Jennifer Granholm will be Michigan’s governor for another 11 months, and she still commands a bully pulpit. As we saw Wednesday with her final State of the State speech, she knows how to use it to deliver a forceful message.
But beyond the emotion and eloquence that Granholm brought to the stage, this speech also marks the start of what looks to be a decline into irrelevance. The governor had little to say Wednesday that can or should be taken seriously for the rest of this year.
In other words, lawmakers will have to fix state government without her.
Consider the lack of reality behind her words:
• Michigan now has a diversified economy? Hardly. This state’s decade-long economic struggles have been the result of the Detroit Three automakers bleeding jobs, and this state still depends on manufacturing.
The advanced battery technologies, homeland security and defense contracting that she pointed to all involve manufacturing. It will be the cornerstone of Michigan’s economic rebound.
• Granholm will block any education cuts next year? How? The next state budget is so far out of balance — more than $1.5 billion in the hole — that every corner of state government is going to be affected.
Educators know this. That’s why school boards are preparing to eliminate positions, close schools, privatize jobs or make students pay to play sports.
• Speaking of the budget, how would the governor balance it? Granholm said disturbingly little about that $1.5 billion gap, preferring to leave the public to speculate until she releases a budget blueprint next week.
Granholm wants to force out some 46,000 employees who are eligible to retire. That might be a logical move, except that it wouldn’t cover the shortfall. At the same time, the governor says she wants to find money for pet causes such as the Michigan Promise scholarships.
To her credit, the governor hit the mark on some issues Wednesday. She is correct that government must do with less, and that even this just-ended lost decade yielded some positives for the state.
Granholm also appears to have found religion when it comes to small businesses. Her administration is working with 30 credit unions to provide more than $40 million in small-business loans, plus she would allow investors in such companies to receive tax incentives more easily. These are good ideas that would build the economy from the bottom up.
Still, on the fundamental issues facing the state, Granholm has been left behind. Business groups are promoting plans to reinvent Michigan government. Democratic and Republican leaders in the Legislature, meanwhile, largely put together this year’s budget without her help.
Based on her speech Wednesday, there’s little reason to believe that they should take Granholm seriously again. It’s the capstone to a long list of disappointments for this governor.
— THE JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT