Last week, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was sworn in for another four years as Michigan’s chief executive.
During his inaugural address, Snyder expressed enthusiasm about his first term and optimism for his second.
“We were a broken state,” he said. “We are a comeback state now, a state that is growing and thriving.”
Snyder called his efforts to improve the state’s economy and bring Detroit out of bankruptcy as significant accomplishments during his first term as governor. However, he said there is more to accomplish in his second term.
As discussed in his speech, here are five things to keep track of during the governor’s second term.
The Snyder Administration’s main focus is to develop a plan to increase funds for Michigan’s roads and infrastructure.
Last month, the state legislature approved a ballot initiative to pump an estimated $1.3 billion into transportation by increasing the state sales tax and removing the sales tax on motor fuel. The proposal will be on the May 2015 ballot.
Of the $1.3 billion, $1.2 billion will be allotted to renovating roads, and $112 million will go toward public transit.
The bill passed through the State House and Senate with 16 dissenters in the House and only Sen. Coleman Young Jr. (D–Detroit) dissenting in the Senate.
Snyder told the Detroit Free Press he found it difficult to find an agreeable plan to increase revenue for roads during the primary and general elections last fall. However, Snyder urged the audience during his inauguration address to vote for the initiative in the spring.
“We have more work to be done in, for example, transportation,” Snyder said. “No one still likes our roads, and we have an opportunity to fix that this May.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber originally criticized the plan. The groups wanted legislatures to directly vote for road improvement laws instead of putting an initiative on a ballot.
The Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group aligned with the Tea Party, has also criticized the proposal for increasing taxes on the middle class.
The ballot initiative to raise the sales tax will also determine whether $300 million a year will be added toward Michigan’s public schools.
The bill, which will remove sales tax on motor fuel, will subsequently freeze the School Aid Fund that relies on funding from this tax.
To help offset losses from this fund, part of the new statewide sales tax will go toward education, on top of additional funding from the general fund.
Snyder also lauded his administration’s investment in preschool education during his inaugural address, which was included in his $15.8 billion budget in June.
In 2011, the governor cut funding to higher education by 15 percent, but has since increased funding by 3.1 percent, 2.2 percent and 6.1 percent in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The governor also mentioned the need to foster innovation and creative thinking in the state. He discussed the need to reinvigorate skilled trades, such as construction and manufacturing, as an “honorable career path,” while making technical education a priority.
Michigan’s unemployment rate currently stands at 6.7 percent, 0.9 percent higher than the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped 3.2 percent since November 2008, though 193,909 citizens have left the labor force.
During his first term, Snyder created and funded various programs to promote skilled trades as a way to boost the state’s employment. The largest, Skilled Trades Training Fund, was created in 2013 to expand training and hiring for trade-skilled businesses.
In October, the governor established the Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program to work with community colleges to provide skilled trades training for students. The program cost $50 million.
Throughout his first term, Snyder also promoted technical education through various pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 66, which requires public schools to provide information on opportunities in technical careers, as well as guidance for including career and technical educational classes in the core curriculum.
Snyder’s inauguration address suggested continued focus on these areas to lower the state’s unemployment numbers.
“Let’s lead the nation in the career tech education and the skilled trades,” he said in the address.
During his inaugural speech, the governor said one of his proudest accomplishments during his tenure was his work with the city of Detroit.
“Detroit has a bright future, and I’m committed in supporting the city and achieving that goal,” he said.
In 2013, the city filed for bankruptcy, making it the largest city in American history to do so. At the time of bankruptcy, Detroit was $18 billion in debt.
In 2013, Snyder appointed University alum Kevyn Orr as the city’s emergency manager. The two devised the “grand bargain,” a controversial bankruptcy-exit plan that shed some of the city’s debt to pensioners, but involved work with the government, businesses and the Detroit Institute of Arts to slowly contribute $816 million over time to reduce the financial impact on pensioners.
Though the bankruptcy concluded, critics have said the “grand bargain” has not resulted in sufficient funds for the city. The plan only generated about $900 million and projected revenue remains almost stagnant until 2023.
In October, Snyder touted the city’s comeback during a talk at the Law School.
Though the governor did not mention social issues directly in his speech, he has come under criticism throughout his term for the state’s legislation regarding LGBTQ rights.
During the state Senate’s recent lame-duck session, the legislature failed to pass amendments to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which currently protects citizens from discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, age, weight and marital status, but not for sexual orientation or gender identity.
Michigan gained national attention when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s decision to allow same-sex marriage in the state. The circuit court upheld the ban this May.
Many critics have called for Snyder to take a stronger stance on these issues during his second term.