Politics & Government

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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Commentary
1:16 pm
Thu February 17, 2011

The Budget

Well, the governor’s budget has landed, and people are  shocked. They shouldn’t be. This is what we bargained for. This budget is, in part, a legacy of the last thirty years.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, we’ve been told repeatedly that taxes were bad. Not that they were sometimes too high, but that they were bad, period. So we cut them, and cut them again.

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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.

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:

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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.

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