- Terra Molengraff/Daily
BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily News Editor
Published January 20, 2011
LANSING — Delivering his first State of the State address, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder stressed the importance of Michigan’s economic development as he spoke before the state legislature at the Capitol building here last night.
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In his address, Snyder emphasized the need for public and private partnerships in order to stimulate economic growth. Snyder highlighted several examples, including a pending collaboration between the corporation Procter & Gamble and the University Research Corridor — the research consortium comprised of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.
“It’s groundbreaking,” Snyder said. “It’s a collaboration that will speed ideas to the marketplace by simplifying the legal process that companies and universities use to negotiate research projects. It will also provide opportunities for Michigan students to gain firsthand exposure to large companies and the real business world, while exposing these companies to top talent and future potential employees.”
Ultimately, Snyder said, the program will be expanded to include all 15 public universities in the state, not just the institutions a part of the URC.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after Snyder’s speech, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she was glad the new governor spoke about unifying the state to find a way to develop Michigan’s economy.
Coleman added that she was “extremely pleased” Snyder specifically mentioned the URC-P&G partnership in his remarks.
“It’s a big breakthrough,” Coleman said. “It’s a wonderful example of ways we can be effective in interacting with companies and using the resources all over the state.”
In a telephone interview last night, P&G spokeswoman Lisa Popyk said the company is partnering with the URC to gain access to the state’s top talent, as well as to give students the chance to experience the business world.
“The universities are a great source of innovation and talent and research,” Popyk said. “We’ve found that by partnering with them we can bring innovation to markets, often faster with higher creativity, and this enables us to touch more lives of more consumers in more parts of the world.”
Though it was announced last night, the partnership between the URC and P&G hasn’t yet been finalized. According to Popyk, the negotiations have been ongoing for several months, and the deal is expected to be finalized in February.
Snyder to cut Michigan Business Tax
Snyder said in his speech that he will eliminate the Michigan Business Tax in his two-year budget proposal to be submitted to the state legislature in mid-February.
The governor added that he hopes the legislature will have the budget completed by May 31.
Snyder said he plans to replace the “job-killing” business tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax. Repealing the business tax would create a large revenue shortfall in the state budget, but Snyder didn’t say how, or if, that shortfall would be replaced.
Many, including Coleman, have speculated that the state could cut higher education funding in order to balance the budget. But Coleman said it is too early in the budget process to determine how potential cuts would affect the University.
“(Snyder) has used the words ‘shared sacrifice,’ so I don’t know yet what this means,” Coleman said. “I know, though, that the governor has a deep appreciation for the role of universities in society and for access for students, but it’s just too early to tell.”
In an interview last week, University Provost Philip Hanlon said the University plans several budgets to prepare for however high or low the state appropriation is.
“Gov. Snyder wants to reform the business tax, which, in the short run, will lower revenue even lower (than it already is),” Hanlon said. “So that leads to uncertainty. It’s quite certain that there will be a gap between the current year’s expenditures and next year’s revenues for the state. So, what they have to do is close that somehow, and what we don’t know is how they’ll do that.”
In the current state budget, signed into law by former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm last October, the University received $316 million from the state — a 2.8-percent decrease from the previous year.
In the official Democratic response to the State of the State address, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D–East Lansing) lambasted Snyder, saying that eliminating the Michigan Business Tax would create a budget hole that would adversely affect government services.
However, Whitmer said the Democrats in the state legislature would be willing to work with Snyder if the proposed legislation is prudent, no matter which party came up with the plan.
“We are eager to take a look at anything that really makes Michigan more competitive and creates jobs while protecting the things that make our state great, like our education and public safety," she said.
Snyder vows to improve, unify state
Echoing sentiments from his Jan. 1 inaugural address, Snyder pledged to better the state by working with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Throughout his speech last night, Snyder discussed several plans to create jobs and improve Michigan’s economy.
“The path to a bright future is based on all of us contributing to the solution,” Snyder said. “Tonight, I will start with specifics on the topic of economic development. Simply put — job one is jobs.”
Snyder said he is forming a group made of the Michigan Economic Development Corp, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth to help the state bounce back from the recession and produce more jobs.
He also announced his support for the Detroit International River Crossing project that would build a second bridge spanning the Detroit River to connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Snyder said he brokered an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration last week in Washington, D.C., in which the federal government would match the $550 million the Canadian government is supplying for the bridge project.
Snyder proposed several other programs to foster economic growth including expanding the scope of the MEDC and encouraging educated foreign immigrants to move to the state. He added that it is the responsibility of all Michiganders to work together to move the state forward.
“We can, and indeed we must, begin right now to build a Michigan where the next generation has the chance to live, to work, to play, to prosper,” Snyder said. “So let’s roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work.”