Business Community Calls on Elected Officials in Lansing to Enact Budget Reforms Now

Specific Recommendations Could Save Michigan Taxpayers Over $1.5 Billion Each Year
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LANSING, January 22, 2009 – Today, leaders of Michigan’s top business organizations urged Gov. Granholm and legislators to pass long-term, structural reforms and spending cuts as they prepare to begin work on the 2009 state budget. In a show of unity, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Detroit Renaissance catalogued more than $1.5 billion in approaches to reform how state government spends the taxpayers’ money. These budget reforms would make Michigan more attractive for job creation and investment growth. Reforming the budget will require elected leaders to focus precious public resources on strategic investments that matter most to Michigan’s future prosperity.

The Center for Michigan, a think tank dedicated to finding solutions to Michigan’s enduring economic challenges, joined the business community’s call for improving the state’s spending practices.

“Michigan needs a comprehensive, long-range plan to put the state on a fiscally responsible track,” said Philip H. Power, president of The Center for Michigan. “It’s going to take a lot of courage on the part of our elected officials but reforms are necessary for a strong economic base and a strategic public sector in Michigan.”

The business groups provided a catalog of reform ideas developed in recent years by a wide range of organizations. The list includes ideas for reforming corrections, Medicaid, schools, and local government contracting and making it easier for local governments to share services. The catalog by no means represents all budget reform approaches, nor does it represent a consensus on an exact budget plan. Such details are the responsibility of legislators and the governor. Instead, the groups issuing the list today provide it as a checklist for the tough choices ahead. Altogether, the list included more than $1.3 billion in possible reform choices and more than $300 million more in potential savings from reforms suggested by recent state Auditor General reports. A complete inventory of the ideas can be found at www.thecenterformichigan.net.

“To turn the state’s economy around and successfully compete in a global marketplace, we need to right size the budget,” said Richard E. Blouse, Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Every day that goes by without reforms means more jobs and investment lost for Michigan.”

The business leaders stressed the need for immediate attention to these reforms and are seeking meetings with Gov. Granholm, Speaker Dillon and Majority Leader Bishop to press their case for changing how Michigan budgets its resources. They stated the Legislature missed an opportunity last year to put the state on a path to economic recovery and the same mistake must not be made this budget cycle. That is why the group intends to track, through The Center for Michigan, the progress of budget reform in Lansing during the current budget process.

“We are offering the Governor and legislators a road map to fix Michigan’s deteriorating budget situation,” said Richard Studley, President and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “We hope they understand the urgency of the situation and seriously consider the reform ideas offered as a means to restore some sanity to our budget process and stabilize the state’s fiscal condition well into the future.”

Each organization has independently offered budget reform ideas to Gov. Granholm and legislative leaders during the past year. The groups came together today, not to endorse one reform idea over another, but to underscore the critical need to put Michigan’s fiscal house in order now.

“This collaborative effort of the business community stretches from east to west and north to south of Michigan,” said Jeanne Englehart, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Each organization’s advocacy goals around budget reform are in sync and we intend to use the combined force of our members to let Lansing know reforming the budget is our top priority for the year.”

The business leaders also rejected the idea of using a federal stimulus package as a means to patch holes in the state budget this year. They indicated this would be irresponsible and only put off the inevitable tough choices that need to be made to permanently solve the budget problems.

“There is not one magic solution for Michigan’s persistent budget deficits,” said Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance. “It’s going to take a combination of reforms to get the state’s finances back in order. Only then will our state be able to grow jobs and investment – but our elected leaders must put reforms in motion starting today.”

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

With more than 23,000 members, the Detroit Regional Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission is carried out through business attraction efforts, public policy advocacy, strategic partnerships and quality products and services for members. For more information, visit www.detroitchamber.com.

About the Michigan Chamber of Commerce

The Michigan Chamber is a statewide business advocacy organization representing over 7,000 employers, trade associations, and local chambers of commerce. In 2009, the Michigan Chamber celebrates its 50th Anniversary. For more information, visit www.michamber.com.

About Detroit Renaissance

Detroit Renaissance, a private leadership organization dedicated to accelerating the region’s economic growth, provides leadership to accelerate the economic transformation of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Renaissance accomplishes this work through serving as a catalyst to develop growth strategies, advocating for those strategies and championing specific initiatives that accelerate growth. A 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in 1970, Detroit Renaissance includes the chief executive officers of the region’s most significant employers and universities. For more information, visit www.detroitrenaissance.com.

About the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

With more than 120 years of experience creating opportunities for business success, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is the premier business membership organization in West Michigan. Though the area’s largest employers are among its more than 3,000 member businesses, more than 80% of members are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Helping members connect, grow and succeed, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is a community partner that adds value for members, enhances the business climate of the region, and advocates for public policy that supports economic growth and vitality. For more information, visit www.grandrapids.org.

About the Center for Michigan

The Center for Michigan is a “think-and-do tank” founded by Phil Power in early 2006. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, The Center’s objective is to assist our state through its current period of wrenching economic trouble and to lay the foundation of informed hope for a better future Michigan. It will help develop and execute comprehensive, long-range and, in some cases, radical policy solutions to transform Michigan’s business, economic, political and cultural climate. In so doing, it will work to help reform the structure and workings of Michigan’s political system. For more information, visit www.thecenterformichigan.net.

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