The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 03, 2006

Granholm promotes health plan, construction, instruction

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - In her fourth and final State of the State address of her first term, Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Jan. 25 outlined the next steps in her plan to get Michigan's economy moving again.

"Tonight," she said, "I want to talk to the everyday people of Michigan, the people who built Michigan's schools and churches, its little leagues and Kiwanis Clubs. The people who power its economy and who only expect for themselves a fair opportunity to build a good life for their families.

"Michigan, I am here to tell you: We have a detailed and comprehensive plan to grow this economy. We are working that plan. And everything in that plan will secure the opportunity for a good life for you and your family. In Michigan."

Saddled with one of the highest statewide jobless rates in the nation, a declining tax base and with an auto industry that has been rocked to the core with layoffs and bad financial numbers, Granholm and state lawmakers have struggled to find solutions.

Late in 2005 the Democratic governor and Republican legislature came to terms on the "Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow" plan. For the building trades, the highlight of the plan was the acceleration of $3 billion in infrastructure projects over the next three years, instead of over a decade. A total package of $6 billion, the plan also includes a $600 million in business tax cuts.

In addition, Granholm touted how the state has resolved $4 billion in budget deficits without a general tax increase, and the passage of 51 tax cuts for both businesses and individual taxpayers.

Responding to Granholm's speech, Michigan Speaker of the House Craig DeRoche, R-Novi said: " There are stark differences in philosophies for turning this once-mighty economic powerhouse back into high gear, but I believe a true debate on our differences can lead to creative solutions and bold ideas that are sorely in need.

"We've got to get back to the basics that made Michigan a leader in innovation and economic growth: Lower taxes, less regulations, high standards in education and an infrastructure that makes Michigan a logical center for the manufacturing and distribution of goods and services around the world."

The governor also offered some new initiatives:

  • A new health care plan to provide access to affordable health insurance to more than 500,000 uninsured citizens. The Michigan First Health Care Plan would make affordable private health plans available to small business employees, the self-employed, and the working poor without access to traditional employer-based health insurance or government-run programs. Granholm said that cutting the state's uninsured population by half would create significant savings for businesses and citizens who subsidize uninsured health care.
  • She called for quick action on her proposal for a tough core curriculum and a new $4,000 Merit Award scholarship for students to continue their education beyond high school. Granholm said she would call for significant new investments in education, after school programs, and early childhood education in her upcoming budget.
  • She called on the legislature to allocate an additional $25 million to help provide home heating assistance, to raise the minimum wage, to cut insurance rates by 20 percent, to pass tough new ethics standards and demand corporate responsibility and provide workers access to pension savings plans. "We have been working the plan," said Granholm. "We have been consistent, disciplined, and unwavering in executing it. And tonight, we will move this plan - and our state - forward. We must protect the everyday way of life that Michigan citizens have worked so hard to build."