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Posted on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Rick Snyder lays out plan to fund Pure Michigan, build new bridge to Canada in State of the State

By Ryan J. Stanton

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Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address tonight from the floor of the state House in Lansing.

Melanie Maxwell |

Gov. Rick Snyder laid out a new agenda for Michigan in his first State of the State address tonight, stressing that the state is in a crisis — but one that can be solved.

"Simply put, Job One is jobs," Snyder said from the House floor inside the state Capitol, garnering his first of multiple standing ovations during the 45-minute speech.

Snyder said Michigan has an unstable financial model. He pointed to more than $54 billion in pension and benefit liabilities, lack of education among young people, and an economic climate that has left too many people unemployed or underemployed.

Snyder revealed tonight that part of his plan for improving Michigan's economy will be supporting a new bridge to Canada and fully funding the Pure Michigan ad campaign.

The Republican governor said another key step in moving Michigan forward is the setting of clear, measurable goals that serve as a catalyst for positive change.

He announced the creation of an online “dashboard” at, a new tool that can be used to view Michigan's performance relative to the rest of the country in key areas like economic strength, quality of life, health, education and public safety.

"Many people don't like to be graded. It's time for that attitude to disappear," he said, adding he would provide a summary of the dashboard in every State of the State address he gives. "We will measure and measure and measure. And that is how we will succeed."

Economic development was the overarching theme. Snyder said the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s strategy will change under new MEDC President Michael Finney, whom Snyder plucked after a successful stint as head of Ann Arbor SPARK.

Snyder said the MEDC will focus more on “gardening,” or tending to the needs of existing companies already in the state, rather than “hunting,” an economic development term used to refer to the process of luring out-of-state firms to the state with tax breaks.

"It means we'll focus first and foremost on building businesses that are already here in the state," Snyder said, naming business acceleration services, incubators and pre-seed funds as priorities. He also said Michigan must do a better job of connecting workforce development efforts with community colleges and economic development organizations.

Snyder called for an overhaul of the state’s regulatory structure and the elimination of rules he says are no longer needed — like the requirement that retailers must place a price sticker on every item in the store. He said that costs the state’s economy $2 billion annually and is unnecessary in today's world of bar codes and scanners.

The Ann Arbor businessman-turned-governor also talked about a new state Office of Urban Initiatives his administration is creating with offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids and the Saginaw-Flint area. Snyder said the state also must strongly support rural areas, which is why he's added rural development to the responsibilities of the state agricultural department.

The former Gateway executive offered few details about replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax, but he said he'll be forthcoming with a proposal.

He said he plans to present a two-year state budget to lawmakers in mid-February — one based on outcomes and results, not a traditional line item approach. He said he wants the budget completed by lawmakers by the end of May. The state's fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

"Having a two-year budget will force tough decisions," Snyder said. "We will not play kick the can down the road to the next year."

He called for a revamped public health system with improved access to primary care, wellness incentives and more encouragement for citizens to exercise and quit smoking.

Snyder said he wants to focus on government reform at all levels, including townships, cities, counties and the state. He hinted at a restructuring of state revenue sharing in a way that offers significant incentives for jurisdictions that move toward service consolidation.

He said a special message on government reform will be presented to the Legislature in March, followed by a special message on education in April.

In addition to budget and tax reforms, Snyder said he's asking the Legislature to take action on several items, including changing the state's Emergency Financial Manager’s Act. He said the current act does not allow intervention and assistance early enough and there needs to be more clarity over the powers of financial managers.

Snyder also said he wants to change the scope of the 21st Century Jobs Fund. He said he'll be asking the Legislature to lift restrictions on which industries can be aided by the fund, a move that could benefit the agriculture and information technology industries in particular.

Snyder received applause when he announced his budget would recommend full funding of the Pure Michigan ad campaign at an annual rate of $25 million. He noted a 2009 study showed every dollar spent on Pure Michigan ads resulted in more than $2 in state tax revenue.

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State Rep. Mark Ouimet, left, and state Rep. Jeff Irwin catch up after tonight's State of the State address inside the Capitol building. They served together on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners until leaving for higher office this month.

Melanie Maxwell |

Snyder also urged prompt passage of a capital outlay bill that implements the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Later in his speech, Snyder called for construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, stressing that Michigan must open itself to the promise and potential of international trade. He noted Michigan did roughly $44 billion in trade with Canada in 2009, while 1 of 8 jobs in Detroit is in an export industry, and 1 in 7 in Grand Rapids.

