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January 23, 2007


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The "Commission" set up by the Granholm Administration is an interesting story, worthy of some good investigative journalism.
Unfortunately, Mr. Lessenberry hasn't provided it.
The story begins with the obvious; Governor Granholm's choice of two former governors to head this commission included (along with Jim Blanchard) Bill Milliken. And not John Engler.
The crtical feature about the choice of Milliken is that his own record as governor was generally okay, but by all accounts, his greatest failure was in balancing the state budget and holding down the cost of state government. His credantials as a budget hawk are among the worst in state history.

More recently, Milliken has become a laughingstock within the Republican party. He endorsed John Kerry for President, in a Free Press OpEd. He has had no role in the state Republican party for many years. I presume (and here again, some good investigative reporting would be a good thing; perhpas one of Mr. Lessenberry's journalism students can take on the task) that Bill and Helen Milliken each made personal contributions to the Kerry '04 and Granholm '06 election campaigns. In the last election cycle, Milliken publicly attacked the state Republican Party, on behalf of his long-time friends, Carl and Sander Levin, for advertisements run in the brutish Andy Levein-versus-John Pappgeorge race for state senate.

All of those activities are well within the Millikens' rights as politically active Americans. But it is scant credentialling as a "Republican" on a committe empowered with recommending new taxes for the state.

As a reader of the Free Press asked in a question to the paper's editors, "I thought that a 'bipartisan' committe meant that there would be co-chairmen from both parties?"

Had Governor Granholm requested the participation of former Governor Engler, Michigan's Republicans would have had a reasonable expectation that their views on taxing and spending would be heard. With the selection of former Governor Milliken, Michigan's Republicans feel very much like the Democrats would if President Bush had named a Bipartisan Commission to review Iraq policy, and he selected Senator Joe Lieberman to act as a co-chairman. Would the Democrats accept the results of a "Kyl-Lieberman Commission" the same way that they attached themselves to "Baker-Hamilton"?
Again, there is a really great story on Bill Milliken waiting to be reported. Mr. Lessenberry, in writing an apologia for tax increases and the Granholm Administration, has not supplied that reporting.

I am totally unimpressed by anyone who wants to run down people who are trying to make a difference and doesn't even have the guts to sign their name. However, I must say that the anti-tax party did have a chance to be heard ten weeks ago, and 58 percent of the people said thanks, but no thanks.

"People trying to make a difference" is a politically neutral sentiment.
If "making a difference" means creating a better business climate in Michigan and growing the state's private sector economy, then I am all for it.
If it means raising taxes, then I have some serious concerns.
Let's remember that the "Commission" in question doesn't have the power to do anything on its own. It won't raise taxes or lower them. But it also won't be answerable to voters or taxpayers. Nor will the Governor, at least insofar as she will not run for that office again.
The state legislature will face the hard decisions, and they will be answerable in the next general election.
If, as Mr. Lessenberry says, we need to follow the will of "58 percent" of the electorate, then I'd like to consider how 58 percent of Michigan's electorate will vote if their legislators decide to raise their taxes.

The real story about this commission is about a sales strategy; about how to make a taxing decision look good. Under the cover of attractive resumes. If anyone doubts this, then let us make a wager on whether or not the Commission will, in fact, recommend new taxes and new net sources of increased funding for state government. I say they will. And when their decision is made public, they will don their best somber faces, pronounce their remedy as being one that is "neccessary" and "bipartisan" and supported by blue-ribbon thinkers. All of them pre-approved and privately invited, of course, by a Democrat Governor.

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