Saturday, June 2, 2007

Time for Granholm to get it done

It's been a rough week of mortgaging Michigan's future.

To console themselves, patrician politicians are partying with the powerful up on Mackinac Island for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual shindig.

One thing is clear. In the grand, face-saving fa├žade known as the 2007 budget deal, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm whiffed.

She knew it was crammed full of one-time fixes and accounting tricks — the very shenanigans she fingered her predecessor, John Engler, for using in the '90s that got us into this mess.

She knew borrowing against future investments would cost the Mitten State millions.She knew they were just shunting the problem to next year.

What's worse, she could have spared higher education and economic development by inking a deal with the GOP months ago — before the deficit blew up to $800 million.

She knew better. Period.

Yes, legislative Republicans knew all this, too. But they've already shown more loyalty to rabid, out-of-state anti-tax groups than to their constituents or sensible fiscal policy.

And unlike neophyte Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, Granholm has been to the bargaining table before. After her landslide re-election last fall, she vowed she would lead.

We're waiting.

The governor was off to a good start in January, appointing the blue-ribbon, bipartisan Emergency Financial Panel to make hard-nosed recommendations for the state's long-term problems. Well, she gave the report a cursory look, kind of like President Bush did to that of the Iraq Study Group.It's tough to say whose approach has failed more spectacularly.

Displaying a vexing blend of bluster and timidity, Granholm talks loudly while carrying a small stick. After her 2-cent tax on services proposal went down in flames, she seemed content to let House Speaker Andy Dillon come up with a better idea.

And rather than battle for health care, public safety and schools, the governor figured she could live to fight another day. Maybe she can save them by squeezing a modest tax increase out of Bishop for 2008.Maybe not.

A brilliant orator, Granholm will continue to paint the other side as evil-doers bent on shuttering schools and tossing the sick on the street, because of Republicans' medically untreatable compulsion to cut taxes.

That's an easy fight to win. Michiganders are increasingly horrified by budget cuts, with 70 percent willing to swallow tax hikes even in a dismal economy.

But the most important question is: What do you stand for, governor?

You say you support middle-class Michiganders. Will you restructure the state tax code so the clerk at Meijer doesn't pay the same income tax rate as Dick DeVos?

You say a college education is essential. Will you actually increase funding to state universities?

You say you support business innovation. Will you promise not to lay a hand on any more of the 21st Century Jobs Fund money?

You say health-care coverage is critical for citizens and saves us all money. Will you finally get a universal access plan passed?

Take some time on paradise island to answer these questions and craft a new plan.

Then do us a favor. Stop blaming the GOP and get it done.

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