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Snyder addresses deteriorating roads

Published 9:58pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 

Michigan’s commitment to jobs, people and good government makes it the nation’s comeback state. Seizing opportunities to further reinvent Michigan that await in 2013 will keep that drive alive, Gov. Rick Snyder said in his third State of the State address Wednesday night.

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, recalls the speech as his first with an upbeat tone since the former aide to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton toiled in both Lansing houses during “the lost decade” dominated by bad automotive news which dragged down the whole state.

Michigan’s economy is at a 10-year high. Private payroll jobs have increased by 177,700 since August 2009.

One “fascinating” statistic the governor offered resonated with Proos, that Michigan accounted for 5.5 percent of gross domestic product in 1960 before bottoming out at 2.5 percent.

“I applaud the governor for laying out a positive plan for building on the accomplishments of the last two years and solving the challenges that Michigan still faces. Through bold leadership and thoughtful reforms, we have put Michigan on the path to economic prosperity and financial stability. Michigan is on the right road – adding jobs for two years in a row – but more remains to be done.

“I have long been a strong supporter of career and technical education programs as an alternative to the traditional college path, and I applaud the governor for encouraging schools to educate students for jobs that exist within our state. Jobs in these trades are valuable, important to our communities and can prepare our students for successful careers. For these reasons, I am introducing legislation that will help these programs flourish in our schools.

“Our state must continue work to support our veterans by making benefits and training more accessible to them so that they can successfully re-enter civilian life, receive a great education and support their families.”
Proos said Michigan ranks 53rd in veterans services behind even Guam and Puerto Rico, when involvement in those programs could help Southwestern Michigan College and Lake Michigan College.

“I believe that we must continue to pay down our debt and reduce liabilities. To date, we have put $500 million into Michigan’s rainy day fund and paid down our long-term liabilities by $21 billion. This long-term debt reduction will decrease the burden on the next generation of Michiganders,” Proos said.

“I look forward to working with the governor to address these issues as part of a continued effort to create a climate for job growth and give our children a stronger, more vibrant Michigan.”

“Michigan is showing the world that anything is possible with hard work, courage and relentless positive action,” Snyder said. “Our success comes from every corner of this great state. While we all can be proud of this progress, Michigan’s reinvention must continue. We still face too many challenges that have been ignored for too long. Let’s renew our spirit of collaboration and innovation so we can do what’s best for our state as a whole. Reinventing Michigan isn’t the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Fundamental reforms and sound fiscal stewardship put Michigan back on the path to prosperity, Snyder said. For example, the Budget Stabilization Fund – used by the state to respond to unforeseen circumstances – has its largest balance in more than 10 years.

Key to success is recognition that Michigan’s greatest asset is its people, and investing in people was a top priority of the governor’s in 2012. Pathways to Potential, a new model of service delivery for the Department of Human Services, will expand from 21 schools to 135 by mid-February. The Summer Youth Employment initiative proved successful, serving 764 teenagers in Flint, Saginaw, Detroit and Pontiac in partnership with 13 non-governmental agencies. In addition, the bipartisan effort on autism insurance reform is giving affected children a greater chance to live independently.

To fuel Michigan’s positive momentum, create more jobs and enhance overall quality of life, the governor proposed working with his legislative partners on investing in Michigan’s deteriorating roads to insure long-term savings for the state, save lives and deliver quality, cost-effective results for taxpayers. Simply maintaining the current condition of our roads – which most motorists agree is not good – demands significant investment. Snyder pointed out that every dollar invested today saves money in the future, which is critical given Michigan’s decades-long road maintenance, repair and construction challenges.

Michigan is short about $1.2 billion a year to fix roads, and new investments haven’t been made in them since 1997. We can pay today or continue to delay, but that will cost twice as much. We’ll need $12 billion over 10 years in today’s dollars. Continuing to delay lets costs balloon to $25 billion in 10 years and saddles the next generation with that bill.

Snyder proposed a simple and fair “user fee” based on three revenue sources: 1.) a shift from the gas tax to a tax at the wholesale level; 2.) an increase in vehicle registration fees for light cars and for trucks; and 3.) an optional local or regional registration fee that will be permitted.

The total will be about $120 per car on average, but since it’s a basic user fee, it will fluctuate based on the amount of use and the vehicle’s value. Snyder will work with lawmakers to determine the proper balance between the funding sources to insure that adequate revenue is generated.

“Roads will continue to be a big discussion,” predicted Proos, whose goal is see U.S. 31 in Berrien County finally completed.

Poor roads take a heavy toll on vehicles, causing an average of $357 in repairs each year for family cars. Having quality roads reduces damage to vehicles, makes driving safer and also helps to spur job creation by making Michigan more economically competitive.

Most important, investing in better roads means saving nearly 100 lives a year, according to a March 2012 report from The Road Information Program.

Reforming no-fault auto insurance to lower the high rates that burden families. Unlimited benefits, and the lack of control over their costs, make auto insurance beyond the financial reach of many residents. Michigan has the nation’s highest no-fault average claim cost severity. In addition, the average claim cost in Michigan increased 81 percent from 2004 to 2012. Detroit, Novi and Muskegon are among the Top 10 most expensive cities in the nation for auto insurance.

Increasing transparency in Michigan’s elections and encouraging voter participation. These include allowing no-reason absentee voting for people who apply for an AV ballot in person at a clerk’s office, and comply with existing photo ID requirements; permitting online voter registration in the same manner currently used for changes of address in the state’s verification system; and increasing the frequency of candidate reporting by requiring them to file quarterly reports during non-election years.

Creating a Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services to emphasize consumer protection while helping create a climate that allows insurance and financial services industries to thrive. The industries employ more than 150,000 residents and generate more than $9 billion in annual payroll.

Creating an Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority. The authority will partner with state and local law enforcement and the insurance industry to provide education, training and enforcement programs to reduce incidents of insurance fraud. It will be funded through a $2 per vehicle assessment on insurance companies.

Encouraging the Legislature to adopt use of “fiscal notes.” This helps to insure that government doesn’t spend beyond its means. It also provides lawmakers and the public with an easy-to-understand and transparent accounting of the fiscal impacts of proposed legislation.

Supporting veterans by creating an agency focused on helping them to identify and connect with services. With services to veterans spread across 15 state departments, the new agency will increase awareness of programs available to veterans. In partnership with veteran service officers and county veteran counselors, the agency will improve customer service by creating coordinated points of entry to veteran benefits by expanding access to services in every county. In addition, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will review the state’s licensing requirements and provide a list of occupations for which veterans’ military skills are equal or superior to their civilian peers. After the review, the governor will work with lawmakers on legislation that expedites the process of getting veterans back to work, particularly as EMTs, mechanics and commercial truck drivers.

In March, Snyder will conduct an economic development summit to collaborate on the critical issue of connecting Michigan’s talent to opportunities. In April, the governor’s education summit will explore issues such as school safety and early detection of mental health issues.

 

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