Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 2, 2013

Editorial: Cutbacks belie state's commitment

Traverse City Record-Eagle

— We’ve heard the mantra until ... well, until we don’t want to hear it anymore: jobs, jobs, jobs.

If Michigan had a job for every time some politician has said “Jobs are No. 1” or “jobs are our job” or some variation over the past few years, our unemployment rate wouldn’t be 8.4 percent, the 43rd worst in the country.

And if businesses had created even a fraction of the thousands of jobs many predicted would flow into the state after Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature handed out some $1.4 billion in business tax breaks soon after Snyder was elected in 2010, we wouldn’t be No. 43.

And if the jobs mantra was anything more than a meaningless platitude, the state wouldn’t have just closed the Michigan Works service center in Kalkaska, where the May unemployment rate was 9.3 percent and jobs are hard to come by.

It’s not as if the state had been putting much effort into the business of finding Kalkaska residents jobs anyway. After previous cuts, the Kalkaska service center was only open Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

And Kalkaska isn’t alone. The Petoskey service center will be cut to just three operating days per week and the Manistee service center will be downsized.

Don’t think Kalkaska residents don’t want the help. The learning lab — which is the region’s highest-attended adult education lab - will stay open four days a week. And a self-service kiosk (”For a job, press 1”) will be installed.

The cutbacks came after federal funds were slashed 35 percent as a result of the federal budget sequestration.

So instead of picking up the slack, which one might think state officials would do if there was a real commitment to workers, they closed the Kalkaska office and cut the ones in Petoskey and Manistee.

This is another reminder that the drumbeat from Snyder, the Legislature and all sorts of business groups that it’s all about jobs is so much hot air.

If the state really wanted to change the jobs landscape, it would be spending more money than it already is on outreach and training, not less on service centers. It would do more to encourage firms to hire (a tax break, perhaps?), find out what workers need to know and help train them.

If there was a real commitment, the state would be spending a decent percentage of the $1.4 billion it gave away to businesses on workers, which is, after all, the rest of the economic equation.

A lot of people have been asking Snyder and lawmakers a simple question since they passed the tax break, one that bears repeating: Where are the jobs?