James Hallan: Spring Musings

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced her long awaited solution to fix the roads by proposing a
45-cent per gallon increase. She estimates that over $2 billion dollars is needed to right-size our crumbling road infrastructure. Already, sides are lining up in opposition and support. The Speaker of the House has said a 45-cent increase is a “nonstarter.” The debate will be intense and expect daily news coverage until the issue is resolved. Clearly our roads need to be repaired. It is finding the proper funding mechanism and appropriate balance that is tricky and will challenge the legislature. We would be happy to hear your thoughts, and will keep you advised as the debate matures and our position develops.

Two years ago, former Gov. Rick Snyder appointed me to a four-year term on the seven-member State Officers Compensation Commission. The Commission meets every other year. It’s an interesting assignment as the SOCC is charged with recommending salaries for members of the legislature, supreme court, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Prior to 2002, a SOCC recommendation was effective unless two-thirds of each house passed a concurrent resolution rejecting the recommendation. Now a SOCC recommendation requires a simple majority in both houses to be approved. In 2009, and due to Michigan’s falling economy, the legislative and executive salaries were cut by 10 percent. Except for the 2009 reduction, there has not been an adjustment since 2002. Developing a SOCC recommendation is based on a number of factors including comparisons with other states. As you would expect, for an elected official to vote on one’s salary is politically challenging. Unfortunately, the current system creates a stalemate.

As mentioned in my previous column, I will retire in August after 34 wonderful years at Michigan Retailers and I promised to share a few memories. There was the time when I was to testify on behalf of Michigan Retailers on an important labor-related issue. I put on my best blue suit in order to be properly attired for this important hearing. The chair of the committee called my name and I approached the table to testify while glancing down at my freshly polished shoes. One was brown and the other one black. Oh my. Thank goodness my good friends in the shoe business have been forgiving over the years.

James P. “Jim” Hallan is President and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association.