Can Granholm salvage her last year in office?

She doesn’t sound like the late Soapy Williams, the unabashed liberal who governed Michigan for 12 years in the late 1940s and 1960s.

        Nor is she emulating the late Walter Reuther, arguably the most effective leader of the once-powerful United Auto Workers union.

        But that was then, and this is now. Michigan’s wealth has declined significantly, and our state has serious fiscal problems.

        Moreover, favorable poll numbers of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, in her final year as the state’s chief executive, have been plummeting, even though she won her first term easily in 2002. Her diminishing popularity almost certainly is attributable to the state’s anemic economy and a feeling among the electorate that the road to recovery of Michigan’s once-vibrant status will be long and rocky.

        So we should be grateful that she refuses to let all these factors, along with her lame-duck status, get in the way of some new ideas.

        For example, Granholm last week came out with an interesting notion: Cut the state sales to 5.5 percent from 6 percent, then extend the lower tax to include some consumer services. Not for the product, mind you, just for the service.

        Wisely, Granholm’s sales tax extension plan would exclude health care and social assistance, education, new construction, real estate and insurance commissions, and services directly connected to business operations.

        Also on Granholm’s final fiscal agenda is decreasing the business surcharge tax — which has been widely unpopular — and then scrapping it over the next two years.

        Her plan has sticks as well as carrots. State workers and teachers would pay more for their pension and health care costs, saving taxpayers a bundle and putting public employees in about the same boat as many private workers.

        Granholm’s budget is based on the premise that Michigan will get $722 million in federal recovery assistance, about $500 million of which still needs to be approved by Congress.

        Moreover, the popular Michigan Promise Grant, which has been cut from the budget, would be restored as a $4,000 tax credit refundable to students who earn a college degree and choose thereafter to work in Michigan for at least a year. Retaining well-educated young people in our state is vital to our long-term prosperity.

        “We still have to invest in the things that businesses want in order for them to grow,” Granholm emphasized. “That means education. Education directly relates to job creation.” We couldn’t agree more.

        There are a lot of other ideas connected with the new budget, including a move to change the state Constitution to dock legislators a day’s pay for each day they go beyond a July 1 deadline to adopt the next year’s funding plan.

        Our divided Legislature now has the responsibility to find enough good in these ideas, and in some of their own, to fashion a spending plan on which both sides of the aisle can agree.

        If that happens — in an election year no less — Michigan residents should give a huge cheer.

— KALAMAZOO GAZETTE

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