In some ways, this gubernatorial election isn’t dissimilar from the last. A classic Democrat faces off against a businessman on the Republican ticket. In other ways, it’s quite different. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been term-limited out of office and a previously unknown Democrat is vying to take her place. The Republican candidate for the governor’s office, on the other hand, has a surprisingly moderate stance on social issues. With this election, the question before Michigan voters is clear: Who has the economic savvy and social vision to lead Michigan out of the rut it’s in?
Republican Rick Snyder, an Ann Arbor businessman, is the proud recipient of three degrees from the University of Michigan — which probably earns him a few brownie points from University students and alumni. In his campaign, he has branded himself as “One Tough Nerd.” He managed to beat out traditional conservatives in the Republican primary by appealing to the center. And by keeping the election focused completely on the economy and remaining moderate on social issues, Snyder has managed to hold a solid 20-point lead in the polls for months in a state that typically votes Democratic.
Before Democratic candidate Virg Bernero was the mayor of Lansing, he served as a representative and senator in the state legislature. This experience in the legislature — with which he would have to work as governor — and as an executive leader in Lansing gives Bernero governmental qualifications that Snyder can’t boast. Bernero’s campaign has been playing catch-up since the end of the primaries. As a result, he hasn’t had much of a chance to talk about the success he’s had in Lansing, where he balanced the budget for five years and brought new business into the city.
It’s appealing that Snyder has managed to fund his campaign without taking money from special interest groups, which means he isn’t beholden to anyone. Snyder also made a point to avoid discussing divisive social issues that would alienate voters. He hasn’t been subversive about his conservative stances on abortion and same-sex marriage — though, progressively, he supports stem cell research — and he has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to address these issues if he’s elected. Considering the stagnant nature of these issues, he would probably be unable to affect any change even if he did make them a priority. But voters should still be wary of giving a powerful office to a man who hasn’t shown support for all of their personal liberties.
In this economic climate, Snyder’s focus on the economy is justified. Snyder is coming in with a plan — a detailed plan. On his website, voters can find his 10-Point Plan to “Reinvent Michigan,” which includes pages and pages of outlines to reform the ethics of government officials, help the environment, create jobs, fix the education system and overhaul the state’s tax system. Like any good businessman, Snyder is coming in with a business plan and a mission statement. And that preparation is encouraging.
But the plan has some serious flaws. Snyder plans to replace the infamously bad Michigan Business Tax with a flat 6-percent corporate income tax, which, when all is said and done, would equal out to a $1.5-billion decrease in state revenue. And there’s no indication of where Snyder plans to make up that money. In this respect, his stance is fairly traditionally Republican — cut taxes and the businesses will come. But as it is, the state isn’t getting by with the revenue it has. Snyder has said he’ll carefully consider all of Michigan’s services to determine where cuts can be made, but that still may not be enough to balance the multi-million-dollar budget deficit.
While Bernero hasn’t provided as comprehensive plans, he has a strong political background that will be to his advantage. Voters often forget that Bernero has managed Lansing fairly well during his tenure there. He balanced Lansing’s budget without laying off city employees and created a friendly environment for new businesses to move to the city. But the state’s budget is in a much bigger mess and deals with significantly more money and employees than Lansing’s. Bernero may not be able to cut government spending enough to balance the state budget.
According to his website, Bernero also encouraged $500 million of new private business in Lansing during his time as mayor. And he does have several ideas and principles laid out to resuscitate the economy, like making Michigan more appealing to green industries and research and development companies.
Bernero also has problems with the Michigan Business Tax. He plans to cut the Michigan Business Tax surcharge, according to his website. Bernero has said he’ll work with businesses to keep finding reforms to the tax. This would create a more comprehensive, sensible tax plan that probably wouldn’t lead to a huge decrease in state revenue. Though he doesn’t have as clear a plan as Snyder, Bernero should be able to accomplish revamping business taxes before his four years run out. Bernero’s more moderate approach to slashing taxes and incorporation of public input are promising.
Bernero also hopes to maintain some of Michigan’s manufacturing jobs by encouraging more manufacturing of green products like wind turbines and solar panels. While it may be unrealistic for Bernero to think that it’s possible to maintain the manufacturing economy, environmentally-friendly technology is incredibly important and Michigan should be a leader in going green. Bernero understands the importance of using the resources Michigan has — both in terms of jobs and the environment.
Most favorable about Bernero’s platform is his plan to create a state bank — modeled after North Dakota’s successful program — to keep Michigan money and investments in the Michigan. The concept would encourage in-state investment. It’s an ambitious plan, but it could have a more effective and long-lasting impact than Snyder’s tax cuts. The plan has a clear model and proven results, and shows that Bernero is considering new, unconventional plans to bring money back to Michigan.
Though Snyder may seem like a change from the status quo, his plan to cut taxes without making up the money in the budget doesn’t make much sense. Bernero has encouraging experience in managing government money and bringing in new business. He could do it for the state. Though Bernero’s plans aren’t as clearly laid-out as Snyder’s, his ideas are visionary and could seriously benefit the state. The Daily endorses VIRG BERNERO for governor.