Snyder noted Canada has offered $550 million for the construction of the road system to connect to the bridge. He said the state last week secured a unique agreement from the Federal Highway Administration to use that investment toward the matching funds required for all federally-funded highway projects across the state.

Snyder assured Michigan taxpayers would not take on any debt related to the project.

Another major highlight of the speech came when Snyder announced the University Research Corridor — Wayne State University, University of Michigan and Michigan State University — would be entering into a research partnership with Procter & Gamble.

"It's ground breaking," Snyder said, calling it a collaboration that will speed ideas to the marketplace by simplifying the legal process companies and universities use to negotiate research projects. He said once the program is up and running, it would be extended from the University Research Corridor to all 15 public universities in the state.

"We can make the old unbelievable the new achievable. And we can make the improbable the new exciting reality for our children and theirs," Snyder said in his closing remarks. "We can, and indeed we must, begin right now to build a Michigan where the next generation has the chance to live, to work, to play, to prosper. So let’s roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work."

Snyder's speech was well received by Washtenaw County lawmakers serving in Lansing — both Republicans and Democrats alike.

"It was very aspirational," said state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor. "He got into a few specifics that I really appreciated, particularly when he started talking about the idea of building a better environment here in Michigan for economic growth, and I thought it was interesting he focused on some of the elements I think are most important — things such as education. He made a big point of saying this isn't just going to be K-12, it's going to be P-20."

Irwin added he was encouraged by Snyder's remarks about revitalizing urban cores. As for rewarding communities that consolidate services, Irwin called that an interesting concept.

"The great thing about that for us is our communities are already working together," Irwin said. "The city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti and surrounding townships — we're already working together in a number of ways."

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, escorted Snyder to the podium for his speech. Warren said highlights for her included Snyder identifying Ann Arbor SPARK as a model for statewide economic development, his plan to put outreach offices in core urban areas, and his asking for a true partnership with the Legislature to fix the state's problems.

"This gives me hope for the budget process ahead," she said. "His focus on a specific floor of $25 million for Pure Michigan funding and a focus on Great Lakes protection shows his dedication to the things that make Michigan a unique and special place to live, work and recreate. I hope that continues to be a priority for his administration as we struggle through the tough budget decisions ahead."

State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, said he thought it was great that Snyder wants to fully fund Pure Michigan, which he called the state's best calling card.

"I think he hit on absolutely all the key issues we're facing in the state of Michigan," he said of his overall reaction to Snyder's speech. "He just didn't outline what the issue was. He outlined a roadmap how to resolve these issues. I thought it was very positive."

State Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, said he considers Snyder's speech merely a start to the conversation about the state's budget situation and he's still waiting for more details.

"We'll be looking for ways we can team up with what we agree with him on," he said. "Probably the issue we'll have the most discussion on will be his support for the Detroit River International Crossing. That's the one where we weren't sure what he was going to say. And for him to come out as strong as he did, that was a little bit of a surprise for most Republicans."

House Democrat Minority Leader Richard Hammel, D-Morris Township, said after the speech he was encouraged by Snyder's “pretty moderate" approach to issues.

“Taking pages out of the playbook of Democrats is OK with us, because those are important issues, whether it’s providing health care, jobs for small businesses, DRIC and other issues that have been important things that we have pushed for for many, many years,” Hammel said.

But Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said she was concerned Republican legislators would undercut the spirit of bipartisanship.

“Unfortunately, even as he speaks of leaving no one behind, legislative Republicans are already going down the same tired, old road by putting politics over progress,” Whitmer said. “Instead, we need to work together to create and implement policies that move all of Michigan forward while not leaving any one group behind.”'s Nathan Bomey contributed to this report. Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

Finally, we get someone who will stand up to Maroun on the new bridge. Maroun has paid off so many legislators that there was no support for vote for a second bridge to compete with his. With Ontario offering to pay our part of the new bridge, the legislators still wouldn't vote for it. Amazing. By the way, the tunnel is not a back-up for the trucks that need a bridge. Maroun's buying off competition to his bridge is an example of the flaw in our political system where corporate (and union, etc.) contributions determine what gets done and what doesn't. I guess Snyder doesn't need Maroun's money. But will the legislators still rely on Maroun's campaign contributions? Can Snyder convince the legislators to vote against Maroun and against the buckets of money they get from Maroun?


