Sending out an S.O.S.Published 11:00am Thursday, February 4, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
In what was her last State of the State address as governor, Jennifer Granholm declared Michigan as in the midst of a great transition, discussing the need to create new jobs, balance a new budget and develop a bright future for the state she’s been the leader of for the past seven years.
“For me, it comes down to this: to fight every day for the jobs the people of Michigan
want and need,” Granholm said. “And to help them make the difficult, often painful, transition from an old economy that’s disappearing … to a new economy that’s only just beginning to emerge.
“Let me be clear,” she said. “Our world has changed, utterly. The old Michigan economy is gone.
Anyone who believed that Michigan would just naturally rebound without making deep and lasting change had a rendezvous with reality in 2009.”
One million Michigan jobs were lost in the last 10 years, the governor said. Though three of those can’t be to her credit, the past seven have not been easy for Granholm. The state has seen steady financial trouble, a reminder of which was yet another extension required in balancing the budget last year.
Still, Granholm seemed to carry a sense of hope for the future if not a clearly defined pathway to get there.
“Where the old Michigan economy was all about autos and manufacturing,” Granholm said, “the new Michigan economy is much broader: clean energy, life sciences – like bio-economy and medical devices – homeland security and defense, advanced-manufacturing, film and tourism.
“We have steadily focused on the unique attributes that give Michigan a competitive advantage,” she continued. “No state has the skilled workforce we do. Nobody has the capacity and the manufacturing know-how we have. Nobody has the natural resources – the forests, the diverse agriculture, the water – that we have.”
In his reaction to the address, state Rep. John Proos said, “our focus going forward should be on creating a playing field that allows for innovation and encourages the entrepreneurial spirit that Michigan has long been known for. This new economy will only happen if job providers are given more certainty and the opportunity to thrive and grow.
“I continue to propose ways to eliminate the burdensome regulations and uncompetitive tax structure that has cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last few years,” Proos said.
Jobs is the buzz word in Michigan. Something freshman legislator and state Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, said must not only be created but retained.
“She didn’t talk about the current businesses we have,” Tyler said in reaction to Granholm’s address Thursday morning.
Calling it a “solemn and flat address,” Tyler said while she shared some of Granholm’s visions, particularly on education and the need to get Michigan residents back to work, the question of how the governor plans to accomplish those objectives hung in the air.
“These jobs are going to be two to three years down the line,” Tyler said, of the governor’s job creation initiatives. “We need new jobs today.”
Tyler also said that while small communities have been working hard to keep the businesses they have and support their business communities, the state overall has not shown the kind of support needed to develop a thriving business climate in Michigan.
“The state hasn’t been pro-business,” she said. “They’re doing it alone.”
State Sen. Ron Jelinek agreed there seemed to be questions hanging in the air.
“She was very positive of the future,” Jelinek said. “We’re all excited and hopeful that these jobs will come.”
Once concern both Jelinek and Tyler seemed to share was just what would come of a balanced budget Granholm promised to provide as early as next week.
“Next week, I’ll present a comprehensive proposal that outlines all the steps we’ll have to take to enact a balanced budget that protects our priorities,” Granholm said, adding, “let’s be candid. The budget process is broken – it’s a last-minute, crisis-driven disaster. We must do better.”
The question weighing heavily on the minds of many legislators is whether or not that new balanced budget will amount to tax-increases on already financially strapped citizens.
“I don’t know where they (citizens) are going to find the money for that (tax increases),” Tyler said.
Jelinek added he was “very concerned” of whether or not increased taxes lay in waiting as Michigan moves through a transition, as Granholm called it.
“We have to communicate better with each other,” Tyler said. “We have to move forward with reforms and we have to make sure we have jobs for Michigan and look out for the people.”
The transition Granholm talked about at length, will include the end of her term and new leadership for the state. A change that might not come easily, Jelinek said.
“Probably not,” he said. “You know, we’re going to have to change the way we do business in Michigan. It’s going to be a change from business as usual. That’s not always easy for people.”