Granholm Assembles High Powered Help

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Gov. Jennifer Granholm is drawing on two former governors, former legislative leaders, university officials, a former state treasurer and others to help her decide how to deal with the state's continued sea of red ink.

The 12-person Emergency Financial Advisory Panel will have to work quickly, since the Democratic governor plans to deliver her annual State of the State address on Feb. 6 and hand over her administration's budget proposal two days later for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The panel's recommendations on how to resolve Michigan's budget problems now and to avoid such problems in the future are due by the end of January, just three weeks away. Former Govs. William Milliken, a Republican who served from 1969-82, and James Blanchard, a Democrat who served from 1983-90, will act as the panel's co-chairmen.

"As I said in my inaugural address just days ago, we have an economic plan that will transform Michigan from a great 20th century state to an even greater state in the 21st century," Granholm said in a news release Wednesday. "However, full economic transformation is the most pressing problem we face, and how we solve the state's fiscal crisis is a critical part of our ability to transform our economy."

The state faces a combined $1 billion shortfall in the current budget and the one coming up, and does not yet have a plan in place for replacing the Single Business Tax, which expires at year's end and now brings in about $1.9 billion a year.

Granholm said she selected the panel's participants based on their varied backgrounds and views, as well as their breadth of knowledge about state government.