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

Michigan's government problem comes from a number of sources: 1) Future promises - bonds, tax abatements, pensions and other items that we have to pay for in the future. The money may not have been spent, but it is forms a base for the spending for Michigan in the future. 2) Federal Mandates. The Health Care Bill, and other bills passed by congress and signed into law continue to add base for the budget 3) Increasing costs for goods and services. No matter what, most costs seem to go up each year Michigan has been a recipient of lower interest rates during this recession, low inflation has also reduced the rate of increase in the base. These are issues that are almost out of control of the State Government to fix. That leaves very little that can be fixed. Every level of government in Michigan is going to have to deal with these issues. There are NO easy answers.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

We don't need a new bridge. We need bigger customs plazas. If you double the number of inspection lanes, you double the throughput of the bridge. The number of lanes on the bridge are not the choke-point right now. The bridge already has a backup - the tunnel. As for a backup bridge, the travel time from Detroit to the Canadian 401/402 intersection is only 15 minutes more travel time to go through Port Huron.

John Q

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

I don't know what people expected from the Michigan Dashboard but there's not much too it. It's a scattershot of statistics, all of which were previously publicly available and some of which seem like dubious metrics of measuring success. There's nothing wrong with setting benchmarks but where's obvious metrics like "percentage of high school graduates" or "number of new business starts"?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

"Of Course - the main problems are the State has Spent far too much in relation to it's income; and that operating a business in the State is/has become harder and harder and harder. We have about zero business growth and expansion here. " No, the problem is that the state's economy has been in free fall for more than a decade--the recession of 2001 and 2002 (Note--it began with ENGLER) never ended in this state. And the state CANNOT spend "far too much in relation to its income"--the state constitution requires a balanced budget. And it's not as if the state has been a spendthrift--over the past decade the state budget has DECLINED by nearly 40% when one adjusts for inflation. As for the price labeling law--yes, probably unneeded. But does anyone really believe that that law has prevented Krogers, or Target, or Meijer's, or Walgreeens, or CVS, et. al., from building stores in this state? No!! Because the law requires ALL of them to do the same thing, ALL of them have raised their prices to cover their increased costs. But I fear that this silly example will be used to justify the gutting of a regulatory apparatus that protects Michigan's citizens and its environment. New Detroit River Bridge: a good thing. How is he going to balance the budget after giving a $1.5 billion gift to business? That, apparently, he's not figured out yet. But we have a "Michigan Dashboard"!! Lots of flash and no bang last night. Good Night and Good Luck

rusty shackelford

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Whoa, the whole "new bridge" thing seems to come kind of out of nowhere. Is there any evidence from anyone other than Maroun (quite probably the single most evil person in the state) that a new crossing is necessary? That seems like a relatively large waste of time and money. Ryan, thanks, btw, for doing a real story on the speech. I appreciate it. Too often the stories runs for these kinds of things is just an abridged transcription with no additional reporting. Nice job.

Bob Martel

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

The second bridge is essential even if to only serves as a back-up to an older and vulnerable structure. If we "lost" the Ambassador Bridge due to some mishap, Canada/US trade would be disrupted for many many years. It would make the GM and Chrysler bailouts looks like child's play.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Been on the bridge lately? It frequently is gridlocked. The only people in Lansing who think a new bridge isn't needed are Manny Maroun (He wants to keep his monopoly) and the Republican legislators he has bought. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

I have to hand it to Gov. Snyder, he kept on target and did not let get divisive politics get the better of him. I'm also looking forward to the Michigan Dashboard, this sort of transparency is an important step. The University Corridor makes me hopeful as well; any other companies besides Proctor and Gamble stepping up?


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

Great Speech Rick...liked the NO nonsense"lets get to work"' tone... Good Job!!


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

Rick: you think the the Republican legislators who accepted campaign funds from Manny are going to change their vote for you? They voted against the public bridge, wanting it to be privately owned by Manny remember? Are they really going to turn on him and vote for what you say that you want? We'll see. Rick: Putting a price tag on something that you sell....that's ruining Michigan businesses? Informing the citizens of Michigan of true pricing is the only honest thing to do. How difficult is it for senior citizens to shop without pricing on items....using their social security (with no COLA) to purchase food? That's just the wrong move. Being fair and honest with the citizens of Michigan isn't what is hurting business. And perhaps MORE price tags in Michigan would actually HELP. If price tags were used, government would be in better shape today. How about a REAL price tag on the Ann Arbor City building? A price tag on prisons? A price tag on a full time legislature?

