Michigan State of the State Address 2001

Thank you, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, for your introduction. Thank you, Father George Shalhoub, for your inspiring prayer. Speaker Rick Johnson, Majority Leader Dan DeGrow, members of the House and Senate, Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, members of the judiciary, colleagues in government, fellow citizens:

Thirty years ago this month, I took the oath of office in this chamber for the very first time. Then, leadership mattered and so did civility. They still do.

For their efforts to further mutual understanding and cooperation, I commend the new leaders of the House, Speaker Rick Johnson and Leader Kwame Kilpatrick.

We should never forget that the successes of the 90s Proposal A, safer streets, welfare reform, Build Michigan, Clean Michigan, 31 tax cuts all resulted from our willingness to work together. Michigan's continuing success requires continuing to work together.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing. In the decades that followed, Michigan workers made everything from Buicks to bombers and changed the world. At beginning of the 21st century, scientists are gathering across Michigan from Detroit to Ann Arbor to East Lansing and to Grand Rapids to conduct pioneering research along America's first Life Sciences Corridor. Their work is changing the world again.

Everyone is seeking "the new, new thing." The quest is on. The New Economy is transforming the old, and a new Michigan is emerging the Next Michigan. The Next Michigan is more than a place. It's an attitude smart and civil, confident yet compassionate, mindful of tradition yet constantly changing.

The agenda I outline tonight remains true to our principles, builds on our successes and is full of changes vital for the transformation to the Next Michigan.

  • The Next Michigan educates her children for the challenges ahead.

  • The Next Michigan protects her unique natural treasures.

  • The Next Michigan reforms and limits government.

  • The Next Michigan harnesses technology to serve people and solve problems.

  • The Next Michigan changes the world with new products and new ideas.

    My friends, it is not the Michigan way to look for someone else to follow or to wait for someone else to be bold. The Michigan way is to lead.

    Throughout the '90s, after a decade in which Michigan lagged the nation, our goal was to "restore and renew our great state." We did just that.

    Record cuts in property taxes were combined with record increases in school funding full funding for every child.

    More than 58,000 children are learning in 183 charter public schools, while 26,000 are benefiting from schools of choice.

    Welfare caseloads are at the lowest levels since the 1960s down more than 70 percent.

    With the creation of nearly 900,000 new jobs, unemployment went down from 9.3 percent in 1991 to 3.4 percent in 2000. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded in Michigan history!

    We are the number one state for new factories, expansion projects and capital investment.

    And Michigan gained nearly 650,000 new residents, the fastest growth since the 1960s and an increase almost 20 times the growth in the previous decade.

    Together, we turned Michigan's lights back on. You might say we went from watching taillights to welcoming headlights. Let's take a look at where we stand, for our strengths are many. More than 6,000 information technology companies call Michigan home. Over 1,800 technology-focused firms are thriving along Oakland County's Automation Alley. Our systems analysts, database administrators and computer scientists earn the highest paychecks in the nation. Industry invests more in research and development in Michigan than in virtually any other state.

    From world-class research centers to the entrepreneurs and innovators that line our Life Sciences Corridor, new ideas, new products and new ways of thinking are integral to the Next Michigan.

    Our goal is to see Michigan in the forefront of basic research for life-saving and life-improving technologies and treatments. Last year, we took an important step into the Next Michigan with a $1 billion commitment to research. Your work has attracted attention across the nation.

    We want to strengthen further our foothold in these emerging fields life sciences, micro-systems and information technology. With the proper tax and regulatory climate and the right education and legal strategies, investment and job creation potential in these sectors is enormous. So I propose a Next Michigan action plan to encourage these new companies to make our state their home.

    Let's put out the welcome mat and exempt them from Michigan's state business tax.

    For inventors, entrepreneurs, small tech and IT firms, the protection of intellectual property rights is a critical concern. In a world where we can go from idea to IPO at warp speed, we need a connected court that can keep up.

