does not expect Wisconsin-like budget protests

Lt. Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Senior aides to Governor Rick Snyder say they don’t expect the massive budget protests in Wisconsin will spread to Michigan. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s style is less combative than that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Calley also says he expects most critics of the Snyder budget will be persuaded to change their minds. He says that’s because tough choices this year will avert the need for more cuts in the future.

“Number one, we’re not going to kick the can down the road. Number two, we’re not going to employ one-time gimmicks and quick fixes and those sorts of things. We’re actually going to fix it so that, take a look at Year Two – this actually does solve the problem so going forth, we can actually spend more time on, where do we go from here? How do we work and grow together?"

Nevertheless, some public employee and retiree groups are trying to organize a protest march on Lansing this week. They oppose a demand for public employees to pay more of their health care costs, and a proposed end to the tax exemption on pension income. Governor Snyder presented his budget proposal to state lawmakers last Thursday.

Politics
5:08 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Lansing libraries: No guns wanted here

The Lansing library system says Michigan's open-carry of weapons law does not apply to its facilities.
flickr

The Lansing library system has been granted a temporary restraining order to keep people from bringing weapons into its facilities.

The Capital Area District Library says about two months ago, people began coming into the library openly carrying guns. They claimed to have the right to do that under Michigan’s Firearms and Ammunitions Act.

Gary Bender is the library’s attorney.

He says the library is exempt from that law because it is not a local unit of government and is allowed to ban weapons at its locations.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Walberg breaks from party on military jet engine vote

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, voted to retain funding for the F-35 alternate engine, despite opposition by the Pentagon and the Republican party.
Wikipedia

A Michigan lawmaker broke away from his party this week when he voted against an amendment to eliminate a military jet engine program.

A different version of the engine for the F-35 stealth fighter would have assured a backup in case of a breakdown of the original engine,or for different kinds of missions.

But Pentagon officials, the Obama administration and the Tea Party said they didn’t want the program.

Cutting it would save about three billion dollars.

U.S. Rep.  Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, says he voted to keep it for other reasons.

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Politics
4:23 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Snyder administration wants legislature to undo 'live-in partner' benefits

Governor Rick Snyder has asked the Legislature to reverse an employment panel’s decision to allow un-married state workers to claim their live-in partners on their benefits.  

The governor’s letter gives the Legislature 60 days to overturn the state Civil Service Commission’s decision. Reversing the independent Civil Service Commission will require two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate. Both are controlled by Republicans, but getting to the necessary super-majorities is not guaranteed.  

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Politics
3:17 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Funding Our State: A Call-In Show with Jennifer White

Governor Snyder delivered his 2011 budget for the state yesterday
User mtsn Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder (and Budget Director John Nixon) presented the 2011 budget to a joint session of the Michigan legislature yesterday.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White hosted a call-in show, “Funding Our State,” to take a look at the state of the state’s budget, which is currently facing a 1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the new fiscal year that begins October 1st.

To find out what this budget means for educators, for finances, for business, and for you, click the link below.

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Politics
11:07 am
Fri February 18, 2011

The Battle of Madison

State workers and their supporters fill the Wisconsin state capitol building in Madison
(pchgorman, Flickr)

Michigan's budget debate is just getting started.    The governor has called for deep cuts and tax increases.   The plan has been criticized. But the situation is no where near as passionate as in Wisconsin. 

The streets of Madison, Wisconsin continue to be a battleground between Republican state lawmakers and their supporters who want to  end collective bargaining for state workers and state workers and their Democratic state lawmaker supporters who oppose it.     For several days, the budget impasse has stalled business at the state capitol.

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Changing Gears
6:54 pm
Thu February 17, 2011

Leadership Series: Mayor Daley and Chicago's economic transformation (Part 3)

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (Photo courtesy of Kate Gardiner, WBEZ Flickr)
Kate Gardiner WBEZ

Throughout the Midwest, Chicago is known as the city everyone wants to come to – but that’s a huge change from 22 years ago, when Mayor Richard M. Daley took office.

The city’s even changed dramatically from when I lived here before, in the late 1990s.

This is the last of our three-part series on leadership, where I look at the region’s – and arguably, the country’s – most famous Mayor: Richard M. Daley.

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Developing
3:45 pm
Thu February 17, 2011

See who shares the sacrifice in Governor Snyder's proposed budget

A look at the projected budget deficits states across the country are facing.
Michigan Radio

Update 3:45pm

Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal calls for eliminating millions of dollars in business and personal tax breaks; big cuts to schools, universities, and local governments.  The governor says it is bitter medicine necessary to cure the state’s budget troubles, and set the foundation for an economic recovery. 

Governor Snyder says everyone will have to sacrifice to fix massive fiscal problems that have built up over decades under Republican and Democratic administrations. That includes growing pension and healthcare liabilities that the state will start to pay down.

 “We are going to take responsibility for a legacy of debt that has built up over decades.”  

 To pay for that, balance the budget, and cut taxes for businesses, Snyder wants to shut down state police posts and at least one prison; start taxing pensions; cut money for schools, universities, and local governments; and ask public employees to pay more for their benefits. 

