It's just starting to feel like summer, but Michigan's candidates for governor are focused on November.
We've sat down with the Democrats running for their party's nomination. And now, we turn to those vying for a spot as the GOP's contendor.
Candidate Bill Schuette has served as the state’s attorney general since 2011. He also served as a state senator from 1994 until 2003, and as a congressman for Michigan's 10th District from 1985 through 1991.
Schuette sat down with Cynthia Canty to discuss tax cuts, education reform, and school safety.
Listen to the full interview above, or read highlights below.
By every measure, Michigan's average student test scores are going the wrong way. Just one example is the study that showed Michigan's third-grade reading scores are just about dead last of the 50 states.
We're losing ground. How do we do better for our students?
“We know the fact is, as you’ve correctly pointed out Cynthia, is that Michigan is at the bottom, ranks at the bottom of third-grade reading scores. What this means is only 35 percent of our third graders are proficient in reading and that's outrageous. People ought to be up in arms about this. The fact is that when you can’t read, the future — the lens with which you view Michigan or America — is gloomy and dim.
This country has been described as a shining city on a hill but if you can’t read the directions to get there or if you can’t spell ‘opportunity’ what kind of a life is that going to be? The fact that our reading scores are at the bottom of the heap to me means okay we need to have a more aggressive approach. When I’m governor, Michigan’s children will read.”
I know you have been upfront about wanting a tax cut. Why is right now a good time to do that?
"I want Michigan to win again. I want Michigan to grow. Our biggest challenge, Cynthia, is population because other states are growing faster than we are. Yes, we have rebounded, but we are still 300,000 jobs short of where we were before the great recession of 2007-08. The fact is, there are 55 counties in Michigan that have lost population in this decade. So that means other states are growing faster than we are.
We used to have 19 members of Congress. We are going to have 13 members of Congress after this next census. So it means we're not winning enough. Other states are getting the Foxconn and H2Q from Amazon, and we need to win. I want us to compete and win against the Carolinas, the Texases, and the Floridas where you see cranes in the sky and boots on the ground. We need to have an attitude of ‘We are going to win again,' and we need to rebuild our population. That's really Michigan's key issue. There is not one issue that wouldn’t be minimized, lessened, or helped if we had more people in the state. We need to build our population. That's why I am running for governor. "
So where would you cut taxes?
"First I would drive a stake — I would drive a nail, Cynthia— right through the legacy of the lost decade and the failed governorship of Jennifer Granholm. That income tax increase was supposed to have been temporary. It has never been rolled back so it has cost Michigan taxpayers $8 billion. So the fact is we need to cut taxes in Michigan just like President Trump cut taxes in America. That's why he’s supporting me for governor because he knows I will complement him and help him cut taxes here in the state of Michigan. If we don’t cut taxes, we won't be a growth state. There are some of those that view the world as a shrinking pie. I want us to expand the pie, and I am not going to manage Michigans decline, Cynthia."
You have said you want to roll back the Medicaid expansion. So for the hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who managed to get themselves health insurance for perhaps the first time through Healthy Michigan, what would you do for them?
"Here is the issue, I think everybody knew it but few talked about it, and the fact is the federal funds were not indefinite. And Mike Shirkey and I are working together on putting a requirement in of a work requirement for Medicaid. This has two facets to it Cynthia. One, it’s an important cultural requirement that you further reinforce the significance of work. And secondly, it would be a more efficient government and save the state and taxpayers money. So Medicaid work requirement is an important element.
Second, we ought to block grant whatever federal funds there are to the states and let the states be in charge of designing what the best health care plan is. Let Michigan make our decisions, not Washington. Let Wisconsin make its decision, not Washington. That is the fundamental approach and again, that’s the difference between the Trump administration and the Obama administration. I fought Obamacare. My opponent supported expansion. I took Obamacare all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
There are differences in philosophies, and the Democrats, what they want — Whitmer and the Democrats want— is a single-payer system. My father-in-law is 99 years old. World War II, POW fighter pilot, and this guy fought for his country so we can have free expression here today. When you think about how he served — when you think about the problems of the VA [Veteran's Administration] across the country — just points out the problems of a single-payer system. If you see whats going on in the VA, the last thing you want is a single payer system across America."
I want to pivot over to the gun debate, particularly in light of the school's shootings, we just had more headlines again a few days ago. How do you balance the need for public safety with second amendment rights
"As children grow up, you want them to come home safely, and every parent's worst nightmare is when there is a problem at a school. And we’ve seen the tragedy at the Santa Fe high school or Parkland, and obviously there is a mental health crisis in America and we need to have greater treatment. The young Cruz individual in Florida, there is so many alerts that went unnoticed and he wasn't helped at all, and that's a great tragedy and the consequences of that were so tragic as well. The point is we have a mental health crisis.
Second, we need to have more programs like ‘OK 2 Say,’ which is Michigans schools safety initiative I put into place as attorney general, where it’s a 24/7, 365, if you receive a tip that someone might cause harm to himself or herself, bring a gun to school, cause violence, you can send an email or a text or a phone number, and the closest first responder will be notified to try and stop violence before it occurs.
Thirdly, we have to have greater security in our schools and I think that means Cynthia, that certain teachers — not everyone — be very careful with my words here, some teachers ought to have the ability to provide security and safety in their schools, properly trained and annual review. It's security, it's school safety initiatives like ‘OK 2 Say,’ and its about treating the challenges of mental illness"