    Tonight, I propose that Michigan boldly go where no state has gone before by creating the Cybercourt. In the Next Michigan, the Cybercourt will:

    • feature e-filings, web-based conferencing and virtual courtrooms; significantly reduce travel time and cost; recognize that prompt dispute resolution means the difference between success and failure for a new venture; and, use mediators and judges who have the skills and knowledge to render prompt, competent decisions.

    • Done correctly, America's first Cybercourt will make the Next Michigan uniquely attractive to the next generation of technology-driven companies. The Next Michigan has the potential to be to technology companies what Delaware has been to public corporations.

      Clearly, in the economy of the Next Michigan, speed matters. Ensuring unfettered access to the information economy is an urgent priority of state government.

      Whether it is copper or fiber, cable or wire or even wireless the mode of transmission does not matter. What does matter what is vital is that net services be low cost and high speed. Local governments should not be allowed to erect stoplights and expensive tollbooths on the information highway. We need an express lane to the future.

      Speed, competition, and connections to the world these are absolutely vital to the Next Michigan. Therefore, I am asking the Public Service Commission, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the e-Michigan Office to recommend immediate reforms. We need to eliminate excessive access fees. We need to curb lengthy litigation. We need to curtail costly delays. The public interest demands that we break the grip of these broadband bandits.

      Last year, America had a conversation over who invented the Internet. Well, the fact is, talented researchers at our own University of Michigan played a key role. Today, Ann Arbor is again the hub of development for the next generation of the Internet. Internet 2 will be far faster, far more secure and have far more functionality.

      To capitalize on the huge potential of Internet 2, I have asked the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to begin negotiations with the Internet 2 leadership team to make Ann Arbor their permanent home.

      The most important pending location decision for the Next Michigan concerns the company Covisint. The web-focused Covisint will revolutionize business-to-business transactions among the auto companies and their suppliers, including government. Successfully locating Covisint in Michigan will establish us overnight as the world leader in business-to-business e-commerce. We will not rest until they make Michigan their permanent home!

      Speed also matters when it comes to travel. I am pleased to announce that starting in March, Express Airlines a subsidiary of Northwest will begin deploying 22 new jets out of Metro Airport and creating nearly 400 new jobs to support this expansion of regional air service.

      We have learned this winter that utility restructuring, done right, can speed economic growth and benefit homeowners. Thanks to the work of the PSC to encourage competition, Michigan families who use natural gas are saving between $500 million and $1 billion this winter. In stark contrast, consider California where sky-high prices and rolling blackouts have been forced upon homeowners and businesses.

      Given the national energy debate under way, the PSC faces an important challenge to assure that Michigan is well prepared to meet both our current and future energy needs. I am proud that the new U.S. Secretary of Energy, former Senator Spencer Abraham, is from Michigan. Congratulations!

      Our Next Michigan action plan also means to make Michigan the world leader in web-based, government-to-citizen services. The first step toward achieving that goal was creating the e-Michigan Office. Already, e-Michigan partnerships are paying dividends, and today, customers are going on the web to get fishing and hunting licenses or to reserve campgrounds.

      Web-based services will help students access financial aid, help entrepreneurs start businesses, help taxpayers apply for professional and occupational licenses and permits, help daycare providers get paid online, and connect seniors to a variety of services.

      Convenience will also be enhanced by a new, customer-friendly portal that will allow users to enter their application information once and not be forced to reenter it each time they deal with government. Reaching our e-Michigan goal means permitting customers to conduct business at their convenience going online, not waiting in line.

      In addition to improving the delivery of services, the Internet can also strengthen accountability. Across state government, from the new Center for Educational Performance and Information and their work with Standard & Poor's to provide school spending data, to the Department of Consumer and Industry Services and their data on nursing home quality, citizens at home can learn in detail the answers to their questions.

      A new project this year will be to implement recommendations made by the Michigan Commission on Public Pension and Retiree Health Benefits, chaired by Ambassador Peter Secchia. One essential recommendation is that all local governments make public the financial status of their retirement plans. We'll even put it on the Internet, so current and retired employees are protected.