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

Most thought Jenny was just 'creating jobs' via gov programs - but it appears truck traffic is significantly held up at the bridge. Hours upon hours of delays - that cost money . Windsor also wants some of the traffic moved out of town - due to exhaust pollution right in town. - If Michigan residents Don't Pay for this via taxes - then build it at your own risk. Jenny wanted tax dollars for this bridge - and I, for one, would say No to Rick if MITax dollars were used.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

As I commented below, I'm not sure any new bridge is necessary. But above all we can't allow Maroun to simply elbow his way in to owning an international crossing against all government agencies, which is what he's tried to do for years.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

Did I miss something or wasn't the bridge a project of Jenny's era. I was under the impression the former naysayers were in favor of Manny's "private" bidge.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

I am not in favor of international borders privately owned. Never mind the proposed owner is a notorious slum lord.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

Of Course - the main problems are the State has Spent far too much in relation to it's income; and that operating a business in the State is/has become harder and harder and harder. We have about zero business growth and expansion here. Even high tech firms (Google) are way behind any previous hiring estimates in this State. Money is agnostic. Investment will flow where it can breath and grow. . The pricing tag policy is just one of what are hundreds of laws/restrictions/obligations/ that every Michigan Business has to follow. These laws may be well intentioned - but they really just kill jobs in the small business realm.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

"I am a bit nonplussed at the thought that our present unit-pricing law is a millstone around consumers' necks... Grocery stores & retailers re-stock at night after hours: you don't get to see first hand how much labor is wasted when x workers price label (by hand) a thousand individual items. Proper shelf labeling eliminates the need for this, reduces errors in the process.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.

First, I dislike polls such as this: ONE choice allowed when several might rank loosely as "equally important." Next: I'm suspicious of all political statements - I'm sure I have lots of company. But given the "chance" that Gov. $nyder is serious and can actually implement most of what he talked about - I'd say he's off to a good start. One thing may seem odd, but his mention of eliminating the price tag requirements got my attention. It's one wasteful govt imposed measure that I do know about. That he's that specific is encouraging.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

Just got back from work, anyone know where I can watch the address online? THANKS!

Bob Martel

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

Start here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

John Q

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:22 a.m.

Wait until the other shoe drops with the budget proposal. All the happy talk will be a distant memory.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 3:35 a.m.

I was impressed with Gov. Snyder's citation of Ann Arbor SPARK as a model for statewide economic development. I believe that his primary focus on economic stimulus through a better climate for Michigan businesses is important. I believe he has the potential to have a successful term as governor.

David Cahill

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 3:03 a.m.

I was favorably impressed with the speech. It was positive and forward-looking. There wasn't any crazed right-wing stuff in it, which was refreshing. I am a bit nonplussed at the thought that our present unit-pricing law is a millstone around consumers' necks, though... We'll get the &quot;shared sacrifice&quot; (translation: budget cuts) with the budget next month.

Bob Martel

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4 p.m.

I also found the amount of time spent on this issue to be somewhat odd. Perhaps this was his &quot;bone&quot; to the Chamber people? In any event, in the big picture, this is a minor issue so long as prices are clearly marked on the shelf.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

He did spend an unusual amount of time ranting about price tags. One thing that struck me during that stretch was that as he talked about how much money he would save companies by removing the requirement, he failed to mention the impact it would have on all the companies that make price tags and price tag guns. It just seemed like he was just setting up a strawman without putting forth any legitimate ideas for cost saving.

Lonnie Scott

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

I think Gov. Snyder laid out a very ambitious plan with some great ideas. Even as a liberal democrat I hope he is successful in many of the ventures he outlined today. I certainly hope that his party joins him in ideas like DRIC and being more welcoming to immigrants instead of being obstructionists to progress as we have seen in the past. The real test will come when his party has to pass his ideas in the House and Senate...

Bob Martel

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

Lonnie, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that it was the Republican component of the legislature that was blocking the DRIC in the past. It will be interesting to see if Governor Snyder can get them in line this time.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 2:30 a.m.

I like a lot of the ideas, (P20, Immigration, Bridge, offices in urban areas, etc...) but am still wondering about specifics on tax policy and budget.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

Great speech rIck!