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Talent Expected To Highlight Snyder’s Final SOS

January 24, 2018

Expect Gov. Rick Snyder’s eighth and last State of the State on Tuesday night to put a heavy focus on making Michigan a Mecca for talent, a place where industry will want to come for the skilled labor the state can provide. 

Amazon recently took a pass on metro Detroit, in part, because its available talent was ranked as “average,” based on the criteria put together by the Anderson Economic Group (AEG).

Tuesday evening will give the “One Tough Nerd” a chance to revisit new and currently pursued strategies designed to build a workforce that will attract more jobs to the Great Lakes States. Look for State Superintendent Brian Whistonand Roger Curtis, the director of the Department of Talent and Economic Development to get shout outs for their work in this area. 

Speaking of jobs, Snyder likely will talk about Michigan as a “Comeback State” and the 530,000 new jobs created during his two terms in office. A growing economy and balanced budgets have made Michigan a more likely place for business to invest, the Governor likely will say. 

Also look for him to mention Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as an important partner in Michigan’s “reinvention” while pushing a few outstanding priorities, like the state’s next water hazard — polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. 

Likely sensing that tackling larger-ticket issues — like water infrastructure or education funding — isn’t realistic in his final year in office, top Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) aren’t looking for the same grand, sweeping plans that came out in 2011 or other subsequent years. 

“I think a lot of folks in the Legislature — whether they’re willing to say it or not, Democrat or Republican — are moving on. They’re looking for the next leader,” Ananich said in this week’s MIRS Monday podcast.

What do Republican legislative leaders want to say? House leaders named tax cuts and trying again to reform no-fault auto insurance as some things they hope the Governor will talk about. 

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) and Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) both named elimination of driver responsibility fees and reforming Michigan’s mental health system as topics they hope he’ll include. 

Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) had a different set of priorities. He named investing in infrastructure and education as subjects the governor should be addressing in his speech. “Fixing things that happened . . . under his watch,” like the Flint water crisis and helping out those hurt in the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) false fraud allegation fiasco also top Singh’s list. 

Lawmakers are not the only ones waiting to hear from Snyder Tuesday. Environmentalists held a tele-news conference Monday to urge the governor to use his speech to highlight clean drinking water and protection of the Great Lakes as well as rivers and streams. They called for “a Marshall Plan for water.” 

Leonard’s first issue was one that was much discussed, but did not pass last year. 

“Certainly, I would like to see him address, whether it be getting on board or addressing it in the State of the State address, this driver responsibility fee issue, ensuring that 300,000 of our citizens can get their licenses back, would no longer be burdened with these fees,” he said. 

Leonard last year assigned a task force to look into mental health issues, and the report was released just last week. 

“Last, I would like to see him remind this state and the citizens of this state how far we have come along over the past seven years of Republican control,” Leonard said. “Remember that when the Governor took office in 2011, we had nearly 15 percent unemployment rate. We had lost nearly a million jobs. We had a $1.5 billion budget deficit. We had the jobs killing Michigan Business Tax. Since then we have eliminated that jobs killing tax. We have created nearly 500,000 private sector jobs. The Michigan economy is healthier than it has been in over 20 years. I think he needs to remind the citizens of the state of Michigan how far we have come along in the past seven years.” 

Lauwers also named mental health reform as a top issue. 

“Everyone knows we need to do something about the way we are using our jails and the legal system for people with mental health issues. Cycling people in and out of jail is not a way to get them the help they need,” Lauwers said. “And it costs the state a great deal of money . . . I don’t think we will find any disagreement on the fact that is one that has to be addressed.” 

Efforts to keep money “in the taxpayer’s pocket” were also on Lauwers’ list. He, too, thought the governor should talk about his successes. 

“This is his final State of the State and I think he’ll take stock in what has been accomplished, and that’s a pretty good story,” he said. 

Top subjects on Singh’s list were roads, bridges and water systems. 

“It is very clear from the report that was done in December of 2016 that we have a $4 billion crisis in front of us,” Singh said. “The lack of infrastructure has made us less economically viable and put our communities in danger. And my hope is that we will see something bold around investment in infrastructure.” 

The lack of investment in infrastructure has put communities “in danger,” he said. He wants to see investment in education as well. 

