Gov. to Move Quickly on Executive Order


During the Marquette stop on her statewide tour addressing the budget crisis, Gov. Jennifer Granholm stressed two words of advice for entities that rely on state funding: “Cut now! Cut now!” She told a studio audience at Public TV-13 last week that everything is going to be impacted; it’s just a matter of how much.

Granholm is pictured with NMU pre-law students from the political science department, who fielded call-in questions during the broadcast.


“We have to move quickly to negotiate an executive order with the legislature,” Granholm said. “The cuts have to come right away, which means there has to be an agreement before the holiday break …. My inclination is to preserve the safety net programs for the disadvantaged and eliminate scholarships that are not based on need, even though I fully recognize that universities are the economic engines of the state.”


Before the forum was televised, Granholm showed a series of slides to members of the studio audience. She asked them to use instant polling devices to vote for which areas they would cut first at various spending thresholds. In the $30 million to $70 million category, 76 percent of the audience targeted private college scholarships, for a savings of $65 million.


In the over-$100 million category, 62 percent favored eliminating the Merit/MEAP scholarships, worth about $130 million; 19 percent of the audience favored a sample across-the-board cut of 6.5 percent in public university funding, which would save $114 million; 14 percent indicated they would reduce local revenue sharing; and only 5 percent voted to touch Medicare.


“I am struck by the number willing to cut scholarships to private schools,” Granholm said. “In most of these forums, it seems to be a case of revenue sharing pitted against Merit scholarships. When forced to make difficult choices, people tend to say, ‘let’s cut the things that are least based on need.’ The scholarships are a valuable tool to make college for the middle class more affordable, but even high school students seem to recognize that the state is not in a position to fully fund such programs.”


In response to an e-mail about the legality of diverting tobacco settlement money away from the Merit scholarships, Granholm said the funds could be applied to budget relief through a legislative decision because they are not constitutionally protected.


Granholm told the studio and viewing audiences that public university funding accounts for 25 percent of the state’s general fund budget – second only to health care at 29 percent. In a post-forum news conference, she praised Helping Higher Education, a student-led initiative designed to preserve the resources needed to maintain quality institutions for higher education. HELP recently exceeded its letter-writing campaign goal of 2,000 to state lawmakers.


“It’s a tremendous effort and the students are to be applauded for seizing the moment and trying to make change occur,” Granholm said. “Now whether it will result in the impact they want – no cuts to higher education – probably not.”


The following NMU representatives were among the 50 U.P. residents invited to sit in the studio audience: President Mike Roy, Patricia “Pish” Cianciolo (Sociology/Social Work), ASNMU President Kyle Ortiz, student Julee Basal and Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Karl Weber. Sonya Chrisman (WNMU-TV) served as moderator.




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Updated: April 23, 2004