      In April, more new technology will be unveiled when we open the new State Police Forensic Science Laboratory. Law enforcement all across Michigan will have access to a state-of-the-art, automated, evidence-processing system, using the latest techniques of DNA analysis.

      To protect the public and aid law enforcement, Michigan must eliminate profiling backlogs and collect DNA from a broader array of criminals. In fact, we are already working with county sheriffs to make sure we have their cooperation to collect samples from all felons at booking. At the discretion of the court, a digital representation will then be kept electronically for matching purposes to help in both identifying and eliminating suspects.

      Let me also me stress a very important point: While DNA and psychological profiling are key tools in the hunt to catch criminals, racial profiling has no place in law enforcement.

      Finally, the planning authorized by the legislature for a joint headquarters to house the departments of Michigan State Police and Military and Veterans Affairs is nearing completion.

      Soon, I will request from you construction authorization for a unique, new facility that will improve the efficiency of both and provide cost savings by sharing critical functions such as an emergency operations center and telecommunications systems.

      In all these ways, the Next Michigan means an economy even more prosperous, a government even more responsive and a quality of life even more inviting. Building the Next Michigan is a work in progress, and we are making progress.

      Undoubtedly, the single most important thing we do to ensure the success of the Next Michigan is to ensure the success of the next generation. The bottom line we need good public schools.

      In this regard, I would like to congratulate schools that are simply the best.

      Thanks to great teachers, involved parents, hardworking students and dedicated communities, their high schools have produced the most Merit Award winners in their class: the Ann Arbor Pioneers; the Mattawan Wildcats; the Calumet Copper Kings; and the Western Michigan Christian High Warriors.

      These first-ever academic state champions are truly the best in their class!

      Tonight, I am pleased and proud to announce that 43,000 of our daughters and sons performed so well on their science, math, reading and writing exams that they earned a $2,500 Merit Award scholarship. That's a $100 million investment in their future.

      Our mission is to see every child earn a Merit Award scholarship. But it is an impossible mission for any child who cannot read. How can Michigan cross the "Digital Divide" when we have yet to close the "Reading Divide"?

      The very first education law in colonial America fined parents if their children couldn't read. In frontier America, the Northwest Ordinance set aside a section of every township for a school where children would learn to read.

      We don't need the wizardry of Harry Potter to transform our children into readers. We know what it takes! Every child should have a reading plan and the support of a trained teacher and an involved parent. Teach every child to read. Make every child count.

      The accountability framework is in place. The legislature worked hard on the accreditation process, and I commend you. As a result, we know the magnitude of the reading challenge: We have 208 elementary and middle schools where more than three out of four students cannot read at grade level. Children who cannot read are seriously at risk of failure at risk of welfare, of prison, and worse. This is unacceptable!

      President Bush has challenged the states to strengthen school accountability by assessing all children in reading and math skills annually through the 8th grade. Last year, you enacted a plan to assess our children's progress in core subjects every year through the end of the 5th grade. To meet the President's challenge, we will have to extend assessment of reading and math through the 8th grade. I ask you to work with me to get this done. If we do this promptly, Michigan will be eligible for a special financial bonus.

      In the Information Age, one of the fundamentals for a teacher is mastering technology. Across Michigan, classroom teachers are receiving laptop computers, training and Internet access. This $110 million investment in technology is enhancing the skills of our classroom teachers and allowing Michigan to draw upon the collective knowledge of technology innovators such as Apple, Compaq, Dell, Gateway and IBM.

      More than 6,000 of these laptops are going to Detroit teachers, and I commend Superintendent Ken Burnley and his team. We haven't seen this kind of responsiveness in the Detroit schools in years and we're counting on him to deliver even better news in the months ahead.

      I also want to stress tonight, especially for the new members, that the $110 million for teacher laptops is over and above operating funds approved for Michigan schools.

      Last year, this legislature passed a multiple-year spending measure for schools that raised per-pupil revenues by $1,000. This means in the coming year, funding every Michigan child, there will be at least $6,500.

