Guest column: Three-point investment plan will get Michigan moving

By Doug Rothwell/Business Leaders for Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget for 2014 offers new promise for Michigan.

Now that our fiscal house is in order, thanks to an eradication of old accounting gimmicks and heavy debt obligations, our state is positioned to make good choices about its future investments. The options we pursue today will define our state generations from now. That is why Michigan’s business leaders applaud the recommendations the governor put forth on behalf of education and infrastructure:

Helping every child succeed. The governor made early childhood education a strong priority for next year’s budget, in recognition of research demonstrating that significant brain development occurs during the first five years of life. By strengthening the opportunities available to young learners, this year’s budget can begin building a track record of support for future generations of Michigan residents.

Doug Rothwell is president/CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, an advocacy group “dedicated to making Michigan a ‘Top Ten’ state for job, economic and personal income growth.”

Supporting community colleges and higher education. The governor also offered additional support for higher education based on performance. This is particularly heartening, given Michigan’s decades of disinvestment in its colleges and universities which has made it more expensive for our students to get the quality education they need. Michigan needs educated workers — to the tune of 900,000 college graduates by the year 2020 — and we’re not going to arrive at those levels without investing more in higher education.

Rebuilding our infrastructure. Finally, Michigan’s business community is pleased to see the governor and the Legislature making a commitment to finding a comprehensive funding solution for our roads and bridges. A number of options are on the table for finding the revenue we need to strengthen our infrastructure.

Business Leaders for Michigan supports a long-term funding solution with some elasticity that provides a revenue stream to allow us to repair our state’s infrastructure and meet our future needs.

These proposals align with our Michigan Turnaround Plan, which focused heavily on structural change that lasts and was developed in response to our collective need to shore up the state’s financial and management structure and begin building for the future. Michigan has profound resources — natural, intellectual, and industrial — that can position us well to compete and become a Top Ten state for job, personal income and economic growth. To make those resources work for us, we must carefully nurture and invest in them.

We are at a pivotal moment in Michigan’s history. We are in the midst of a recovery. We urge the people of Michigan to support our leaders as they prioritize state spending to propel Michigan forward.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

