Yesterday, Governor Jennifer Granholm gave the annual “State of the State Address.” Granholm made it clear that the Michigan is facing a severe crisis, describing the past year as being “brutal.” While much of the address understandably focused on the grim reality of the state’s economic situation, Granholm made attempts at addressing the situation by suggesting a variety of proposals that would help Michigan face the “economic storm.”
Most of these proposals were centered on her three priorities of:
- “Fighting for more good paying jobs in Michigan”
- “Educating and training our people to fill those jobs”
- “Protecting our families during the worst economic conditions in more than a quarter of a century.”
Granholm Pushes for Obama Stimulus Plan
Early in her speech, Granholm praised the federal stimulus package being touted by the Obama administration as a means of helping Michigan. She said, “Obama’s priorities are nearly identical to ours” and praised his focus on renewable energy and “jobs for Middle America.” She argued that the stimulus package would give Michigan a one-time influx of cash that will allow Michigan to “move further and faster into a better future.”
Proposed Government Cuts
Granholm was quick to warn the legislature that the stimulus money would not be used to “create a bigger government in Michigan” and that she would not hesitate to veto such efforts.
Instead, Granholm proposed a series of cuts to the government. She proposed cutting the number of state departments to eight from the current eighteen and cutting the salaries of elected officials by 10%. She said she intended to eliminate the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. She also said it was her intent to eliminate funding for the state fairs and wetlands protections (she said the federal government should fund this). She also promised reforms aimed at reducing the corrections budget.
Jobs for Michigan
One of Granholm’s key priorities was creating jobs. She acknowledged that the jobs picture in Michigan has been bleak, but said that under her watch there have been jobs created. She praised efforts aimed at bringing film and television projects to Michigan, saying that they were responsible for $430 million in economic activity to the state.
Renewable Energy a Key Focus
Granholm also outlined several examples of job growth in the renewable energy sector. She gave examples of workers building parts for solar panels and those who maintain wind turbines. She said that the renewable energy sector creates “all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people” and that it has been and will be a major focus of her plan. Granholm said that appealing to this industry has worked. She cited examples of wind turbine manufacturers moving to Michigan.
She pledged to continue appealing to those industries, saying that Michigan is in a unique place to succeed. Moreover, she argued that as the demand for renewable energy increases across the United States, Michigan will be able to profit.
At the heart of this strategy was a plan to focus on reducing Michigan’s own fossil fuel electricity usage for by 45% by 2020. Granholm said that the state will move to use renewable energy to meet this goal, moving from spending $2 billion per year on coal to spending on wind turbines and solar panels located in Michigan. As means of doing this, she wants the legislature to pass legislation allowing anyone to sell energy to Michigan’s grid, wants utility companies to focus on reducing energy use rather than building new power plants, creating a Michigan Energy Corps that to put “thousands” of unemployed Michigan workers to work weatherizing buildings and installing renewable energy technology, and creating a program called Michigan Saves that will aid families and businesses in purchasing these services.
Granholm also said that renewable energy would lessen the need for new coal power plants in Michigan. She explained that she has directed the Department of Environmental Quality and the Public Service Commission to evaluate the need for these plants. She also intends to require that utility companies pursue “all feasible and prudent alternatives” before being awarded permits. Granholm further advocated support for technologies that would prevent coal plants from releasing pollution into the air.
Programs Aimed at Aiding Victims of Economic Crisis
Granholm outlined five steps aimed at helping families through the economic crisis:
- A one-year tuition freeze at Michigan’s colleges and community colleges.
- The Home Foreclosure Prevention Act that would give families 90 days to work out new financing for their homes rather than have them foreclosed.
- Asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to ban utility shut-offs for the remainder of the winter for seniors, disable people, and low and no-income households.
- Asking auto insurance companies to freeze rates for a year while the legislature works on insurance reform.
- Measures aimed at ensuring that people have access to healthcare.