LANSING (AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder’s second annual State of the State address on Wednesday is going to include some mixed grades on how well he’s succeeded in making Michigan a better place to live.
On the down side, the percentage of the state’s population holding a bachelor’s degree has dropped, and the percentage of children living in poverty is stuck at 23 percent. On the up side, the monthly unemployment rate is in single digits for the first time in three years, and the number of online services offered by the state is up nearly 10 percent.
Although his fellow Republicans have stymied his efforts to get a new bridge built across the Detroit River connecting Detroit and Canada, the businessman-turned-politician has been able to notch up a large number of policy victories since he gave his first address last January.
He also has created some ill-will among Democrats, who say his efforts to trim tax credits for low-income residents, cut funding for public schools and universities and tax a far greater share of retirement income have been ill-advised.
“It’s been a very disappointing year,” Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. “He has not kept to his own promise to be moderate, to be bipartisan and to `leave no one behind.’ A lot of people have been left behind under his programs over the last year.”
Snyder’s second State of the State speech is expected to again emphasize making government and schools run better, not by pumping in more money but by coming up with ways to measure how well they’re doing and require they improve.
While he said last month that he doesn’t plan further cuts for public schools and universities when he lays out his 2012-13 budget plan on Feb. 9, Snyder does want to tie at least some K-12 funding to student achievement, so school districts where students learn more get additional money.
In looking at student growth, it’s “not what they’re being taught, but what they’ve actually learned,” the governor told The Associated Press last month, adding that he’ll work with the Legislature to decide how best to measure what students are learning.
Snyder, who delivered five policy addresses over the course of last year, is expected during Wednesday’s speech to touch on two areas that will get his attention this year – public safety and energy/the environment.
Although he has come under fire by police and firefighters for cutting money local governments use to keep public safety workers on the job, Snyder has said his public safety message will be more focused on how making more jobs available is a better deterrent to crime than simply having more police on the streets.
He’s likely to repeat his call for lawmakers this year to find a way to raise more revenue to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges and to approve using federal funds to set up an exchange where individuals and small businesses could shop for health insurance.
He wants to move forward on setting up a new Regional Transit Authority to establish high-speed bus routes leading from downtown Detroit to its suburbs and Ann Arbor.
But most of all, Snyder wants to see Michigan add jobs. He may mention his upcoming trade trip to Germany and Italy in March and how that might increase foreign investment in the state.
He also is likely to call for further streamlining of state regulations to make permitting swifter and getting rid of some government oversight.
The governor is unlikely to announce any sweeping programs that require a lot of additional money, however. Michigan came out of the last budget year with a surplus, rather than a deficit, but the slow pace of economic recovery means the state won’t see revenues climb much in the year ahead.
The address may contain a surprise, such as Snyder’s call in last year’s address to get rid of the item-pricing law requiring price tags on every item. That, too, brought mixed reviews, but those sticky tags are mostly just a distant memory four months after the law took effect.
The move showed Snyder’s ability to push through changes long thought impossible, a feat he repeated in finally getting lawmakers to pass an anti-bullying law after 10 years of wrangling.
For a man who bills himself as “one tough nerd,” 2012’s address is a chance to again lay the groundwork for sweeping changes. He may find the job a bit tougher in an election year when at least some House members are worried about re-election.
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