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Mon November 16, 2009
Granholm taking revenue fight to campuses
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
LANSING, MI – Governor Granholm takes her campaign for revenue to college campuses this week. She will urge students and their families to press the Legislature to fund the Michigan Promise college scholarship, as well as restore other budget cuts.
So far, the focus at the state Capiol this November has been on the impact of budget cuts on K-12 schools. State aid payments to schools will go out this week reflecting a cut of $165 per student. Some of the state's highest-spending school districts will see even bigger cuts. And the cuts will grow even larger in December. Governor Granholm has warned school districts that a new shortfall in the School Aid Fund will force the state to cut schools by another $127 per student.
Linda Beattie came to the state Capitol from Saint Clair Shores in Macomb County with hundreds of other parents, teachers and school officials. They are lobbying lawmakers - especially Senate Republicans -- to come up with more money.
"I just think it's very, very party line," she says. "I don't think there is a middle. I don't think they're looking at what's best for students of for their districts, I think they're looking at what their political views are and not on representing their people."
Beattie says the cuts have been a double hit on the children in her family.
"I have one in high school and two in college," she continues, "so this is a - the Promise Scholarship is also hurting my children in college, so this is a big factor for me these cuts that they're doing."
This year, 96,000 students and their parents banked on the Michigan Promise. Governor Granholm says that's why she's taking the fight over revenue to college campuses. She will visit at least seven campuses this week and next. She will try to convince students to contact senators and lobby for the scholarship. She announced her plans in a radio address that aired over the weekend.
"At those campuses I'll be talking about everything we're doing in state government to create jobs and transform Michigan's economy, and that the most important long-term strategy for transforming Michigan's economy - bar none - is education," she said.
The Legislature is on an informal break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving. Governor Granholm wants to use that time to try and build pressure on the Republicans to support some options for raising revenue.
The ideas include taxing non-cigarette tobacco products at the same rate is cigarettes, raising the tax on beer, creating a bottled water fee or, perhaps most controversially, extending the sales tax to at least some services. Not all the options are new taxes. One idea would allow bars that buy a special license to sell booze until 4 A.M.
But Republicans insist that any discussion of revenue options is a setup for a tax hike. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says the state can no longer afford to give $4,000 to every college student.
"We're in a position in this state where we've done the best we can with what we have," he says.
And he says the governor is making the budget crisis worse than it has to be with additional cuts to schools.
"I don't know what she's up to," he adds. "I don't know why she thinks she's helping with this whole crash and burn style that she's taken on, but I can tell you that it's not being productive. If she thinks tax increases are the answer she should have her House move this over."
Bishop says House Democrats have not sent the Senate a credible plan to raise revenue. And he says it's a problem that Democrats won't support Senate Republican plans to raise money by freezing the tax credit for working poor families.
Even Governor Granholm says she sees no end to the stalemate. But she says the game may change when people start seeing the impact of budget cuts as teachers are laid off and classrooms closed, as the cost of college goes up, and local governments have to cut services.
Republicans are betting the public will find the budget cuts easier to stomach than the Democrats' ideas for raising more money.