LANSING — The tone of Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address was uplifting as he recognized the Michigan’s economic prosperity and pushed for accelerated improvements to infrastructure Tuesday night in Lansing. Though not all state legislators were pleased as many expressed disappointment in the governor for not devoting enough of the speech to the Flint water crisis.
“We’ve made Michigan a place where if you work hard and play by the rules, you can truly get ahead,” Snyder said. “Not just survive, but thrive.”
Job growth was a focus of the speech, with Snyder stating since taking office in 2010, Michigan has created almost 500,000 private-sector jobs, while unemployment is down to a 15-year low of 4.9 percent.
Snyder recognized manufacturing and investment from the automotive industry as the chief job-creator in Michigan and said residents no longer have to leave the state to find quality jobs.
“We’ve created over 116,000 manufacturing jobs since 2010; we lead the nation,” Snyder said. “We are number one both in terms of number of manufacturing jobs and growth-rate percentage.”
In response to Snyder’s positive economic report, Jim Ananich (D–Flint), state Senate minority leader, said in a statement he feels as though average families are not experiencing the full extent of the recovery.
“Governor Snyder speaks about an economic recovery, but the people I talk to every day still don’t feel it in their wallets,” Ananich said. “Michigan’s seniors, students and middle-class families continue to get the short end of the stick thanks to the last six years of bad Republican policies coming out of Lansing.”
Midway through his address, Snyder pivoted from touting Michigan’s economic progress to speaking about the challenges still facing Flint after the water crisis, the central focus of his address last year.
“This was a sad chapter in the history of our state: Last year the people of Flint suffered an unacceptable crisis. I made a commitment to the people of Flint to fix it,” Snyder said. “We’ve worked tirelessly to make Flint’s water safe to drink again and improve the entire city of Flint — we’re making progress, but we’re not done yet.”
Snyder said he feels progress has been made and said $27 million of state funds were provided for lead pipe replacement, 24,000 new Flint residents were placed on Medicaid waivers and 827 new jobs were created in the community. Furthermore, Snyder said he would introduce higher water standards and better testing protocols for copper and lead than the federal government currently has in place.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint) issued a statement following the address, condemning the governor for not devoting more time to talk about and propose additional solutions.
“Shame on the governor for not using tonight to outline additional steps that he is going to take to ensure clean drinking water in Flint,” Kildee said in a statement. “I will not rest until the governor and the state step up to do more to help the city recover from this man-made crisis.”
After the roughly two-minute section of his address devoted to Flint, Snyder continued on the theme of infrastructure, saying billions of dollars will be needed for roads, pipes and updating the Soo Lock shipping channel in Sault Ste. Marie.
“Michigan residents deserve safe, reliable, sustainable infrastructure,” Snyder said. “We need to invest more, we need to literally invest billions of dollars of new investment over the next several decades.”
On the topic of education, Snyder said continued and new investments in early education, in computer science education and for women in STEM are forthcoming.
“We need to give our kids the education that gives them the skills and judgement they need to achieve quality careers, start families and to give back to their communities,” Snyder said.
State Sen. Geoff Hansen (R–Hart) said in an interview with the Daily he was pleased with the governor’s address, particularly his mention of continuing to push for technical education and computer science jobs.
“There’s a big need in Michigan right now: We’ve got about 80,000 engineering jobs open,” Hansen said. “I think it’s important we continue working with everybody to provide education based on what job opportunities there are.”
On specific issues pertaining to the University of Michigan, like sexual assault prevention, Snyder mentioned the initiative to end sexual assault on college campuses led by Michigan’s first lady, Sue Snyder.
This is the second time the University has received funding to address sexual assualt from the state. Synder spoke on the grant a summit on North Campus, and the University was awarded a $100,000 state grant in December.
“We need to do everything we can to keep our college and university campuses safe; Michigan has become a national leader on this,” Snyder said. “We’re doing grants to multiple colleges — 18 colleges and universities — with $500,000 in grants to do better on this topic, we need to keep that up.”
Additionally, Snyder touched on Mcity, the University’s autonomous-car testing center on North Campus, in his address as being part of the effort to place Michigan at the forefront of the world’s autonomous car development and testing.
“We are winning the mobility race, but we have to keep it up,” Snyder said. “We have wonderful assets like Mcity, the new American Center for Mobility, we have smart highways … we are the world’s leader today, we need to continue to be the world’s leader, we need to be the catalyst for the world and invite all parts of the world to join us in doing this in a safe, smart way.”
Concluding his address, Snyder said he is looking forward to this next year, his last in office as governor, and encouraged citizens to help him in making a positive difference in the state.
“Let’s go get this done,” Snyder said.