Gov. Rick Snyder put services for immigrants and seniors at the top of his to-do list for 2014 in his State of the State speech yesterday.
The governor also promised to extend pre-school to every child in the state that wants to attend, and trumpeted the state’s economic recovery as he prepares to seek a second term.
"We are reinventing Michigan," Snyder said. "Michigan is the comeback state."
Snyder noted that hiring is up, and more people are looking for work — although Michigan still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and many families living in poverty.
But the governor says things are getting better and the state’s improved budget position and the prospect of a revenue surplus is evidence of that. He said much of that money — more than a billion dollars over the next three years — should be used on infrastructure, investments, and savings. But he also said taxpayers should get some of it back.
“There’s going to be some opportunity for tax relief,” Snyder said.
But the governor did not put out a specific tax proposal. That could come in three weeks with his budget rollout.
The governor also said he would create an immigration office — the Michigan Office for New Americans — and would help businesses lure skilled workers from overseas.
On education, the governor said his budget proposal would include incentives for schools to spread classes throughout the entire year with shorter breaks. And he said it would include more money for early childhood programs.
The biggest applause line of the night was when the governor asked the Legislature to endorse a federal balanced budget amendment.
“I ask you to take up the issue of doing a resolution asking the United States government to include in the United States Constitution an amendment that they have to balance their budget,” Snyder said.
That brought Republican lawmakers to their feet as Democrats quietly remained in their seats.
The theme of the address was, “The Comeback Continues” and it was neither written nor delivered oblivious of the fact that this is an election year. The governor is expected to seek a second term, and his campaign is already buying TV ad time — although Snyder has not officially announced his plans.
Snyder’s critics are not oblivious of that fact, either. In act of political theater, the liberal group Progress Michigan hired an actor to don a silver-haired wig and portray Snyder in a faux State of the State address outside the governor’s office in downtown Lansing.
“If minimum wage workers want to not live in poverty, they should be more relentlessly positive (laughs) – like me!” the imitation Snyder said.
Snyder’s real Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, spent much of the day and the evening in the state Capitol talking to people and making the case that it should be him delivering the State of the State speech next year.
“We’re going to win because people are ready for new priorities and a new direction and that’s why I expect that tonight is going to be Rick Snyder’s last State of the State address,” said Schauer.
And Rick Snyder, of course, hopes that’s wrong and that 2014 is just the halfway point in his career as governor.