Archived Story

Major strides, much to do

Published 11:17pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address Wednesday night was not one of big announcements or controversial statements — not that most speeches of this kind are.
Snyder’s positive tone, however, was starkly different from that of his first speech shortly after taking office.
But the tone, length and delivery of Snyder’s speech are hardly important — it’s about what has been accomplished and needs to be accomplished.
Snyder’s approval rating in December was at a dismal 19.3 percent. This indicates Michiganders are not happy with how this self-proclaimed “nerd” is running the state.
The main points of his speech — jobs, taxes and government reform — were expected, as was the frequent mention of Detroit, Lansing and Flint, with nary a cursory reference to southwest Michigan.
Three of Snyder’s six highlights don’t directly affect us in Michiana: public transit (his focus was the Detroit metro area); the new international trade crossing at the Canadian border; and the energy and environment “focus” was extremely vague, simply stating that Michigan must focus on protecting the Great Lakes.
While Michigan has made strides in some areas in the past year — the unemployment rate decreased from 11.1 percent to 9.3 percent, the first time it’s hit below 10 percent in three years — Snyder glossed over most of the glaring issues still inflicting the state.
Municipalities have lost hundreds of thousands in revenue sharing in the past year. This affects citizens in the form of service cuts. Police departments have cut or not replaced officers. School districts struggle to offer the same level of instruction with far less money.
After making changes to teacher tenure and adding charter schools in 2011, Snyder said he plans to expand an Education Achievement Authority, although he didn’t elaborate on that announcement.
Michigan is home to four of the 10 most violent cities in the U.S., but Snyder did not indicate how he plans to approach this problem.
But 2011 wasn’t all doom and gloom in Michigan.
Major strides included the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax; the implementation of the dashboard system, which encourages fiscal transparency in government and schools; and the passage of the anti-bullying law. Hundreds of regulations were eliminated, for example, the restrictions on the size of a barber’s wastebasket.
Some of Snyder’s plans for 2012 should be applauded.
He is addressing the state’s widening obesity rate — now nearly 32 percent — which has direct implications for not only the overall health of Michiganders, but health insurance rates as well.
He is also prioritizing Michigan’s talent and finding talented people, including veterans, jobs. The Pure Michigan Talent Connect website, mitalent.org, is posting nearly 70,000 jobs. If all of these jobs were filled, the unemployment rate would drop about 2 percent.
Snyder’s address concluded with, “While we should be proud of the progress, much remains to be done,” and there couldn’t be a truer statement. The governor needs to continue the positive direction the state is heading in, like maintaining the budget, while still tackling the major issues.

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