MACKINAC ISLAND (WWJ) -The most important thing that needs changing in Michigan is not a law or a regulation. It’s a culture.
That’s the word from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, offering his first keynote speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference Friday.
The speech was short on specifics but long on enthusiasm and exhortation of the business-friendly audience to get out there and compete and create jobs. It was interrupted frequently by applause, and Snyder got standing ovations to start and end it.
Snyder said his administration aims to be all about “relentless positive action,” which he said his staff has already shortened to the acronym RPA.
“That’s all about solving the problem, not making value judgments,” Snyder said. “We’re not going to spend any time on blame — blame is negative energy and serves no purpose… and the second part is, who cares about the credit? It’s about ‘As Michiganders, we solved the problem.'”
Snyder also said his administration would be relentlessly focused on the future — but he also conducted a quick review of how Michigan got into its deep economic problems. He said Michigan was a leader in the natural resources area of the 1800s in fur, mining and timber, and reinvented itself in the 1900s for the industrial era.
“In many respects we were too successful,” Snyder said. “We built huge institutions that produced huge wealth and huge success. We didn’t realize the world was changing and we have to reinvent ourselves again.”
While providing no specifics, Snyder also called for reform of the state’s K-12 education system, repeating the oft-quoted figure that only 16 percent of Michigan’s high school graduates are “college ready.”
“In terms of kids being college or career ready, there is only one number that is acceptable, and that is 100 percent,” Snyder said. “We need to take that broken system and recalibrate it and say it’s all about student growth.”
When it comes to health care, Snyder said, he wants to focus Michiganders on healthier lifestyles.
“The best thing we can do to cut health care costs is to go get a physical, to watch your blood sugar, watch your blood pressure, eating and exercise,” Snyder said.
Snyder also again called for building a second bridge across the Detroit River, backing the New International Trade Crossing, not the second span at the existing Ambassador Bridge.
Snyder also backed incrementalism, saying that even when Michigan’s problems can’t be fully solved, “let’s address the 50 to 80 percent (we can solve) and show positive progress.”
After his speech, Snyder participated in a panel discussion on urban areas in Michigan with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.
Moderator Stephen Henderson, editorial director of the Detroit Free Press, asked Snyder how he squared his professed enthusiasm for urban areas with his deep budget cuts to revenue sharing for cities.
“First of all we had a huge budget deficit… so we had to do some serious actions, and I appreciate that we asked our cities for a lot,” Snyder said. He also said the state shared in those cuts — and in the best practice efforts to make existing tax dollars go farther.
Listen to the Governor’s entire speech below