In her annual State of the State address, given last night to a joint session of the Michigan state House of Representatives and Senate, Gov. Jennifer Granholm repeatedly emphasized the importance of rebuilding Michigan into a state that is attractive to high-paying businesses and individual entrepreneurs alike. She passionately urged the Legislature to move forward with her and build an educated workforce that has the skills needed most in today’s competitive job market. Despite troubles decades in the making, Granholm insisted that, under her proposed economic plan, Michigan will be ready for the job producers of tomorrow.
The address rightfully focused on the importance of retaining high-paying jobs to help revive the struggling economy, and proposed a $2 billion bond drive projected to create 100,000 jobs and make Michigan a center for research and high paying jobs — all without raising taxes. While the idea to fund public projects through a massive bond sale is a good one, it is unclear whether the Republican-controlled Legislature will support such a proposal. Assuming it does, this plan would be invaluable in aiding Michigan through the transition from an industrial to modern, technology-driven economy.
The governor’s bond plan is but one component of a broader employment program that she has dubbed the “Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow” initiative. Granholm hopes the extra money generated by the bond will bring short-term relief to the state’s employment sector while also setting the stage for future development of the workforce. Granholm has recognized the need to target the state’s training efforts toward those sectors most thirsty for skilled workers – nursing and energy, to name a few.
As part of her long-term economic strategy, Granholm emphasized the importance of a well-trained workforce in fostering renewed economic growth. She asserted that, in order to attract technology-driven firms that offer high-paying and secure jobs, Michigan must ensure that a large portion of its high school graduates attend a four-year university or receive some other form of post-secondary education. She made it clear throughout her address that a high school degree is no longer enough to sustain the type of lifestyle she envisions for Michigan residents; only those with at least a two-year college education will have the necessary tools to succeed.
It was unfortunate, however, that despite the emphasis placed on higher education, Granholm failed to mention the recent decline in state funding for public universities and the corresponding rise in tuition costs. Considering the amount of attention that she lavished on higher education, it is surprising that Granholm has allowed the state to cut funding for and renege on budget deals with public institutions such as the University. Higher education, surely the priority Granholm claimed it is, must be given adequate funding; in-state universities must not be starved for cash.
In an effort to increase college attendance, Granholm proposed an impressive merit award overhaul that replaces the current $2,500 Michigan Merit Award available immediately after graduation from high school with an increased $4,000 award available after two years of post-secondary education. This increase is substantial and promises to benefit the many students who struggle to attend college each year. Regretfully, because the money is only given after a student completes two years of their degree, this proposal will not help those who cannot even afford a single year at an in-state university.
Granholm should also be commended for her “college credit amnesty” program, which would make it easier for adults to finish incomplete college degrees. Recognizing that many people drop out of colleges and universities before completing their degree requirements, Granholm has proposed a plan that world allow returning students to count expired credits toward the completion of an undergraduate degree. This is an admirable proposal that will give more adults the opportunity to complete their college education and go on to provide better lives for their families.
Unfortunately, while Granholm made a concerted effort to reach out to Republicans during her speech, her attempts were met with muted enthusiasm. This response raises some questions as to whether her proposals will be able to pass through a Legislature deeply divided along partisan lines. Considering that a gubernatorial election is scheduled for next year, this partisanship is sure to intensify as time goes by. If Granholm’s plans are to be successful, they must be enacted now — before electoral pressures become too great.
With the exception of a few holes and a handful of unnecessary clich