      This all comes on the heels of settling the Durant case a 17-year-old lawsuit over special education funding. Nearly $1 billion was distributed to school districts in 1997 and 1998, whether they sued or not, with the clear expectation that litigation was over.

      Regrettably, a second Durant suit was brought. No Headlee violations were found. Now, a third Durant lawsuit has been filed.

      Here are the facts. The state share of special education budgets has been, and continues to be, fully funded. Special education funding in Michigan is the most expansive in the country.

      This latest lawsuit is unfounded and unwarranted. Motivated by greed and furthered by gullibility, it is an assault on the informed decisions of the legislature and on Michigan taxpayers who have been exceedingly generous in funding public education, including special education.

      I believe we need to put the focus back on the classroom, not on the courtroom. These districts should stop litigating and start educating. Our kids deserve better. Parents understand the importance of good public schools. That's why support for public schools, including charter schools, remains strong. In fact, nine charter schools were among the most improved schools in Michigan and won Golden Apple awards. The Manoogian School in Southfield reached "top ten" status as one of the best public schools in the entire state.

      Neither nationally, nor in any other state, are charter schools viewed as a partisan issue. And they should not be a partisan issue here. Our kids deserve better.

      It would be a shame no, it would be a tragedy if an artificial cap blocked Michigan from sharing in the new $3 billion Charter School Homestead Plan proposed by the President.

      So tonight, I renew my call to lift the cap. The cap must go.

      I also believe it is time to allow teachers' unions to operate charter schools. The unions that represent classroom teachers are uniquely qualified to run schools. Let's tear down the barriers and expand public school choices.

      With the MEAP tests, Michigan has long been a national leader in student assessment. Tonight, I am also pleased to announce that we are strengthening the administration of the MEAP tests and constantly improving them to make sure they continue to be fair, unbiased and up-to-date. A wide range of curricula and teaching supports are already tied to high standards, and school officials have access to software to analyze results. In addition, scores will be available sooner.

      To put additional skilled teachers in classrooms, we are moving ahead with plans to encourage more of our talented citizens to become teachers. We will welcome recent college graduates with non-education majors who are participating in wonderful programs like Teach for America, and we will recruit skilled individuals with a lifetime of experience to embark on their next career in the Next Michigan.

      I should also note that even though we have taken dramatic steps to reduce bureaucracy, streamline government and improve efficiency, we can do more. I believe strongly that the next step in that effort should be a plan to harmonize the boundaries of community colleges, intermediate school districts and local workforce boards.

      I will soon send you legislation proposing the creation of an education boundary commission to recommend a plan that will either be voted up or down in whole, without amendment. If we work together on this, I believe a successful result will mean better service for students and employers and maybe even the possibility of savings to taxpayers.

      Education reform has long topped Michigan's agenda. Now, President Bush has put education reform at the top of the nation's agenda.

    • The President wants accountability. So do we.

    • The President wants results. So do we.

    • The President wants every child to succeed. So do we.

    • Our vision: a Next Michigan where our schools are the best in the world.

    • As we build the Next Michigan, it is important we remember and embrace the virtues that have always made our state strong hard work, personal responsibility, community, faith and family. Learning the stories of the courageous and confident pioneers who were responsible for building Michigan's peninsulas of progress is one way to make sure those virtues remain valued.

      Ladies and gentlemen, learning about our world should begin with learning about Michigan.

      We must do a better job of learning Michigan history and preserving our heritage. As we build the Next Michigan, history and cultural tourism will grow in importance. Whether it is preserving historical artifacts, creating a national shipwreck sanctuary, restoring Fort Mackinac, rebuilding the Father Marquette Museum, celebrating the Detroit tricentennial, or saving a lighthouse, our state is alive with the past.

      To capture that spirit and to protect our legacy for future generations, I will work with you to create a new Department of History, Arts and Culture.

      This new department will harness resources like the Library of Michigan, the Bureau of History, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the state archives, underwater preserves, and the Michigan Film Office to create a needed focus and well-deserved stature.

