While complimenting the quality of Michigan higher education in
her State of the State address last night, Gov. Jennifer Granholm
did not promise that state universities would have an easier time
this year dealing with the state’s continuing budget
crisis.

Mira Levitan
Gov. Jennifer Granholm gives the State of the State address last night at the State Capitol in Lansing. (AP PHOTO)

“Times are tough, so tighten your belts. … Keep
tuition affordable and keep the American dream of college alive for
young people,” Granholm said at the state capitol in
Lansing.

She commended Wayne State University and Michigan State
University for agreeing to hold tuition increases for next year to
below the rate of inflation. As a result, both schools will see no
more than a 2-percent cut in funding this year.

University President Mary Sue Coleman released a statement last
night saying she is still unsure whether the University will agree
to a similar deal.

“We will continue to work cooperatively with the governor
and the Legislature to keep our tuition as low as possible under
these very difficult circumstances,” Coleman said. “But
it is simply too soon in our planning process, and too uncertain a
state budget picture, for us to be able to make a decision about
budgeting for next year.”

The University received a $16.4 million funding cut last month
after the state revealed a $900 million budget deficit. In
addition, the state cut an additional $37 million from the
University’s budget earlier in 2003. The University responded
in July with tuition increases of 6.5 percent and 6 percent for
in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. In addition, the
administration downsized staffs, cut classes and reduced certain
library hours.

Granholm pointed to her accomplishments in completing a budget
despite a $3 billion budget deficit. She noted that all state
departments saw reduced appropriations.

“We have spent a year twisting the wet towel of government
tight, to wring out ounce after ounce of inefficiency. We trimmed
hundreds of millions of dollars by cutting cell phone usage,
turning off lights and calling in state cars,” Granholm said.
“If you seek a leaner government, look about you.”

But Granholm noted that the state would continue to expand on
new ideas and the state economy. She reaffirmed her “Cool
Cities Initiative,” an idea to revitalize cities to keep
college graduates from leaving the state. Cool Cities also involves
expanding the state job market and attracting more businesses to
the state.

“I am pleased to say that this is a bottom-up movement in
which nearly 80 of our communities have local commissions on cool
that are uncorking the bottle of creativity and unleashing the
bottle of possibility — planning everything from bike paths
to bookstores to attract more people and new businesses,”
Granholm said.

In a prepared GOP response, state Rep. Scott Shackleton (R-
Sault Ste. Marie) said job creation was a top priority for the
legislature this year.

“We will fight for every Michigan job, and we won’t
stop fighting until every person who wants to work can find a
job,” he said.

Michigan business groups said they were also pleased with
Granholm’s speech.

I heard and welcomed a pro-jobs, pro-manufacturing and basically
conservative message that called for making the state more
business-friendly, said John MacIlroy, president and CEO of the
Michigan Manufacturers Association.

Granholm also made health care an important focus of her speech
last night. She proposed a new Michigan Prescription Discount card,
know as the MI-RX, which would allow 200,000 senior citizens and
working people without insurance to cut the cost of prescription
drugs by as much as 20 percent. The card is modeled after a program
started by Macomb County last year.

“We will expand access to basic healthcare,”
Granholm said. “Few things affect the quality of our life and
the quality of our work more than good health.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this
report

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *