Later this month, Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver his final State of the State speech at the Capitol. For every governor, this speech is a rare chance to speak directly to the people of Michigan about the challenges and opportunities facing our state in the year ahead – and, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to propose a bold agenda for building a better Michigan for everyone.
Unfortunately, during his seven years in office, Snyder has turned each of his State of the State speeches into a long lecture filled with happy talk, where he cherry-picks a few rosy statistics from his trusty dashboards, while ignoring the real problems working people face in our state every day.
Michigan deserves better.
We deserve a governor who will be straight with us about the very real economic challenges our state is still facing, because the truth is, no matter how high the stock market climbs, there are still far too many children in Michigan growing up in poverty, and far too many people living paycheck to paycheck, working unreliable hours, with few or no benefits, and without a secure retirement.
It’s easy to understand how we got here, because Rick Snyder, Bill Schuette and Brian Calley have spent the past seven years rigging the rules of our economy to favor their wealthy corporate donors at the expense of regular working families.
But the real state of the state for working people under Snyder has been pretty lousy:
■ Republicans in Lansing raised taxes on working families by eliminating the child tax credit and creating the Snyder Retirement Tax on seniors’ pensions, all so they could give a $2 billion tax break to wealthy corporations that send jobs overseas.
■ Snyder signed countless laws like the Emergency Manager Act, which it could be argued caused the Flint Water Crisis as well as “right-to-work,” which takes away the freedom from working people to negotiate together for a fair return on our work.
■ Lansing Republicans sided with the DeVos family and corporations to redirect $1 billion each year away from our neighborhood schools to unaccountable for-profit charter and cyber schools.
The results have been a total disaster for working men and women.
According to the most recent United Way ALICE Report, 40 percent of households in Michigan cannot afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation. More than 20 percent of Michigan children are living in poverty, and 44 percent are living in low-income families, according to the 2017 Kids Count in Michigan report.
Working families simply can’t afford a third term of Snyder’s failed economic policies – which is exactly what Schuette and Calley represent.
We need a new direction in Michigan. It’s time to start building an economy that works for everyone.
To make it happen, working people can start by ignoring Snyder’s happy talk at this month’s State of the State speech, and instead focus on electing a new governor this November who has the right values, right priorities, and right vision to build a better Michigan for all of us.
Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.