LANSING (WKZO) -- Governor Rick Snyder, the state’s main advocate for ‘Positive relentless action’, delivered his third state of the state address to a sharply divided legislature, in a Capitol beset with protestors and only a thin line of State Police to keep the two groups apart.
His main focus and most passionate issue was to call to find 1.2-billion more dollars each year to repair the state’s roads and bridges, and to do it through a shift in gas taxes from the retail to the wholesale level and higher vehicle registration fees.
Those are not popular ideas, and already some business groups, anticipating the proposal, have come out strongly against it.
Snyder presented a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ argument, stating thatpaying more user fees now to fix them will be less expensive than deferring the maintenance and having it cost much more later to make repairs. He said in the interim it will cost everyone more in car repair bills and cost lives.
Snyder got quite passionate about supporting the plan, admonishing the lawmakers to set politics as usual and short term thinking aside on this issue, and do what is best for the state in the long run. That may be a tall order for Republicans who have pledged not to raise taxes, and Democrats, who resent only being included in the process when it’s expedient.
Governor Snyder opened the speech by reviewing his dashboard and claiming that many of the goals he had set out had been achieved or were on a positive track.
He also proposed on-line voter registration and no-reason absentee voting, two measures long pushed by democrats and opposed by republicans, and mentioned that he regretted the divisiveness that came out of last month’s lame duck session.
Despite the olive branch, many democrats remain skeptical.
Portage Republican Margaret O’Brien was satisfied with the content of the speech and was particularly pleased with the Governor’s interest in improving and increasing services for the mentally ill, but she is non-committal about his roads proposals.
She wishes the Governor had also spoken about efforts to make Michiganders a healthier group by fighting obesity. She noted that he left his effort to lose weight out of his dashboard discussion this time.
Kalamazoo Democrat Sean McCann says except for a discussion about the E.A.A. in Detroit and support for more pre-school education, there was little mention of reversing the damage done to the state’s public school system in the last two years.
McCann said he was glad the Governor supported reforms that make it easier to register and vote, but noted that no one stood up and applauded for his road funding reforms.
There were the usual complaints about the lack of specificity but a lot of that will be spelled out when the Governor presents his budget to lawmakers in early February.