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Snyder tells how Michigan’s comeback story Is real

January 31, 2018

Article courtesy MIRS News

Michigan’s “relentlessly positive” governor used his final State of the State address Tuesday night to make the case why the Great Lakes State is better off today than it was when he took over more than seven years ago.

The vast majority of Gov. Rick Snyder’s 53-minute speech Tuesday heralded “The Michigan Comeback Story” as an example of how civility in government is part of what is making Michigan great. Fighting is for the “beaches of Normandy, not the beaches of Lake Michigan. 

“If we can’t get along with ourselves, how can we be great?” said Snyder, adding that when a political candidate talks about “fighting,” “the red light should be flashing.” He asked, “What are we fighting for?” 

Asked who Snyder might have been referring to with that comment, possibly Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said, “I think it’s directed towards the nation.” 

Absent from the speech were the sticky issues political opponents will use to paint Snyder’s tenure — the Flint water crisis, the false unemployment fraud charges, the maggots in prisoners’ food or the failings at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home. 

Rather, Snyder sought to define his two terms early in his speech by holding up two posterized Wall Street Journal editorials, a 2009 piece headlined “The State Of Joblessness, The Tragedy of Jennifer Granholm’s Michigan” and a 2017 editorial titled, “The Michigan Comeback Story.” 

In his Democratic response, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said “too many working families” aren’t seeing the recovery Snyder was pitching. 

New Detroit News and WDIV-TV-commissioned polling would seem to side with Ananich, with Snyder’s favorability rating underwater — 35.8 percent to 47.5 percent, despite his job approval rating being split 41.1 percent favorable to 42.6 percent unfavorable. 

House Minority Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) noted these types of polling numbers in making the point that fiscal stability in state government isn’t translating to economic stability in the minds of Michiganders. 

“While Gov. Rick Snyder likes to brag that Michigan is the ‘Comeback State,’ I’ve got to wonder what, exactly, that means . . . People aren’t a ledger book of debits and credits,” she said. “They are families who are concerned about their children’s education, seniors who are making desperate decisions between prescriptions and groceries.” 

In the speech, however, Snyder stuck to the 540,000 new private sector jobs, higher per-capita income and how programs like the Vocational Village in Michigan’s prisons and First Robotics has helped residents with first-hand stories. 

The speech’s most powerful moment came when 2-year-old Jeremiah Nelson, whose severe form of spina bifida keeps him from being able to walk or crawl, drove down the center aisle of the House chambers driving a motorized Power Wheels car retooled by the First Robotics team from Petoskey and Central Lake. 

Snyder stopped his speech, stepped down from the rostrum and greeted Nelson and his parents. 

“I was extremely touched,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City). “Jeremiah is truly a story of Michigan’s gumption and what we are capable of when we put our minds to accomplishing our goals.” 

Throughout the speech, Snyder took victory lap after victory lap and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said he was glad he did. 

“Looking back over the seven and a half years he’s been serving I’m very proud to have served with him and the investments we’ve made in the future.  The assets we’ve paid down, the budgets that we’ve balanced have put Michigan in a place where my kids can have a great future here,” he said. 

The closest Snyder came to criticism came when he singled out tax cuts or unaccounted-for spending as ideologically driven policies that may have short-term political gains, but long-term fiscal pain. 

“We have a broken culture in our political world where it’s OK to say we can spend money or we can cut taxes now for short-term benefit and leave the bill to our kids,” Snyder said. “I don’t think that’s right either. If we’re going to do something, let’s make sure we’re paying for it.” 

The comment was likely a swipe at Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette, who spent the afternoon heralding tax cuts in his released comments and Republican lawmakers who have been pushing the envelope on income tax exemptions in recent weeks. 

Snyder recognized Lt. Gov. and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Calley’s work on opioid abuse prevention. But otherwise, Snyder used his own legacy to subtly infer that his second in charge would be best in terms of solving “real problems with real solutions” as opposed to “forcing ideological solutions on one another” after his term ends in 343 days. 

As is common for this governor, Snyder rushed through or breezed past his major policy initiatives for 2018. 

If you’d run to the bathroom, you might have missed his desire for a “Marshall Plan” on talent in Michigan’s workforce, the highest per-pupil funding increase in 15 years, a new way to clean up industrial brownfields, a recycling initiative, stopping Asian carp, more money for water infrastructure and roads and addressing an emerging chemical pollutant known as “PFAS.” 

The other piece of news is Snyder plans on breaking ground on and starting construction on the Gordie Howe Bridge, the second span across the Detroit River, an initiative he launched in his 2011 State of the State address. 

The Dr. Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State University was mentioned in brief, when Snyder recognized his wife, Sue Snyder, for her work in addressing sexual assaults on college campus through a bipartisan effort that spent grants on education and victim support. 

“Let us also apply a similar commitment in the Nassar case and reach out to support the courageous survivors and ensure that cases like this never happen again,” he said. 

The quirky governor had another strange “Snyderism” that has become commonplace for the “One Tough Nerd.” After mentioning Michigan’s growing wine and hard cider industry, Snyder enthusiastically blurted, “So get out there and check out those grapes.” 

Among those mentioned during Tuesday’s speech were Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Charlotte Mayor Tim Lewis.

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