      Other states have done impressive things with history and cultural tourism, but I believe that with your support, we can surpass them. Across Michigan, dedicated individuals have been making a difference: Jeff Daniels, making a movie in Escanaba; Michael Evans, keeping the memory of Sojourner Truth alive; Dick Moehl, preserving lighthouses; Kathy-Jo Wargin, writing the Legend of Sleeping Bear; Fred Meijer, putting the DaVinci Horse in the Meijer Gardens; Steve Hamp, energizing the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village; Francois Castaing, spearheading the Detroit Science Center; and Dr. Charles Wright, realizing his dream of the Museum of African American History.

      In the Next Michigan, this new department will become a focal point to preserve Michigan's heritage for the benefit of future generations. I particularly want to thank Secretary of State Candice Miller for her input and support for the new Department of History, Arts and Culture.

      While I am on the topic of history, I am also pleased to announce that this year, we will honor Detroit's founder when we name the state's newly renovated office complex in the old General Motors Building. It will be called Cadillac Place.

      Also, in Lansing, on the site of the old Civic Center, we will recognize the truly historic work of Michigan's last Constitutional Convention. The new office building on that site will be called Constitution Hall.

      Both Cadillac Place and Constitution Hall will feature permanent exhibits depicting key people and events in Michigan's history.

      One project that will evoke our history and capture the imagination of Michigan citizens in the coming year will be a statewide competition to design the Michigan quarter. To oversee the process, there will be a Quarter Commission that will consist, naturally, of 25 people. While the Michigan quarter will be issued in January of 2004, we must submit our design by next year.

      Since 1991, our record of managing Michigan's quarters is strong. And, we returned a lot of nickels to our taxpayers $20 billion worth.

      The 1990s will be remembered in Michigan as the Tax Cut Decade 31 tax cuts that re-energized our economy with new jobs and higher incomes.

      At the same time, our priorities can be seen clearly by record investments in K-12 education, community colleges and universities, mental health care, children's health, highways and the environment.

      The 1990s were also a decade of sound fiscal management. Chronic overspending by state agencies reversed. Our Rainy Day Fund a healthy $1.2 billion. The Unemployment Trust Fund over $3 billion a record. Even Wall Street applauded our reforms, and after 25 years, restored our AAA credit rating.

      Earlier this week, Michigan earned top honors from Governing magazine as one of the three best-managed states in America. To every state employee, I say thank you.

      Our prudent fiscal policies have been good for Michigan . . . and even better for Michigan families. Lately, slowing tax revenues and national economic uncertainty remind us to exercise continued prudence to preserve our progress and protect our priorities.

      Those priorities start, as they always have, with education. Over the past ten years, education has always been, and will continue to be, Michigan's number one priority. Our investment in our children's schools is greater than the entire General Fund budget more than $14 billion a year!

      Tax cuts are also a top priority. I am pleased to see growing bipartisan support in Washington for federal tax cuts.

      In Michigan, reductions in personal income taxes and business taxes will take place as scheduled. And unemployment taxes are being cut again. Make no mistake, we begin this decade as we ended the 1990s, by cutting taxes.

      When I took office, Michigan's personal income tax rate was 4.6 percent, while the Single Business Tax was 2.35 percent. By the time we gather next January, multi-year tax cuts approved in 1998 and 1999 will have dropped Michigan's flat rate income tax to 4.1 percent and our business tax to 1.9 percent, saving families and job providers an additional $350 million. By 2004, the personal income tax rate will be down to 3.9 percent, the lowest rate since 1971. In addition, the SBT continues its phased reduction at the rate of 0.1 percent per year.

      Just as taxpayers have a right to keep more of their money, they have a right to be treated fairly. Tonight, I urge you to strengthen our Taxpayer Bill of Rights by assuring homestead exemptions are received by those entitled to them, by requiring Boards of Review to provide residential property taxpayers with written explanations of decisions, and by easing electronic filing requirements. All families benefit when taxes are cut and their incomes are increased. But for some families, the most important way to increase their income is to assure full and timely child support payments.

