What can Gov. Rick Snyder do to please public?

Guest Editorial
State government has a balanced budget for next year, still more than a month ahead of the deadline. Michigan’s business tax code has been streamlined and rewritten to help small business owners. The economy is picking up. Reform measures are pushing schools and local governments to spend taxpayer dollars more carefully.

What does a governor have to do to get a little respect?

Gov. Rick Snyder must be doing his best Rodney Dangerfield routine these days. A poll from the respected Lansing-based EPIC-MRA firm says only one third of Michigan residents approve of Snyder’s work through almost eight months in office.

Snyder does not seem much deterred, and in fact, his poll numbers have been largely in the dumps most of this year. Once the public, which elected him overwhelmingly less than 10 months ago, got a better feel for his policy agenda, they turned against it. Accomplishments or not, so far Michigan residents are not sold on Snyder.

We take a different view. We strongly support the governor’s work for three reasons:

1. “Shared sacrifice” is more than a slogan. Snyder’s agenda asks more of taxpayers of all income brackets, state workers, teachers and school administrators, and many businesses. The only exception has been small businesses, to which the governor is handing tax breaks because they drive job growth.

This does not make him popular. Retirees, many of whom will pay income taxes, are the most reliable voters of any constituency. The governor’s foes, meanwhile, have artfully — if inaccurately — painted taxes as a shift from seniors to businesses. What he has done is ask an older generation to pay its share, helping employers provide jobs for the working class.

2. The grown-ups are in charge. Snyder and fellow Republicans who control the House and Senate do not march in lock-step. Lawmakers, too, have agendas that often stretch only as far as next year’s election. Still, that has not kept Lansing from running smoothly.

In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Snyder has kept his eye on governing responsibly. He and Budget Director John Nixon have spoken forcefully from Day One about the need to pay for future commitments — pensions, retiree health care — and have taken steps toward that goal.

3. The economy will improve. Actually, it has been improving already, although it would be naive to credit Snyder after so little time in office. What should be the mark of his work so far is its impact on the business climate. By cutting and simplifying taxes, the governor is setting the stage for employers to put more people to work.

Snyder, too, is hurt by the fact that Michigan’s economy has not yet rebounded enough to cheer the public.

For any politician, the only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day. In Snyder’s case, that is more than three years away. In the meantime, he probably will not — and should not — waver from his agenda. If it works as planned, the public will applaud him later.