The initiatives—along with a pilot project for moving some
low-performing public schools to a year-round calendar and
detecting financial problems in school districts and
municipalities before they need state intervention—were among
the highlights of the Republican governor's fourth annual State
of the State address.
Snyder, who is up for re-election in November, touted Michigan's
``comeback'' during the hour-long address to a joint session of
the Republican-led Legislature. He mentioned the auto industry's
resurgence, a drop in violent crime, the state's budget surplus
and two consecutive years of population growth for the first
time in a decade.
``People are staying again in Michigan, and we should be proud
of that,'' he said.
Pointing to nearly $1 billion in surplus revenue, Snyder said he
will propose tax relief for individuals when unveiling his
budget in three weeks. He declined to elaborate further.
He committed to seeking an additional $65 million so low-income
children no longer have to be on a waiting list for financial
help to attend preschool. Michigan led the U.S. last year with
the biggest spending increase on early childhood programs, both
on a percentage and dollar-amount basis, he said.
``We're going to make it a no-wait state for early childhood
education,'' Snyder said.
Snyder also will soon issue an executive order creating the
Office for New Americans, joining two other states that have put
immigration services under one roof.
His administration has applied to make Michigan the second state
government along with Vermont to run a regional center for the
EB-5 visa program, with the goal of attracting talented
immigrant entrepreneurs. The EB-5 program designates businesses
to recruit foreign investors for development projects _ the
investors get permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their
``If someone has the opportunity to come to our country legally,
let's hold our arms open and say, `Come to Michigan, this is the
place to be,''' Snyder said.
One proposal Democrats welcomed was his push for increased early
learning funding, but they said it should not come at the
expense of less funding for other students.
``How he did it last (year) was by taking money out of the
school aid fund to do it. It was not a new investment,'' said
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, an East Lansing
Democrat. ``It was stealing from one child to pay for another.''
Democrats also said the surplus came thanks to the GOP raising
taxes on individuals in 2011 to offset a tax cut for businesses.
And Whitmer called into question Snyder's emphasis on
``I think most people in Michigan are scratching their heads a
little bit saying, `Why do we need to import degree holders?'
What about ... giving our kids the degrees so they can do the
jobs he's claiming to try to lure to Michigan?'' she said.
While he briefly mentioned resolving Detroit's bankruptcy in
2014, Snyder stopped short of publicly calling for state aid to
soften cuts to pensions of city retirees and to prevent the sale
of pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The governor
met privately with legislators this week to suggest that the
state match foundations' $330 million commitment.
Snyder also touched on unfinished legislative business, such as
increased spending for deteriorating roads and bridges and
cracking down on scrap metal theft. But he did not make the
stalled transportation legislation a major emphasis as he has in
previous years, nor did he mention auto insurance changes he
unsuccessfully sought last year.
The governor also highlighted a decline in violent crime in four
cities his administration has targeted as part of a public
safety initiative. Violent crime in the first 10 months of 2013
was down 30 percent in Flint, 16 percent in Saginaw, 7 percent
in Detroit and 6.5 percent in Pontiac.
Near the beginning of his speech, Snyder leveled a half-veiled
criticism of anti-gay and anti-Muslim posts that Michigan
Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema made on
Facebook in the last week. He said people should ``work to bring
Michiganders together, not divide'' them.
Democrat Mark Schauer, Snyder's likely opponent in
November's election, questioned Snyder's ``comeback'' story. He
said that more unemployed Michigan residents are filing for
jobless benefits than in any other state and a minimum wage
increase is needed.
``Rick Snyder's economy isn't working for average
Michiganders,'' Schauer said.