Thursday, January 19, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address: A mile wide and an inch deep

Tim liked it right? He didn't oh.

By:Chris Savage/Blogging for Michigan/Eclectablog

Last night was the second State of the State address by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Pundits around the state are weighing in on how shallow it was, with no specifics or new initiatives announced. This is my take. I’m sure Christine will probably have more to say, as well.
Before I get into my analysis, it’s worth noting how difficult the Republicans made it for me, my wife Anne and Christine to get media passes. It was only through the efforts of Ann Arbor state Representative Jeff Irwin that we finally did get passes.
Once in the building, media was consigned to one room. This is normal. What was not normal was the extreme level of security. We learned later that the Republicans were terrified of the folks from Occupy Detroit and Occupy Lansing crashing the gates. Once we entered the media room, we were not allowed to leave, even though we got there nearly 90 minutes before the address began. This made it impossible for Anne to get photos around the Capitol building, her reason for being there.
The address itself was, without a doubt, one of the most boring speeches I have ever had the misfortune of listening to. It’s truly a testament to the amount of money that Rick Snyder and his supporters were able to pour into his campaign that someone as uncharismatic as he is.
It should be noted that the Governor has not released a transcript of the address, even after it was delivered.
I recall listening to Governor Jennifer Granholm’s State of the State addresses. Even when Michigan’s economy was at its lowest and things were truly dismal in our state due to the near-collapse of the auto industry, Granholm fired up the citizens of Michigan. She talked about the many successes that had transpired over the past year, making us realize that progress was being made. More importantly, she talked enthusiastically about the future and introduced dynamic new initiatives for taking our state forward. I literally remember standing alone in my living room, pumping my hand in the air and shouting “YEAH!” after one of her speeches.
Last night? Not so much.
Snyder essentially gave us a laundry list of all the things he finds wrong with Michigan. He mentioned a few of the elements of his performance “Dashboard” but, given how many “thumbs down” there are on it, it’s easy to see why he largely avoided and it’s not surprising that he, instead, focused on “indices not many people talk about”. Derp.
The good things he did talk about are clearly things that he and his administration cannot take credit for. The good news about the drop in Michigan’s unemployment rate to 9.3% is clearly the result of seeds planted by Governor Granholm working in partnership with the Obama administration. The cuts he made to the Michigan Business Tax that Republicans are convinced turn our economy around were not made until late 2011.
When mentioning Public Act 4, Snyder said his administration is “committed to being a supportive partner helping communities solve financial problems”. The cities that have received Emergency Managers and had their democratically-elected government swept aside clearly beg to differ. His definition of “partnership” is quite creative.
Speaking of Public Act 4, I realized last night that Snyder told us at his first State of the State in 2011 that this was coming down the pike.
My administration will present to you changes to Public Act 72 – the Emergency Financial Manager’s Act.
The current act does not allow for intervention in a school district early enough in the process. Also we must have better clarity over the powers of the financial managers. These strengthened provisions would apply to both municipalities and schools. I ask for your early review and passage of this important legislation.
The only initiative the governor announced was to improve “customer service” by the state government to Michigan residents. While it’s hard to argue that it would be nice if our government servants were as efficient and friendly and possible, the idea that our state’s problems can be somehow improved with this is simply laughable; lipstick on a pig, if you will.
He spoke about improving graduation rates after stripping $1 billion for our statewide budget. He spoke of helping our failing cities by attracting business investment but announced no initiatives to invest aggressively in them to make them attractive to businesses. He spoke of respecting teachers while signing laws to kneecap their ability to collectively bargain.
At the end of the address, Governor Snyder said 2011 was the year they passed the laws that laid the groundwork for making Michigan a “great state again” and that 2012 is the year “we must finish what we’ve started”. That is exactly what many Michigan residents are afraid of.
More attacks on union members. More attacks on public employees. More attacks on teachers. More Emergency Managers denying our citizens their right to democratically-elected representation in their local government. More of this is a recipe for disaster for our state.
Afterwards, a room full of visibly angry Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer expressed their dissatisfaction with Governor Snyder’s speech. When asked by one reporter how she felt about the Governor’s report.
“Accountants report,” she said. “Leaders lead.”
Governor Snyder’s State of the State address was a report, and a dull, shallow, uninspiring report at that.

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