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Gov. Milliken: Proposal 3 deserves to be in Michigan ConstitutionPrint

Clean Energy | November 1, 2012 | By Gov. William Milliken

Gov. William Milliken

On November 6, Michigan voters have an opportunity to take a big step toward modernizing how we produce energy by supporting Proposal 3, which would amend the state Constitution to require that at least 25% of our electricity come from renewable sources by the year 2025. 

I enthusiastically support Proposal 3 because developing clean energy right here in Michigan is good for the environment and the economy. Rather than send $1.7 billion out of the state each year to buy imported coal, we can invest that directly in Michigan’s future. According to a Michigan State University study, Proposal 3 would trigger 94,000 jobs – and that doesn’t include the enormous economic opportunity Michigan has to unleash our spirit of innovation to manufacture the components for the wind and solar industry. If we move forward with Proposal 3, I have no doubt that Michigan businesses can be world leaders in clean energy manufacturing.

There are times when the public is better served when important matters of public policy are protected within our Constitutional framework.  For example, the people of Michigan created the Constitutionally-protected Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, dedicating revenue from oil and gas drilling on state-owned land to acquire environmentally sensitive lands and to support public recreation.  Since its origin in 1976, the Trust Fund has invested more than $900 million to support recreation and conservation in all 83 Michigan counties.

If the Trust Fund was not codified in the Constitution, Michiganders probably wouldn’t be enjoying these community parks, fishing piers, natural areas, and other popular public facilities because it would have been easy for the legislature to raid the Trust Fund and appropriate the money for other purposes.

I think the opportunity for renewable energy in Michigan is important enough that the 25% renewables policy should have the long-term certainty of Constitutional protection. Two things we can count on are that the wind will continue to blow and the sun will keep on shining. And unlike the volatility and uncertainty of energy prices from coal, oil, and natural gas, we can confidently forecast the cost of renewable energy, which is steadily declining and already competitive with coal and other fossil fuels.

Moreover, given the gridlock in Lansing, I just don’t have the confidence that the Legislature has the wherewithal all to come up with a clear vision for our energy future. Of the 30 states that have renewable energy standards, 20 have standards of 20% or more. By passing Proposal 3 next month, Michigan voters can put us in the center of the national competition for clean energy jobs.

When I served as Governor, I worked to unite the many voices of Michigan around a shared vision for our state’s people, economy, and environment. Joined by my colleagues in the Legislature, we worked toward common ground on a number of important priorities. We didn’t always agree, and it wasn’t easy. But in the end we found a way to do our best for Michigan.

That kind of collaborative spirit is hard to come by these days in Lansing. As a result, an important issue like how we generate electricity to keep the lights on in our homes and run our businesses lacks a clear vision for the future. And that means Michigan is falling behind other states when it comes to harnessing clean, renewable energy from the sun and wind, and the important jobs that this emerging sector can create.

Michiganders come from all walks of life. We live in big cities, small towns, and rural communities. We are a diverse state to be sure, yet we are tied together by the land and water that surround us, and by a shared desire for good jobs and economic opportunity. Proposal 3 is something I think most Michigan voters can support because it is about what we can agree on: a clean environment and a strong economy.

I hope you’ll join me on November 6 and vote for Proposal 3 for Michigan’s future.

William G. Milliken was the governor of Michigan from 1969 to 1983, making him the longest serving governor in Michigan history. He lives in Traverse City with his wife Helen.