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Snyder: Last eight months hardest of career

June 7, 2016

Article courtesy MIRS News Service

(MACKINAC ISLAND) — Gov. Rick SNYDER has faced congressional committees, been taunted in restaurants and booed on stage in Flint.

In a one-on-one interview with MIRS Friday, the Governor said the last eight months were the roughest of his career as Governor and in prior jobs.

“Oh yeah,” Snyder said. “That’s an easy answer. It wasn’t an easy period.”

The Governor added that the last eight months were a “humbling experience where you learn a lot of things.

“You learn a lot about yourself, and I really appreciate my family and a lot of people that have been supportive during this time.”

Throughout the course of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Public Policy Conference, Snyder was urging members of the media and the conferees to not dwell on the negative to the point where it stopped the state’s forward progress.

By Friday morning, he said he felt that had made a difference.

“I think it’s been helpful,” said Snyder, who Wednesday had compared talking to a group of reporters with talking to Eeyore, the downtrodden donkey from Winnie the Pooh.

“Let me put the Eeyore comment in more perspective for you,” he said. “Because I don’t want people to misunderstand that. We’ve had a very good relationship and I think generally, I have a good relationship with the media.

Snyder added that it wasn’t about a specific question he was asked.

“It’s more that I was worried about how depressed they were. They were depressed,” he added. “It was like they couldn’t see how things get solved.”

The following are excerpts of the MIRS interview with Snyder.

Q. You kind of encouraged attendees to kind of get out of the soup, if you will, in terms of their attitude. You compared talking to the press with talking to Eeyore. Today, the last day of the conference, do you think it’s made a difference?

A. I think it’s been helpful. Let me put the Eeyore comment in more perspective for you. Because I don’t want people to misunderstand that. We’ve had a very good relationship and I think, generally, I have a good relationship with the media.

It’s not about any question I’d get asked. It’s more that I was worried about how depressed they were. They were depressed. It was like they couldn’t see how things get solved.

It was like, we solve problems. You have problems in life.

Q. Do you think it[the attitude] was just the nature of the problem the state faced with Flint? The Time magazine cover was a bit of a gut punch?

A. Before this we’d been on a roll too. A lot of very good things [happened]. And then this is something that no one predicted.

You could have seen it theoretically, but I wish we would have spotted it and it wouldn’t have happened. But given that it did happen, I think it was something that really did affect all of us that way.

The issue is, that doesn’t mean you should view the rest of your life as, `I can’t solve anything else.’ Because you do need to try to solve the problem and be proactive.

So, I viewed the first day [of the conference] as I sort of wanted to clear the air. People have asked me, `you sort of changed your tone between the two days.’ I don’t think I did. The opening was I just want to sort of clear the air here.

Q. You were a little fired up though Wednesday weren’t you?

A. Yeah, but I was fired up yesterday too, but [Wednesday] I wanted to clear the air and say let’s write our future. We have been writing it already. I mean, the way I view it is, here’s the first chapter of everything we’ve gotten done. Let’s not just put down our pen and stop writing. Let’s keep writing our future.

Q. The DPS package that passed the House last night. Will you sign it?

A. It hasn’t passed the Senate.

Q. Assuming it passes the Senate.

I don’t do hypotheticals, but what I would say is I think it was positive progress to see the House move forward. Now the Senate has their opportunity to do their review. It’s been interesting to watch [this issue] in terms of the evolution.

For example, most of the people up here have spent all their time talking about the DEC. Which is a point of contention. The two biggest points of contention were the DEC and then roughly $50 million . . . $150 or $200 million in terms of investment.

I asked people to step back a bit because that’s [DEC or not] how they defined the whole discussion when I don’t think that’s the best way to look at the whole package. If you step back and look at the whole picture, a half a billion dollars to pay off the historic debt and getting a locally elected school board in place as quickly as practical.

If you step back two years, I’m one of the guys that came up with the DEC concept. I’m still a supporter of the DEC concept. As a practical matter, if you would have gone two years ago and said you can have half a billion to pay off your debt and you can have a locally elected school board, most people would be cheering from the rooftops. That’s an accomplishment.

Let’s step back and put this in perspective.

Q. Is $150 million enough for the new district?

A. Again, people have different versions. $150 million is a lot of resources.

Q. On the energy reform debate, do you think the House and Senate versions are close enough that we could actually hammer something out and get it done before the election?

A. I don’t know. What I would say is the DPS thing could have an impact on that. If the DPS thing got wrapped up fairly quickly next week, it might allow them more time to work on it before they wrap up, to make more progress.

If it doesn’t progress, it could be more challenging to get it done because there is a limited number of days before the summer recess.

Q. Are you at all concerned about the impact that Donald TRUMP on the ticket could have down ballot as the Republican Party looks to retain its House majority?

A. What I would say is I’m focused in on the House. It’s important to continue to have a majority Republican House.

Q. Are you going to be campaigning this summer and fall?

A. I’ve always supported the candidates in terms of being at fundraisers or going into their districts, in some fashion.

It’s nice, they’re the ones running and not me. [Laughs]

Q. Are you glad you’re not running?

A. I got to the point where I actually enjoyed some major parts of it. But as a practical matter as an issue of quality of life, I can tell you that the First Lady is happy.

Q. On both the Flint issue and the DPS issues I’ve talked to Senate Minority Leader Jim [ANNANICH] (D-Flint Twp.) and he’s been calling for a resumption of quadrant meetings? What are your feelings about quadrant meetings? Are they helpful?

A. There are various times they are useful.

What I will say is I don’t view them as a needed element on an ongoing basis.

But, depending on whatever issue you have, that matters. With roads it didn’t work out so well. I would say one case that was helpful in particular was when we were doing some work on the minimum wage. That [quadrant meeting] was very helpful in terms of working something out. But it’s more issue specific.

Q. What’s the best thing about being Governor?

A. Helping people. I really do mean that. I mean it’s great when you have a chance to go out and do something positive. That’s the part I enjoy the most.

Q. It’s not the helicopter rides?

A. Actually, there aren’t that many. [Laughs]

But it’s really cool. One of the things I really do enjoy is like the first robotics games. I saw tremendous value in this. We were able to get $2 to $2.5 million in state dollars to help support these games. It’s taken off like a rocket. We now have over 10,000 school kids across Michigan. We’ve got more than California. We’ve got more than most countries.

To see these kids and to see corporate sponsors engage with them, to see parents engage. You should go, it makes a high school football game look tame.

I’m serious.

It’s absolutely incredible, then to see these kids learn the skills and their interest in STEM more than doubles. It’s just amazing to say `think about where these kids will be in 10 years, 20 years.’

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