Snyder: Michigan must change narrative for its future

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Gov. Rick Snyder said it’s no secret Michigan has come a long way in the last eight years, with rising income and declining unemployment.

“When need to change the narrative. Yes, we’re back. We need to talk about where we are going in the future,” Snyder said on Tuesday during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s “State of the State, Now and in the Future.”

According to the U.S. Census, Michigan has seen its median household income rise from $49,992 in 2010 to $52,492 in 2016. The state’s unemployment rate went from 13.7 percent in January 2010 to 4.6 percent in November, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the last year of his last term as Michigan governor, Snyder said the focus on moving Michigan ahead should be in five areas: economic growth, talent, infrastructure, fiscal responsibility and civility.

It should also include a regional transit system, Snyder said. Regional transit has been a vexing issue for the governor in Metro Detroit where county leaders are divided on the issue.

“This is one the worst areas in the nation for transit. People need access to employment or training facilities. We need a regional transit authority going,” Snyder said during a panel discussion.

“There has been an issue of divisiveness on this. The sooner, the better to get something on the ballot. ... Don’t aim for perfect. Get something going, get something done and come after it again.”

Snyder said he hopes to see something on the ballot this fall.

“Figure out what solution can advance the cause,” he said.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans earlier this month launched a massive, retooled 20-year regional transit proposal that needs voters to approve a $5.4 billion tax later this year.

It calls for a 1.5-mill tax to provide $170 million a year in operational funding while investing $696 million to support infrastructure. The tax would cost owners of the average house worth $157,504 in the region $118 a year.

But Evans and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan appear to be the only regional leaders behind any expanded regional mass transit plan. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel have made it clear they will not support a plan similar to what has been proposed in the past.

Snyder said Tuesday at the event that tipping and user fees on water and sewer service should be part of Michigan’s future.

“I view the environmental infrastructure as important to all of this,” he said.

Snyder touted his Marshall Plan for Talent and said Michigan needs to stop working in silos in education and development a system for education that runs from prenatal through life-long learner.

Snyder said the greatest threat to the county is its own people when it comes to civility.

“We need relentless positive action for eight years,” he said.

Dan Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, was part of a panel discussion with Snyder at the event.

Loepp said civility is an enormous umbrella over all of the issues facing Michigan and its future.

“If you aren’t screaming, you can get things done. We have to keep our economy rolling,” Loepp said.

One member of the audience asked Snyder to tout the success of Michigan including the work done in Flint over the lead water crisis.

Snyder said hard work has been done in the city but there’s a need for more.

“I’m doing a lot of marketing of Michigan around the world,” he said. “Every person needs to be that Michigan ambassador. We don’t tend to be the best at blowing our own horn. ...We need to be louder and prouder of what we have accomplished.”