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jean kozek
Tue, 02/19/2013 - 10:02am
Michigan's fiscal house is in order? If you mean that state government has a balanced budget, then perhaps you may be correct. But, if you mean that the three priorities you listed can occur, you are mistaken. There are no state tax funds to pay for these priorities in which case our fiscal house in NOT in order. Taxes on businesses were cut by 84%. So, the business community has its Wish List but doesn't accept the responsibility to pay for it. Your suggestions are insincere because you and the business community don't want to put money where your mouth is.
Tue, 02/19/2013 - 10:33am
Yah, we are better off strangling GM, Ford, & Chrysler with high taxes. Generous Mother is supposed to feed the masses even when she is on her death bed. Maybe Ford will pick up the load. Let's tax the businesses and strive for higher unemployment. The world is changing and the day is coming when the handout will be the hand up. No more sitting on the porch collecting a welfare check. What makes you think any business outside the service industry would stay in Michigan if they can't be competitive in their market due to the tax burden. The roads are crap, the labor is expensive, the weather is challenging and in most areas of high skilled labor, your executives refuse to live. So whine all you want about how the job creaters are getting a deal and I will applaude the opportunity for business expansion and more jobs for our unemployed and our sons & daughters. Michigan can be great again but only through employed, home owning tax payers and the more we do to drive that, the better we all will be.
Ed Haynor
Tue, 02/19/2013 - 5:37pm
I agree with Jean, that the business community is receiving all the advantages as illustrated by the 1.8 billion dollar YEARLY tax cut, rules and regulations that are so slanted to favor business, and court decisions that favor the business community. I'm so concerned that the tipping point, so now favors business, those who make an hourly wage are imperiled to the point of another American Revolution. In support of my comments, as reported today, considering productivity gains, 40% of Americans now make less than 1968 minimum wage.
Tue, 02/19/2013 - 8:18pm
That's nice that you mention an American Revolution. Just what the economy needs, domestic turmoil. So typical of organized labor. Civil unrest results in destroying the economy and causes unbearible damage to the worker and employer. Strikes only work if they cause the employer to lose market share to the competition. That doesn't work anymore cause the competition comes from overseas where there is no solidarity. And even the US consumer has no loyalty to the big three. If you travel around this country, you will notice how foreign cars dominate the market everywhere except Michigan. For every favorable court decision that favors a business, there are ever increasing USEPA & MDEQ regulations that place useless testing, record keeping & reporting burdens on Michigan businesses. It easy to just go to a job and not have to deal with how to keep a company profitable, meet cashflow requirements, manage materials, sales, customer service an on and on while the worker sits at his station and expects a pay check at the end of the week, whether products are sold, customers paid their invoices and all the suppliers got paid. Over the next 3 years, we may be back to a 1968 economy. Small houses, one car families, one TV, & Moms staying home with the kids instead of a $7000 vacation to DisneyLand.
Kevin Hort
Wed, 02/20/2013 - 11:57am
So, are you advocating for a return to the 1968 economy as you mention or are you suggesting this will happen if things do not change? Just curious.
Thu, 02/21/2013 - 1:55pm
I'm suggesting that if there are is not a significant increase in jobs, the economy will equalize at an earlier benchmark. Our county road commission is operating at 1998 budget levels and we are trying hard to provide acceptable service, but at the expense of long term life of the roads system. If this takes place across the state, values will adjust and life style will be shifted to former levels that represent those values. You see it in housing now. The reduction in home values has reduced the tax base at local municipalities and they have been forced to reduce services. If people can't afford a life style they have been a custom to, they will whine but still be forced to adjust. You have to be old enough to remember when there was no retail sales on Sundays. I can remember my dad having to make sure he bought gas on Saturday to cover Sunday's trip to grandma's for dinner. Mothers stayed home and raised the children and families lived on one income. If you ask people who grew up in the 50's & 60's, they will tell you it was the best of times, with so much hope & security. Then came Viet Nam and things changed, but untill then life was pretty good. Life styles really increased with the advent of two income earners. The impact of that is finally being realized with too much labor in the market, ignoring the traditional family unit and the changing emphasis away from maternal paranting. Interesting times ahead.
Charles Richards
Tue, 02/19/2013 - 1:52pm
Mr. Rothwell is mistaken when he says, " Michigan needs educated workers — to the tune of 900,000 college graduates by the year 2020 — and we’re not going to arrive at those levels without investing more in higher education." He may not have noticed, but residents of other states do not need a visa to come to Michigan. If we require particular skills or educated individuals in the future, companies will recruit them from the rest of the nation. To insist that we produce our own rather than import them smacks of autarky, and is foolish. And while high quality early learning may be beneficial for children from severely disadvantaged, dysfunctional families, it has not proven to be particularly effective for most children.
William C. Plumpe
Mon, 02/25/2013 - 11:33am
If you actually look at all the taxes charged Michigan is somewhere in the middle in comparison to other States as to over all tax burden. And there is no doubt that taxes pay for government services like education, health care, roads and bridges and security and protection. Go to some of the lowest over all tax rate States and you have low taxes but you also have services that are low quality or non-existent.. The real issue is not the level of taxation as much as it is how effectively and efficiently the funds raised are spent. Of course if someone wants to get the attention of voters for political purposes claiming that lowering taxes will spur business growth is a sure winner. But as far as I know there is no definitive, scientific study that proves that lowering taxes actually does spur business growth. I do know that Michigan's top quality Colleges and Universities do help to create, attract and retain jobs. But being top quality doesn't come cheaply---not at all. Remember that when politicians start talking about lowering taxes. Lowering taxes is sure to lower the quality of services. The idea is to work to ensure that the taxes you pay are spent properly and wisely. But that takes time and effort for citizens to lobby elected officials in Lansing. But we voted them in office so shouldn't we hold them accountable rather than relying on an easy, "quick fix" like lowering taxes? Are you too busy to work to make sure that your tax money is spent wisely? Enough said