One hundred days have passed since Gov. Jennifer Granholm took office on New Year’s Day with promises of innovation and growth for the state of Michigan. While Granholm has been generally well received by the public, there is debate about whether the governor has lived up to her initial promises.
While critics say crippling budget shortfalls of $1.7 billion and a lack of organization have hindered Granholm from pursuing the innovative approach she promised, the governor insists that balancing the budget has been a triumphant accomplishment that has established a foundation for her future agenda.
“Anyone who looks at the governor’s budget proposals can see where her policies are and where her priorities are. Her budget laid the framework for the policies she’s putting in place,” Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. “We’re very proud of the first 100 days.”
Boyd cited new prescription drug programs and the restoration of the K-12 foundation grant as examples of proposals within the governor’s budget that illustrate her commitment to families and education. The proposed drug program would extend the health care benefits for citizens on Medicaid, while the K-12 grant offers resources for underfunded public school systems.
However, Republicans in the state Legislature are not as optimistic about the course set so far by the Granholm administration.
State House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-LeRoy) said the governor not only lacks clear stances on policies, but also has failed to encourage the healthy bipartisan relationships she initially said would bond the state’s Democrats and Republicans under a common agenda.
The Democrats “don’t give us any votes on the proposals we’re trying to pass, but we’ve been giving her what she wants,” Johnson said. “To me, bipartisanship works both ways.”
Johnson added that a lack of communication and willingness to cooperate on the part of Granholm’s staff is slowing the Legislature and preventing it from running at its highest capacity.
The speaker said the reluctance from the governor and legislative Democrats to aid Republican efforts to preserve the Michigan Merit Award program is a sign that Granholm is not willing to work with both parties.
Not surprisingly, Democrats in the legislature have been much more positive about the beginning of the governor’s term. Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) said she is extremely pleased with Granholm’s leadership and that the governor is effectively leading Michigan in the right direction.
Boyd denied that the governor is responsible for partisan divisions, citing the Land Use Leadership Council that Granholm established in March as evidence that the governor is looking for solutions to problems that satisfy both parties’ concerns. The task force was established to find effective solutions to urban sprawl and environmental crises.
“She’s meeting regularly with leadership in the Senate and the House, both Democratic and Republican,” Boyd said. “She wants a strong bipartisan working relationship.”
Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, agreed with Johnson on many of the speaker’s arguments, but added that it is too soon to judge the effectiveness or direction of many of Granholm’s proposals.
“I’d say we have to give her a grade of ‘incomplete’ because so much depends on where she ends up with this budget, and we may not know that for three or four more months,” Ballenger said.
Both critics and supporters have agreed that governor has done an effective job in dealing with the public relations crisis that the state’s budget shortfall presented.
“I think the governor did a good job getting around the state and talking to people about the budget,” Johnson said. “She’s a very articulate person.”
According to Boyd, the governor found the most personally difficult moments of her administration when she called the families of Michigan’s fallen servicemen in Iraq. The proposal of a balanced budget was the high point, she said.