While Michigan has been "going downhill since the ‘60s," Gov. Rick Snyder said he's proud of his record thus far and hopes to change the state's decadeslong trend.
He told a crowd of nearly 200 people at Saline's Liberty School on Monday night that he ran for governor “to fundamentally change how we are doing things" and has accomplished that by insisting the focus be on “relentless positive action."
The governor said his two goals are “to create more and better jobs in Michigan” and “to create a bright future for our kids.” Michigan is now the “comeback state,” but Snyder warned, “it's not good enough.”
Snyder blamed Washington for much of the problems that remain, but also was critical of prior decisions in state government. He called the now-repealed Michigan Business Tax, “the dumbest tax in the United States.”
Snyder announced that he is going to address energy and environmental issues after the Nov. 6 election. He also announced his intent to encourage more young people to aspire to various skilled trades. In April, he is planning to host an educational summit.
After presenting his upbeat view of Michigan’s future, Snyder answered questions from the audience. Many of the questions read concerned the six Michigan ballot initiatives voters will face on Nov. 6.
“I just say, 'Yes on 1 and no on the rest,'" Snyder said, adding that his overriding objection is that the proposals would be better handled by statute and not by amending the state constitution.
Regarding the new international bridge project, which would be affected by Proposal 6, Snyder praised the agreement he helped secure with Canada, which calls for that country to accept all construction costs including cost overruns. He called it “a great opportunity” and “too good to be true.” He said he did not work with the Michigan Legislature to obtain approval for the project because it involved no Michigan money.
He pointed out that Ambassador Bridge owner Manny Maroon has spent $10 million to $20 million to spread what he called misinformation about the project just to protect his personal financial interest in the bridge. The constitutional change would not only impede the bridge project, but a pending railroad tunnel project and future bridge opportunities, Snyder said.
In response to a question on Proposal 2, regarding collective bargaining, Snyder said it would be “devastating to our economic comeback.” Snyder contended that the proposal could wipe out about 170 laws going back to the 1960s, resulting in lengthy litigation. Though he said he supports collective bargaining, he believes Proposal 2 will cause Michigan’s recovery to “come to a screeching halt.”
On Proposal 3, regarding renewable energy, Snyder says he is in favor of renewable energy, but opposes making it a constitutional mandate. The proposal calls for 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, which Snyder said doesn’t include making improvements in energy efficiency. Furthermore, he said, it locks the state into commitments that can only be achieved with federal government assistance, of which there is no guarantee.
Proposal 4 regards collective bargaining rights for in-home care workers. Snyder says it is largely a special interest law designed to help the Service Employees International Union collect more union dues.
The governor did not specifically address Proposal 1, a referendum on the emergency manager law. In questions after his presentation, he said he thinks it is “a good law,” and some form of it has been in place since former Gov. James Blanchard's time in office.
Snyder said he disagrees with those who suggest the law overrides elected representative government.
“I don’t believe that’s accurate," he said. “The emergency managers ultimately report to me and I am an elected person.”
When asked what could be done besides tax cuts to create jobs in Michigan, Snyder referred to the “Made in Michigan” label. Whether through agriculture or manufacturing, Snyder wants to utilize Michigan’s talent base to increase production in Michigan.
Snyder addressed a question about Michigan’s former film industry incentive, which he greatly scaled back. He said the project was overly generous to moviemakers and, while it did bring dollars into Michigan, the investment is better used for projects with greater return, such as the popular Pure Michigan campaign.
Both Snyder and State Rep. Mark Ouimet addressed a question about personal property taxes on industrial properties. Both said the tax is an important source of revenue for local governments and scaling it back would require finding a new revenue stream for municipalities.
Snyder said he is not in favor of making Michigan a “right-to-work” state as some nearby states have done. He said it only creates divisiveness. He said he fears if Proposal 2 passes, it may create a backlash in favor of right-to-work legislation.
Asked about an apparent assault on teachers’ pensions, Snyder said that previous agreements were underfunded and were now consuming a growing percentage of school budgets. He said his efforts have been to stabilize the costs so that they stay below 24 percent of the total.
The crowd at Liberty School seemed appreciative and broke into applause on several occasions during Snyder's town hall. Not everyone outside, however, was as enthused with his performance.
One group of protestors met to picket in favor of Proposal 2, but then decided against it. Another group of picketers, who did go through with their march, alleged that Snyder had a vested interest in China.