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Snyder’s rosy picture brushes over troubled landscape

January 25, 2017

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

No calls to action. No major new proposals. Little to no mention of the state-related issues grabbing the headlines these days. Gov. Rick SNYDER coasted through this second-to-last State of the State message with numerous “shout outs” and glowing statistics on Michigan economy. Talk of using “relentless positive action” to push through reform in “dog years” gave way to stories of young adults choosing Michigan over Chicago to live.

The headliner was his desire to attract 71,000 more people to the Great Lakes State, which he said would bring Michigan back to 10 million people by the end of 2020. 

He did his best to sell Michigan during the speech — talking doing wine and beer tours, the glowing Pure Michigan campaign, the First Robotics competitions and even the state’s hard-working cows. 

Apparently, our cows are the country’s second-most productive. Only Colorado’s are more productive. 

“When you see those cows, give them a shout out. We want Colorado to moooove on over,” Snyder glowed. “Sometimes when you have the mic, you have to go for it.” 

When it came to laying out proposals, the Mackinac Center of Public Policy managed to find 13 (12 expansion of government and one reduction), none of which are headline-grabbing reforms. No major push to fix Michigan’s roads, to change the state’s business tax or to merge the state’s two largest departments, as he’s done in years prior. 

If the proposals weren’t leftovers — like having a stricter lead and copper rule for municipal water or spending billions more on updating the state’s infrastructure — they weren’t terribly captivating — like starting a pilot program on integrated asset management or expanding the state’s “Community Ventures” program. 

In general, the Governor did not spend much time on any topic, which ended up being a reason to both praise and criticize his speech. 

“A leader does that,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive). “He points out the positives and if we continue to point out the positives, we’re going to be more positive as a state.” 

But to Rep. Henry YANEZ (D-Sterling Heights), “This is probably the weakest of the speeches I’ve been to. I think he might as well just said, ‘President Barack OBAMA saved the auto industry and there’s a bunch of other stuff. Good night and go home.'” 

Yes, the economy is doing better, Yanez said. Unemployment is down. Housing values are up. But these are functions of the auto industry that Obama helped save, and very little to do with Snyder. 

If the 2017 State of the State were soup, what kind would it? 

“Broth . . . Because there’s nothing in it,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint). 

“Alphabet soup because he highlighted most, if not all, of the positive things that are happening with our economy right now,” said House Speaker Tom LEONARD (R-DeWitt). 

The pressing issues of the 2017 Legislature were brushed over lightly — Flint, the troubled Unemployment Insurance Agency, Medicaid expansion, municipal employee retirement reform, corrections reform and more infrastructure spending. But Snyder spent so little time on all the subjects that few new pieces of information could be gleaned from any of it. 

The Governor did vow to expand the vocational village at the Handlon Correctional Facility to a prison in Jackson and the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility. 

He wants to expand the “Secure Cities Partnership,” which he credited to reducing crime in Saginaw, Detroit, Flint and Pontiac, to more cities. 

Snyder suggested using crowdsourcing to gin up ideas on how to combat Asian carp, encouraging the federal government to upgrade the Soo Locks and doing more on “placemaking to revitalize downtowns.” 

Otherwise, today’s speech begins Snyder’s path of legacy-making, which is essentially that Michigan is in much better shape than it was when he took over in 2011. 

“Michigan today is transformed from the Michigan of six years ago,” Snyder said. “We are successful and confident. We are proud. Six years ago we watched our family members, neighbors and coworkers leave for jobs in Chicago or California. To be honest, we weren’t very hopeful about our future.” 

Does that make for a better speech? Asked to compare today’s State of the State to those of Snyder’s prior efforts, Sen. Coleman YOUNG II (D-Detroit) shared, “Why? How do you compare garbage to dirt to trash?” 

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