Source: BY DAWSON BELL – FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Fans of the Michigan State Fair said most of their good-byes in September, when the oldest fair in the country closed for what they feared was the last time.
Those fears were realized Friday as Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a $7.1-million appropriation (most of it from fair-related revenue) approved by the Legislature in an attempt to save the 160-year-old fair. The veto likely ends any hope the fair had of surviving in its traditional form, although supporters hope to find other financial support and uses for the fair and fairgrounds at Woodward and 8 Mile Road.
In her veto message to the Legislature, Granholm said that “given current revenue constraints, tax dollars can no longer subsidize State Fair operations.”
One of those fans, Mary Ann Michalski of Roseville said Friday she was saddened but not surprised by the news.
“It’s a shame. It’s understandable in this economy,” Michalski said. “But we had the oldest aquarium,” on Belle Isle, “and we shut that down. We have the oldest fair. … We’re just letting these jewels go.”
FREE PRESS STAFF
The director of the Michigan State Fair quit his job Friday to protest Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s decision to end state support for the 160-year-old event.
Steve Jenkins, 55, said he would become an advocate for saving the fair and preserving the fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit.
“I didn’t feel I could do that and criticize the governor as one of her appointees,” said Jenkins, who was named fair director in 2007.
He said he hoped to convince the Legislature that the fair, which has required about $3 million in state assistance over the past six years, including $350,000 last year, has generated $31 million over the same time in jobs, contracts and economic activity.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the state has to make cuts in these difficult economic times.
Mark Hornbeck and Charlie Cain / Detroit News Lansing Bureau
LANSING — Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to eliminate state funding for the 160-year-old Michigan State Fair, slash elected officials’ pay by 10 percent and slim down state government from 18 departments to eight.
The proposals, to be outlined in her seventh State of the State address Tuesday, underscore the gravity of Michigan’s budget crisis, and the impact of the national recession on this state.
“The governor will say state government can no longer be all things to all people,” Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Granholm, told The Detroit News. “When the governor says these cuts will be painful, that comes from the heart.”
Lt. Gov. John Cherry will lead a year-long commission charged with reducing the number of state departments in future years, but Granholm will propose scrapping the 226-employee, $52.2 million Department of History, Arts and Libraries this year.
The state faces a $1.6 billion deficit for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, as state revenues dwindle due to the limping economy and a jobless rate of more than 10 percent.