LANSING (WWJ/AP) On a media tour to promote his newly proposed budget, Gov. Rick Snyder suggested the state’s strong labor unions have no one to blame but themselves for Michigan becoming a right to work state — because they pushed a collective bargaining issue over his objections.
“Essentially, I was public with them and asked them not to go forward with the petition drive,” Snyder said. “I said if you continue this recognize and realize you’re going to bring up all the divisive issues that have to do with labor, including right to work … I think that was pretty clear.”
The unions pushed Proposal 2, which would have guaranteed the right to public and private sector collective bargaining. It failed with 58 percent of voters in the November election.
Snyder said he had no regrets about pushing right to work through the legislature, though it drew major protests in Lansing. “It’s a good decision and Michigan’s better off for it,” he said.
Snyder made the revelation during a wide-ranging interview with WWJ Newsradio that took on everything from his One Tough Nerd moniker to his newly proposed budget and Detroit leadership.
On Detroit, he said he’s waiting for a review team report to come out sometime in the next two weeks and that will help determine whether the city gets an emergency manager.
“That will have a lot of information that I’ll study closely and make some decision,” the governor said, adding he’s most interested in what the report says about the city’s long-term financial stability.
“Let’s not just have this continue … The long-term answer has to be growing the city of Detroit,” he said.
The governor denied an emergency manager would be appointed in retaliation for the city’s inaction on a proposed state lease of Belle Isle as a state park, which would have taken the financial onus off the city and created investment in park renovation.
The governor said he felt the majority of citizens in Detroit supported it, and it “really was an issue with Detroit City Council.”
“They made a decision,” he said, adding, “The only indirect effect is that puts their financial condition in that much worse a situation.”
On the financial front, Snyder
proposed an ambitious budget Thursday that asks Michigan drivers to pay higher taxes and fees to fix bad roads, expands Medicaid to uninsured adults and socks away more money for a rainy day.
The Republican’s $50.9 billion spending plan, which needs approval from the GOP-led Legislature, also calls for a bigger state police force, more spots in preschool for at-risk kids and a modest funding boost for public education.
“It’s a very good budget, it’s about living within our means,” Snyder told WWJ.
Snyder said it is a responsible, balanced budget that reflects Michigan is “turning the corner” after a decade of job losses. He cautioned that the state is not out of the woods given fiscal problems in Washington and in some struggling Michigan cities and schools.
Most of the increase over the current $48.2 billion budget is in two areas: transportation and Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Snyder proposed increasing the 19-cents-per-gallon state gasoline tax and 15-cents-per-gallon diesel tax to the equivalent of 33 cents for both — a more detailed plan than announced in his January State of the State address. After two years, the fuel tax would begin fluctuating depending on fuel consumption and construction.
Annual registration fees would rise 60 percent for cars and SUVs and 25 percent for big trucks and trailers. The typical family would pay $120 per vehicle more each year in gas taxes and vehicle fees, a tough sell even if people recognize roads are in bad shape.
Snyder said Michigan will be stuck with a much larger bill in the future if lawmakers do not act. He cited repair-shop bills associated with driving on pothole-ridden roads that are dangerous for motorists and said spending more on transportation would create jobs.
“Nobody’s happy with our roads,” Snyder told WWJ. “This literally would avoid a monstrous bill later and at the same time, we would have better roads.”
Snyder also formally recommended making 320,000 more residents eligible for Medicaid in 2014, a move he said would initially save $200 million a year because people who receive care from state-funded programs would instead be covered with federal money. That was met with skepticism by Republican legislators who worry the federal government will renege on a promise to cover much the cost after 2017.
Democrats, who are outnumbered in the Capitol, applauded Snyder for his Medicaid position but faulted his school budget and said his early childhood initiative does not go far enough.
Facing off against those across the aisle — Does Snyder still feel like One Tough Nerd?
“I think I’ve probably earned it at this point,” he said, laughing during the WWJ interview. “I’m proud to be a nerd because I love to learn about everything. For all the people that feel picked on being a nerd, you don’t have to feel picked on, just be who you are. We should all feel that way, we should be proud of who we are.”
Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin in Lansing contributed to this report.
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