Stateline: "Something Good This Way Comes"?

Article excerpt

A mid all of the controversy related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I flip-flop between being haunted by the 1960s Peggy Lee tune, "Is That All There Is?" and the recent song from Jakob Dylan, "Something Good This Way Comes." All of the anticipation, expectations (high or low), the waiting, the votes, and finally, finally--the signature. But then arrives the dilemma, "Is that all there is?"

Well, take a step back, hold an index finger up to the wind, and scan for some "local" ideas that have been cruising under the national radar during the first part of the year.

Economy: Still No. 1

Not surprisingly, nearly every governor addressed the need to improve state economies. Idaho Governor Butch Otter's Project 60 "involves almost every element of state policy--from education and work-force development to quality of life and recruiting foreign investment and trade." It is designed to strengthen both rural and urban communities.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle wants to increase the state's food self-sufficiency. Replacing 10% of the food Hawaii currently imports, she says, would create more than $300 million in economic activity, generate $6 million in taxes, and create 2,300 new jobs. She is asking state agencies such as schools, prisons, and hospitals to buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, and meat.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas wants to establish more community college centers that will concentrate on attracting investment, job growth, and business development to rural areas.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe's belief that "education and economic development are intertwined and inseparable, and one cannot fully succeed without the other" was typical across the states. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will continue to support the No Worker Left Behind initiative that provides free college tuition, up to $5,000 per year for two years, to train workers for skilled jobs available in Michigan. She also wants to create Promise Zones (the promise of free college tuition) in 10 Michigan communities struggling with high rates of poverty.

"Green" Proposals Could Pay Off for Schools

Granholm also wants to create the Michigan Energy Corps to put thousands of unemployed citizens to work weatherizing homes, schools, and other public buildings and installing renewable energy technology. She is proposing to require cities, counties, school districts, colleges, and universities to adopt their own Buy Michigan First policies.

By 2015, Governor David A. Paterson wants New York to meet 45% of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy ("45 by 15" program). A clearinghouse would be a single point of access for information on energy efficiency programs for schools, hospitals, and local governments. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine wants all state and local government buildings to meet either LEED or Green Globes standards for efficiency.

South Dakota Governor M. Michael Rounds has proposed a low-interest revolving loan fund--when the money comes back, it would be loaned again and again to schools, cities, counties, universities, tech schools, and state agencies that saved tax dollars by becoming more energy efficient.

Community Colleges and Economic Development

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is pinning some of his hopes on higher education, especially community colleges. He is providing $35 million in funds to restore grant cuts and another $15 million increase to allow 10,000 more students to receive grants to study at community colleges next fall. He will introduce a bill to provide tuition assistance to families earning less than $100,000 a year. All students who qualify and seek to attend public or community colleges would pay what they can afford (at least $1,000 per year). …