Legislators respond to Snyder speechPublished 11:35pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Gov. Rick Snyder, delivering his second State of the State address Wednesday, praised Michigan’s successes in 2011 but said, “we cannot afford to slow down” in 2012.
“In 2011, we set that standard and accomplished many things that many thought were impossible,” Snyder said. “We built the foundation for good government in 2011. 2012 needs to be the year of implementing good government.”
State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, said he agreed with the governor’s assessment of 2011 and approved of the relentless tone he set for 2012.
“I think the foundation is in a better place than a year ago,” Proos said in an interview from the state capitol. “A lot of work has been done to benchmark ourselves to other states. But there’s more work to be done.”
Snyder was quick to point out that the state’s unemployment dropped from 11.1 percent to 9.3 percent and Michigan added 80,000 private sector jobs in 2011. He also lauded the newly launched Pure Michigan Talent Connect website.
“If we filled all the positions on there, unemployment would drop another 2 percent almost,” he said.
He touted the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, which he called a “job killer” and “just plain dumb.” Snyder also recognized the state making its first deposit in its rainy-day fund since 2004 — something Proos hopes to see more of.
Proos said in an interview Tuesday that he hopes the state will use its estimated $633 million surplus to continue to pay down debt and make deposits in the rainy day fund.
Strides in education
Regarding education, the governor pointed to teacher tenure reform, the removal of the cap on charter schools and the anti-bullying law, which struck a chord with Snyder as a former victim of bullying.
But he expressed disappointment that college readiness only increase from 16 to 17 percent.
“We need to be 100 percent college and career ready,” he said.
Snyder also touched on the state’s crumbling road system, calling for the Legislature to find a way to increase funding to an infrastructure that is underinvested by $1.4 billion.
“No one likes our road system,” he said. “Let’s solve this problem now.”
Proos said he has drafted a bill that hit the Senate Chambers today that would dedicate “a significant amount of funding” from the 4 percent sales tax on gas to the State Trunk Line Fund to match available federal highway funds. Under current law, none of the gas sales tax goes toward transportation.
Snyder also called for the completion of unfinished 2011 business, including the construction of a new, government-owned bridge from Detroit to Canada.
He called the bridge a “jobs issue” and called for special interests to not get in the way.
The governor also expressed the need to improve public safety, citing that the state has four of the top 10 cities in violent crime.
The increase in obesity to 32 percent of the population was also of concern to Snyder, as he introduced a new program to fight childhood obesity — Pure Michigan Fit.
Snyder closed his speech in calling for the theme of 2012 to be “good government” and giving citizens “great customer service.”
“I’m glad to see he has embraced a customer service attitude that’s effective and responsive,” said Proos, who said he called for such an attitude when he served on the Michigan Republican Jobs Task Force.
Proos said he was happy to hear the governor announce Michigan is no longer an “outbound state,” meaning that more people are leaving than entering.
“I’d like to see it turn into more people coming in,” he said. “And in order to do that we can’t be shedding any jobs.”
Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, said the governor’s address was “encouraging” but said the jobs situation must still improve.
“Things are looking better,” she said. “Michigan added 67,000 net new jobs in 2011, but we must continue our push to create an environment for jobs to flourish.”
“As a member of the Governor’s Talent Investment Board, I look forward to continuing our work to ensure our residents are qualified for better jobs and growing industries,” she said.