New governor makes demand for results in State of the State address

Guest Editorial
Rick Snyder is ready to reinvent Michigan government. Fasten your seat belts.

That was the unmistakable message from the new governor Wednesday as he delivered his first State of the State address. He wants the Michigan Business Tax gone next month, to reinvent government by March and tackle education by April.

It is clear that Snyder is demanding results, and the agenda he laid out in his speech borrowed heavily from the playbook of the corporate world in which he once worked. Michigan government now has an online “dashboard” to measure results, and Snyder promises to do his work out in the open.

Unlike his predecessor, Snyder is not great with rhetoric. There was no talk of “cool cities,” but the new governor is placing heavy emphasis on lifting troubled cities like Detroit and Flint by creating an office of urban initiatives.

No promises we’d be “blown away” by an economic rebound, but there will be a major shift to make the Michigan Economic Development Corp. team with local economic development agencies like Jackson’s Enterprise Group. “Job No. 1 is jobs,” he declared, and he has offered steps to help put people back to work.

Snyder’s strength lies in knowing what Michigan businesses need to thrive, but he is not a single-track, low-tax ideologue. The ideas he offered Wednesday moved beyond the business tax to include rural and farm development, attracting immigrant entrepreneurs to Michigan and building a second Detroit River bridge to Canada.

The governor returned to a familiar theme of loosening government regulation with a simple, powerful idea: eliminating the requirement of price tags on every store item. That would be a noticeable change, but one that reflects the broader need for new approaches in Michigan.

No, Snyder did not answer every question from impatient critics. Left until next month is how, specifically, he would erase the state’s looming $1.8 billion deficit.

Details on government and education reform also are forthcoming, but no one who is watching Snyder should be surprised by where he is heading. Benefits for government employees are a central issue, and local governments can expect that getting state money will depend in part on consolidating or sharing services.

The reforms that Snyder envisions are not difficult to imagine, but they have been difficult to achieve. With his speech this week, the governor has pushed along his agenda for reinvention. Just as important, he is insisting that the public hold him accountable for progress.

The new governor summed up his approach this way:

“We will solve these unaddressed issues, solve them, and not put them off, as we have in the past.”

Those are the right words, but talk alone will not make Michigan a more prosperous state. Snyder showed Wednesday that he won’t be satisfied without action.