Governor Rick Snyder delivered his fourth annual State of the State address in Lansing Thursday night, laying out what lawmakers accomplished last year and what is on the agenda for 2014.
Snyder touched on a variety of topics. He talked about the state's growing job force, environmental issues, public safety, as well as student safety. To better protect our students, Snyder suggested improving school emergency drills.
Overall, the governor said the state has come a long way in a short amount of time.
â??We're getting that job done,â?? said Snyder. â??We're reinventing Michigan. Michigan is the comeback state. We've come farther and faster than most any other state in the economic recovery since the beginning of the great recession. We should be proud. Thank you for your hard work.â??
K-12 education funding was a hot topic in the governorâ??s speech.
â??I firmly believe in investing in K12 education. I'm proud to say in the last three years, we've increased education funding at the state level for K12 each and every year to the point where we've invested $660 more per student than there was previously before I took office. That's a huge investment.â??
Critics question where that money went, saying it wasn't seen in per-pupil allotments. Snyder clarified that about half of that money, or nearly one-billion dollars, was invested in employee pension plans. Snyder said schools can then focus on putting their own funds into classrooms rather than pensions.
Transportation was expected to be a hot topic, but it didnâ??t receive that much attention.
â??We did not achieve comprehensive transportation reform. We do need to invest more in our roads. We're seeing that; we've entered pothole season.â??
Snyder didn't delve further into how transportation reform will be accomplished, but mentioned the quarter-billion dollars legislators found in the general fund being allocated to state transportation projects, more than 10-million of which will go to northern Michigan projects.
The governor waited until the last minute to address the state's budget surplus. He said rather than spending all of the extra money or issuing tax cuts for everything, we should act like a family sitting around the kitchen table.
â??We should act like a family, a big family of 10 million people. We should be sitting around the kitchen table. The first question we should be asking is to say, 'what's our mortgage, what are our long-term bills?â?? It's about being a family and being smart. So lets be smart about how we handle this situation.â??
After the speech, the Democratic Party was given a moment to respond to the governor's remarks. Democratic House Leader Tim Greimel said the Republican plan isn't working, and what Governor Snyder laid out is simply more of the same.
â??We don't need more of the same,â?? said Greimel. â??We don't need more financially struggling schools that can't afford to stay open. We don't want to see seniors continuing to struggle to make mortgage payments, struggling to heat their homes, and struggling to afford groceries because Republicans raised their taxes.â??
Greimel said Michigan needs to be a state that makes better schools a priority so that students can compete for the best jobs of tomorrow.
He laid out the democratic plan that would create economic security and make it easier for small businesses to grow within the state.
Greimel also called for raising minimum wage.
Governor Snyder's competition for re-election in November, Mark Schauer, said heâ??s disappointed with Snyderâ??s speech.
â??He spent more time talking about the Asian long-horned beetle than he did about public education,â?? said Schauer. â??I just didn't hear any ideas that would give me faith that we can move from having the third worst unemployment rate in the country, which is where we are under Governor Rick Snyder's policies.â??
Schauer said Snyder is disconnected with what both families and communities are really facing.