Feb 24, 2007

Democrats leave state convention energized and ready to defend Michigan against the nay sayers

Like many of the Democrats in the solid blue state of Michigan, I left Cobo Hall and the Michigan Democratic Party Convention Saturday energized and ready to save and defend the state I call home.

Gov. Granholm gave an impassioned speech in defense of her common sense budget plan that erases a $3 billon hole in the budget with a combination of even more spending cuts and a 2-penny investment on goods and services that will cost the average family about $1.33 a week, or the price of a cup of coffee a week.

“Are you willing to invest a cup of coffee a week to save Michigan,” she said. “Our choices are we will invest in Michigan and move Michigan forward, or we will cut and gut Michigan.”

The Governor has signed 93 tax cuts since she took office in 2002, and she has had to do this while making spending cuts to erase the $4 billon budget deficit left in her lap from the previous Governor. Taxes have been cut every year for the last 15 years, and there is simply nothing left to cut and still stay competitive and provide the essential services residents depend on and draws people and business to the state. We have less state employees now then we did in 1973, despite having more than a million more residents. That also includes 1,600 less police officers on Michigan streets since 9/11 because of the budget cuts required by the governor to balance the budget. Business taxes have been cut for the past seven years. Study and after study has shown it is a high quality of life that draws companies and businesses to the area, and it is not rock bottom, slave wages that attracts companies to the U.S.

“If it was true that cutting taxes was the way to prosperity we would have a robust economy,” the Governor said.

Earlier this month, the Senate Republics rejected the governor's executive order that balanced the current budget, and we are still waiting for a plan from the Senate. Secrets are usually hard to keep in Lansing, but exactly what the Republics plan to cut is a better-kept secret than the Manhattan Project.

“We know what they are against, but what are they for,” the Governor said. “Put your plan out to the public.”

Experts have said we will never win a race to the bottom with wages, and why would we even want to win such a race. We can’t pay Third World wages in the U.S., so we must invest in quality of life issues; like good public schools, quality colleges and universities, safe streets and solid infrastructure to stay competitive.

“If we won’t invest in Michigan, no multi-national corporation is going to invest in Michigan,” said Rep. Fred Miller.

Democrats will be forced to make the tough choices to keep Michigan competitive and moving forward because the Republics simply do not have the backbone or courage to make them. They do not even have the courage to tell us what they plan to cut, and that goes back as far as last summer when they voted to end the Single Business Tax (SBT) early without a replacement. The Republics did so in order to make the false claim on the campaign trail that they cut taxes and then leave it to the Democrats to clean up the mess they created by making the tough, hard and responsible choices.

“We have to run against sound bites,” said Speaker of the House Andy Dillon. “We have to run against sound bites that we raised taxes and cut this or that popular program.”

Perhaps the best news to come out of the convention is that Dianne Byrum will be staying on in a position of leadership. After being term-limited out of the House in December, the former Minority Floor Leader - who was one of the people responsible for Democrats taking control of the House for the first time since 1998 - was elected Treasurer of the MDP. Byrum was the first woman to ever lead the House Democrats, and she helped swing 13 seats to the Democratic ledger, the most since the 1930s. The change in the House in the short time it has been controlled by the Democrats has been dramatic, and for the first time since perhaps 1998 there was actual debate on the House floor Thursday when the House approved a package of bills that repeals a 1996 law granting legal immunity to drug companies.

“We were able to beat the Republicans in their own gerrymandered districts,” Byrum said. “Republicans were so desperate to hang onto their power they used shameless tricks like squashing debate at every turn.”

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