Whitmer to pick growth council

To the list of “sure things in life” — i.e., death and taxes — in this town, you can add another one: Governors love to form study commissions.

Former Gov. William Milliken had his Education Reform Commission, which was charged with improving the education for our youngins. Please note that that objective continues some 50 years later.

Former Gov. Jim Blanchard took the oath of office with one hand and with the other created a blue ribbon commission to suggest ways to resolve a whopping state deficit and get the state “off its knees to the Japanese.”

He paid dearly for that, because the tax increase that the captains of industry recommended eventually resulted in the Republicans recalling two Democrats who voted for the tax hike. That in turn launched a 40-year dominance of the Legislature by the state Senate GOP.

So, with this current governor tooting the trumpet over the creation of her hand-picked Growing Michigan Together Council, what will the fallout be — if any — from this governor-driven effort?

Since 1990, Michigan has been 49th in the country when it comes to attracting new folks to transplant here and keeping the folks who are here from wandering off to some faraway state (can you say Florida?).

The biggest challenge is to keep the college-educated kids from soaking up a state-supported degree that you helped pay for and then packing their diploma and P.C.’s for Chicago or some other more attractive state.

The theme song for this council may well be “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?”

Fifty-five percent of those ages 18 to 29 told the Glengariff polling folks that, in 10 years, they likely would be still in the state, but it’s the 45% that the governor wants to cut into as they pack their bags.

The widely respected Citizens Research Council — an independent, non-political think tank — paints an ugly graphic. It contends the state has fallen behind in jobs, earnings, health care, education prowess, and the quality of public service at both the state and local government levels.

Other than that, the state is sitting fat and sassy.

So, when in doubt, and when faced with the kind of problem that can impose a huge smudge on your legacy, governors turn to the “experts” for a lifeline. Hence, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will appoint 28 members to the growth panel, with at least one member younger than 25 and one Republican, whom she will pick.

So much for a bipartisan group with input from the two GOP leaders, who wanted a 50-50 membership split.

She hopes to “keep politics out of the conversation.”

But those leaders wasted little time doing just the opposite, the governor’s backers would say.

“It is a heavily skewed partisan commission,” bellowed the state House GOP leader, Matt Hall.

His remarks were echoed by the state Senate GOP leader, Aric Nesbitt, who laments that she is forming this thing to give her cover for a “huge tax increase” to solve the problem.

The Republicans could make the case that, if you are going to beef up all those barriers to population growth, it will cost a pretty penny … or two. And, since there are not enough new taxpayers coming in and too many going out, the only way to do that is to tax those who are left.

The governor, for her part, is not publicly pre-judging any of that, as she awaits a report due in December.

But, first, the town waits to see whom she picks, which should give some clue as to whether the tax hike will be at the top of the solution list. The Republicans are probably thinking there probably won’t be any anti-taxers with a seat at that table.


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