Critics already say the budget will force more school districts and local governments into insolvency and families into poverty. The governor, who is a millionaire, says he will share in the sacrifice by working for a dollar a year.    

Budget Director John Nixon says the administration’s proposal will end the state’s string of budget crises and will send a message that Michigan is managing its finances.

“A lot of people are going to be upset with this budget. We understand that. But it’s the right budget. It’s a responsible budget that takes into account the needs of our citizens and taxpayers’ ability to pay.”

About two dozen state employees protested in Lansing today as Governor Rick Snyder presented his budget plan to state lawmakers. They complained about plans to roll back public employee benefits and tax pensions.         Tammy Warner works in the state Department of Human Services.

“The state is cutting all kinds of services not just to the poor – they’re actually decimating the middle class. They’re also decimating the state workers and they are making it impossible for us to live in this state.”

Public employees say they’ve already made concessions and accepted unpaid furlough days to help the state through earlier budget crises.   Advocates for low-income families say ending state the earned income tax credit for the working poor will result in more children living in poverty. School and city officials say cuts will force more local governments into insolvency.

Update 1:22

Democratic leaders in the Michigan legislature are reacting to Governor Snyder's budget proposal.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer called the Governor's budget "the same old politics of putting corporate tax breaks ahead of the people. From Whitmer's statement:

"Governor Snyder's idea of shared sacrifice seems to mean that working families will do most of the sacrificing while companies continue to reap the rewards," said Whitmer. "He is balancing this budget on the backs of our kids, working families, and our seniors. Contrary to his rhetoric about 'moving all of Michigan forward,' this budget picks out who he's willing to leave behind."

Update 12:43 p.m.

Governor Snyder has placed his budget recommendations to the Michigan legislature online.

Update 12:11 p.m.

"The day of kicking the can down the road is ending," declared Governor Snyder in calling for tax and budget changes that he says should have happened twenty or thirty years ago.   

Snyder says he used the principle of fairness in arriving at some changes, for example, an end to the Michigan Business Tax, the tax on unincorporated companies in the state.   Snyder says the tax is unfair because it's a form of double taxation, since the business owner already pays personal income tax. 

And he says individual pension income should be taxed.  Snyder says it's not fair to tax the income of senior citizens who are still working, and not tax retired senior citizens living on pension income.

Snyder wants to eliminate many individual tax credits, such as the deduction for donations to public universities.  But he would keep the deduction for personal property tax, although he says the property tax system will need to be overhauled at a later time.

Snyder says his budget keep the safety net for Michigan's poorest citizens intact.

Update 11:23 a.m.

Governor Snyder says he will share in the sacrifices he's calling for in the state budget by working for one dollar a year. The governor is presenting a budget that includes big cuts to schools, local governments, and public universities -- as well as eliminating many personal and business tax breaks. The governor's budget proposal also calls for an overall one-point-eight (b) billion dollar cut on businesses. - Rick Pluta

Update 10:48 a.m.

Michigan Government Television will carry Governor Snyder's presentation of his budget proposal live at 11 a.m.

The Michigan Senate will also live stream the presentation from their website.

7:11 a.m.

These details of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's $45 billion budget proposal were outlined to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

- Drops the individual income tax rate from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent on Oct. 1; the tax will then remain at 4.25 percent rather than being decreased to 3.9 percent in future years as scheduled.

- Eliminates the state income tax exemption for pensions, but Social Security benefits will continue to be exempt.

- Eliminates the Michigan Business Tax and replaces it with a flat 6 percent corporate income tax on major corporations.

- Eliminates business credits awarded for films, brownfield redevelopment, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, etc., although current commitments will be honored. Sets aside $25 million for film credits from the 21st Century Jobs Fund.

- Rolls funding for universities and community colleges from the general fund to the school aid fund, the main funding source for K-12 schools.

- Cuts per pupil funds $300, in addition to the currently budged $170 per pupil reduction.

- Eliminates statutory revenue sharing payments for cities, villages and townships in FY 2012, leading to a net savings of $92.1 million. The change impacts 509 local units of government. Increases constitutional revenue sharing by 4 percent, to $659 million.

- Includes $200 million for a new incentive-based revenue sharing program for cities, villages and townships that meet specific standards to be detailed in March.

- Sets a lifetime limit of 48 months for residents to receive welfare payments, with exemptions for incapacity and hardship.

- Closes the Shawono Center in Grayling, and cuts 20 beds in capacity at the Maxey Training School in Whitmore Lake, resulting in $787,000 general fund savings.

- Eliminates 300 field worker positions in the Department of Human Services.

- Closes one prison to be named later this year.

- Reduces the number of Michigan State Police posts, saving $3.2 million.

- Reduces state aid to libraries in the Department of Education budget by $2.3 million in the general fund, with $950,000 directed to the Michigan eLibrary, resulting in net savings of $1.4 million.

- Suggests privatizing food service and prison stores operations in Michigan prisons, and suggests that resident care aide services at the Grand Rapids Veterans' Home be competitively bid.

-Turns the dairy farm inspection program over to industry field representatives certified by the Department of Agriculture.

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