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Gov. John Engler

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Gov. John Engler

Headshot of Governor John Engler.

Gov. John Engler

First elected in 1990 as Michigan's 46th governor, Gov. John Engler was America's most senior governor. Engler was elected chairman of the National Governors Association in August 2001.

A common sense Midwestern conservative who believed strongly that every child should have the chance to succeed, Engler made improving education Michigan's number one priority. With boldness and vision for the future, Gov. Engler also cut taxes, reformed welfare, right-sized government and implemented the biggest road repair and rebuilding plan in state history. Under his watch, the quality of Michigan's water, land and air resources has steadily improved.

In 1994, Engler led the fight to enact Proposal A - a ballot proposal overwhelmingly approved by voters to fund schools fairly and cut property taxes. As a result, all children had a foundation grant that followed them to the public schools of their choice, including more than 180 charter public schools. With funding issues resolved, high standards and rigorous assessments helped improve student performance. To encourage academic achievement, Gov. Engler created the Michigan Merit Award - a $2,500 scholarship for college or training - that was awarded to high school students who pass their proficiency tests in reading, writing, science and math.

Gov. Engler signed 32 tax cuts into law, saving taxpayers nearly $32 billion. The state inheritance tax and capital gains taxes were eliminated. Personal exemptions for children, seniors and the disabled were increased. The personal income tax rate was reduced to 3.9 percent -- the lowest level in a quarter century -- and Michigan's main tax on business was being phased out completely.

Engler's economic policies helped to create more than 800,000 jobs in Michigan, cutting the state's unemployment rate from over 9 percent the year he took office to 3.4 percent in 2000 - the lowest annual level ever recorded. For an unprecedented five years in a row, Michigan led the nation with the most new factories and expansion projects. As part of the nation's most forward-looking economic development strategy, $1 billion was invested in a "Life Sciences Corridor" from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids. In addition, Gov. Engler's NextEnergy initiative positioned Michigan to be an international cluster of innovation in the development and commercialization of alternative energy technologies, including hydrogen fuel cells.

Gov. Engler strengthened Michigan's role as guardian of the Great Lakes, fought water diversions and invested more in clean water than any governor. Thanks to reforms of environmental laws, Michigan led the nation in reclaiming contaminated brownfield sites while preserving green space and farmland.

Other highlights of the Engler administration include:

  • passing the $675 million Clean Michigan Initiative to reduce pollution, fix up state parks, improve water quality and clean up contaminated sites;
  • trimming state government personnel by more than 20 percent (excluding state troopers, prison guards and other public safety workers);
  • transforming the $1.8 billion deficit he inherited to a $1.3 billion surplus;
  • restoring Michigan's AAA credit rating;
  • helping nearly 300,000 families achieve independence from cash welfare and reducing welfare rolls by nearly 70 percent;
  • restructuring the regulation of energy and telecommunications industries to increase consumer choice and reduce rates;
  • investing a record-high $1.54 billion to fix our roads in 2001 alone - more than four times the amount spent in 1990;
  • reducing violent crime by more than 25 percent;
  • serving an additional 45,000 patients annually with mental health services;
  • giving Detroit's mayor authority to appoint the local school board and speed up the pace of reform;
  • increasing K-12 education spending by 84 percent; and,
  • dramatically improving student reading and math test scores.


Engler, is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in agricultural economics and earned a law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and named a Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine. Michigan's First Lady, Michelle Engler, is also an attorney. They are parents of triplet daughters; Margaret, Hannah and Madeleine.