“We just saw last week this education report that came out that we are underfunding most all school districts across the state by $2,000 per pupil,” Singh said. “I want to hear specifically how the governor is going to try to mend that discrepancy. There is a reason why our test scores have fallen under seven years of his administration. And I want to see what he is going to do to make that level of reinvestment.” 

He said he blames Gov. Snyder and the Republican legislature for the lack of investment in K-12 schools. 

“We have all along said that there needs to be more money in the classroom,” Singh said. “We need to have smaller classroom sizes. Every research report that has been done across the nation shows young people learn better in small classrooms. The fact that we have not invested appropriately, that we have taken significant money out of the school aid fund to fund other parts of the budget, means less money and resources to these groups.” 

And the state still hasn’t helped those falsely accused of fraud by the UIA. 

“I know that there was this proposal floated out last December about potentially putting together a fund that would help with some of those additional costs of those people who were wrongly accused by his administration. And I’m hoping that he’ll talk about that and make sure that’s a priority that will get done quickly in the beginning of this year,” Singh said. 

Associate Speaker Pro-Tem Gary Glenn (R-Midland) put tax relief at the top of his list. 

“It’s my hope he will announce plans to follow the president’s lead and offer meaningful tax relief to the people of Michigan,” Glenn said. “I think we should reduce the income tax and target tax relief, in particular, for the senior citizens who were unfairly penalized by the pension tax several years ago.” 

Energy policy to make electricity cheaper would make the state more attractive to businesses and create jobs, he said. 

“Along the way, we ought to aspire to be the Texas-of-the-North,” he said. “They’ve led the nation in economic growth and job creation but eventually our goal should be to have people in Texas wishing to be the Michigan-of-the-South. We ought to aspire to be the job-creating juggernaut that we have been in our state’s history, and we shouldn’t be satisfied with anything less.” 

Speaker Pro-Tem Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) wants to hear about jobs and the economy. 

“The state has come a long way in its recovery under the direction of Gov. Snyder, and I’m eager to hear his road map for how we can continue our trajectory in that economic recovery and continue to bring jobs back into our state,” Chatfield said. “I think any issue that falls under the purview of bringing jobs back to our state and helping our economy and helping reduce our unemployment, improving our workforce participation would be the things I would like to hear him speak about.” 

To Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), paying down debt is the top priority, but no-fault is on the list as well. 

“His focus has always been on paying down debt, paying unfunded liabilities,” Miller said. “That’s putting us in good shape for the next chapter . . . I have always taken pride in the fact that we have prioritized that for the last seen years. I would focus on that. I think that has been a winner for him. 

“Of course, I think he should focus on auto insurance and how we can change it . . . To me, changing our no-fault insurance is the single best way to get people in our state and keeping people in our state. I think he should focus on that, number one.” 

Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) named two priorities he hopes Snyder will address. One is no-fault. 

“We are the only state that has the unlimited no-fault,” Johnson said. “We’re the most expensive state. It is the easiest thing to go after. Not politically, obviously that’s been hard. But it is the easiest thing we can go after policy-wise because it just makes good sense. 

“Number two. We are talking about tax breaks right now. The federal government went big and we are seeing the economy boom because of it. We are talking about doing exemptions and certain tax credits. I think we should think big and go for an actual tax rate cut. Let’s go after the income tax rate cut and see what we can get there. That’s what I think he should talk about,” he said. 

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Michigan Environmental Council and the Natural Resources Defense held a press conference by telephone Monday to call on the governor to make clean water his top priority for the year. 

“After the Flint water crisis, there is no doubt that water quality will be the issue that defines Gov. Snyder’s legacy,” said Lisa Wozniak, of the League of Conservation Voters. “And it is not too late to take bold steps to protect Michigan’s water this year, in 2018 . . . The governor at one point called for a Marshall Plan for talent. What we really need to is a Marshall Plan for water, a bold vision, an all-hands-on-deck plan to fix our water issues, because the status quo is really unacceptable.” 

Cyndi Roper, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called on the governor to launch a program to replace all lead service lines statewide. 

“Communities from Monroe and Bay City to Benton Harbor and Holland Township all get their water through lead service lines. New protections proposed in the wake of Flint would require all communities to remove their dangerous lead pipes,” she said.

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