      I am frustrated, and quite frankly, fed up that our child support enforcement system has failed to serve so many children. Because a handful of counties have not participated in a federally mandated, statewide child-support system, Michigan will suffer a $38 million federal penalty.

      We are fighting the penalty in Washington, and fixing the problem in Michigan.

      If any county fails to participate in the state system, I will work with the legislature and the Chief Justice to terminate that county's responsibility for child support enforcement.

      One thing is certain. I will not ask this legislature to continue to pay outrageous penalties because some counties wish to have it their way. Our duty is to the children. It is time the Friend of the Court became the Friend of the Child.

      Michigan voters wisely rejected assisted suicide, but every Michigan family still faces the difficult realities of death and dying. I established the Commission on End of Life Care to help families receive compassionate care for their loved ones confronting death.

      Today, modern medicine can relieve even the most severe physical pain. Tonight, I propose that we increase access to effective pain management throughout Michigan. I will work with this legislature to remove barriers to pain relief so that the end of life can be dignified, and the physical and emotional suffering can be eased.

      I also urge all Michigan citizens to engage in a caring conversation with their family and loved ones concerning their wants and wishes for end of life care. Each and every one of us deserve to have our wishes known and honored.

      A political reality for the Next Michigan is the impending transfer of congressional seats out of the Great Lakes basin to arid states in the West and Southwest. This political tide threatens our most precious liquid asset water. In December, I opened the public comment period on Annex 2001 a new basin-wide agreement that will fortify the legal defense of our water resources.

      When the Great Lakes states ratify a common conservation standard governing all proposals for water diversion or withdrawal, we keep the control of our lakes out of Washington D.C. and in our own hands. As I've said before: Our Great Lakes water is not for sale!

      As governor of the Great Lakes State, my mission is to ensure that my fellow governors and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec complete work on binding agreements to protect, conserve, and defend our Great Lakes.

      In addition to our work protecting the Great Lakes, its harbors and fisheries, and our inland lakes and streams, conserving Michigan's land resources has also been a focus. In fact, during the past decade, more than 46,000 acres of land were acquired by the Department of Natural Resources and local governments for public use. Much of that land was paid for by the Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF).

      While the principal balance in the NRTF during the 1990s more than doubled, growing to nearly $160 million, we will do even better if our State Treasurer is allowed the investment options for the NRTF approved for other state funds. I urge your support for this constitutional amendment to increase the return on investment and allow for additional conservation of unique resources for the public good.

      Along with our strategy of protecting our lakes and public lands, we care about conserving privately-owned farmland and open spaces. Keith Charters, the Chairman of the Natural Resources Commission, has worked hard to bring together an array of groups who all care deeply about our resources. Chairman Charters thank you!

      Working together as advocates, not adversaries, these groups the Michigan Realtors Association, the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Renaissance, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan Association of Homebuilders have crafted a new Land Conservation Plat Act. Our conservation strategy envisions development that would balance the desire for open space with the need for more housing. How? By creating incentives to preserve open space with existing natural features like wetlands and woods while more intensively using less acreage to develop family-friendly neighborhoods. Enacting this reform to improve land stewardship could be the most significant breakthrough in decades.

      The groups that worked on this proposal showed their respect for the land, for the rights of those who own it and for the interests of future generations who will enjoy it. Let's reward their hard work and pass these reforms.

      Reform is also needed in the way Michigan chooses Supreme Court justices. In the past two elections, new highs in spending were reached as well as new lows in attacks against candidates and even the institution itself. And there is clear evidence that the attacks will be even nastier and the spending even higher in the years ahead. I have long believed there is a better way.

      Tonight, I endorse a proposal called the Modified Federal Plan, which is being promoted by Justice Elizabeth Weaver. This reform would afford future governors, with advice and consent of the Michigan Senate, one appointment to the Supreme Court every two years. The appointed Justice would serve only
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