Five Questions with Gov. Jennifer Granholm
BN: So…it's a rough economy, tough time of year, you had a challenging time with the budget. How are you doing?
JG: You mean personally?
BN: Yes. How are things?
JG: Better than I ever have been since being elected, because there is so much happening right now. You know, last year was such a terrible year with the 'Battle of Lansing.' For example, on Monday, I was one of only two governors invited to Washington DC to be recognized by the Pew Center on the States. We were [ranked] in the top six states in the country on management. You know, all the focus on the battle under the dome of the Capitol ignores the fact that we are working every single day to improve and streamline and hold people accountable, be transparent, be measurable, leverage technology, and all of that. They said we were the best state in the Midwest, and the editor of Governing Magazine actually said if he weighted states for the difficulty of managing, we'd be by far number one in the country.
BN: So you feel a little vindicated by the results of that study?
JG: You know, a little validation is not a bad thing! By a non-partisan, third party that surveys all the states? Not bad.
BN: I'd be curious to hear more about some comments you made a few weeks back that got some attention about Michigan having a bit of an 'inferiority complex.'
JG: I was responding to a question from a reporter who asked, 'Does Michigan have an inferiority complex? ' We were talking about how often people outside of Michigan see Michigan in a better light than sometimes we see ourselves. I think we get a little down on ourselves. We have a great state, and we have a lot of people who have a lot of pride in Michigan and who stay in Michigan because they are so proud of our state. So, perhaps I shouldn't have agreed with the question so quickly, but it is the truth: we are our own worst enemy in creating a downward spiral. I hate to say this, but sometimes the media is the most guilty.
BN: Sure. It's true. Now back to partisan politics…taking a snapshot today, what would you say your biggest difference – not policy difference, but philosophical difference – is with the Republicans in the Legislature?
JG: I think the biggest things that I have fought for are related to the diversification of Michigan's economy…the battles waged in Lansing are mirrored on the national level. What are the best ways to stoke an economy? Is it by cutting, or is it by investing? I fall on the side of strategic investments while remaining competitive. You know, when I got there, in 2003, there had been years of a series of tax cuts. And that was when we started losing all those automotive jobs. You know, we've lost more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs. So all there was was cut, cut, cut, and jobs go, go, go, so those cuts did not have the intended effect. If you dis-invest, you are not able to create a skilled workforce and have unintended consequences that hurt the State. Just like in business, you make some strategic investments, and there may be some upfront costs, but over the long haul, it is good for the business.
BN: I'm sure I'm missing some items here, but I've heard of an additional $50 million in tourism spending, a $40 million expansion of 'No Worker Left Behind,' incentives for companies in fast-growing industries to relocate here, $1 billion in new college campus construction. What pays for all that?
JG: Those things are all part of the economic stimulus package. Thanks to Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve, they have lowered interest rates. So we are able to refinance long-term debt and it gives us one-time money. So the question is, what is the most effective use of that money? It's a combination of things: one-time tax incentives for fast-growing companies, a one-time investment in marketing Michigan, and in retraining the workers who had the rug pulled out from under them. But none of those things are paid for by tax increases.
BN: So will you be coming back here this summer?
JG: There's nothing like northern Michigan in the summer, so I'm certain you'll be seeing plenty of me. I don't have a cottage here…we do have this little place on Mackinac Island, which I have a temporary possessory interest in. But during normal times, before I was governor, every summer we'd rent a cottage up here. And I take my girls on a fishing weekend every year up in Benzie County so that we can bond and do the girl thing and go fishing!