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Snyder talks to a sold out Chamber luncheon crowd about Re-Inventing Michigan

April 11, 2011

Earlier today Michigan Governor Rick Snyder spoke to a crowd of over 600 people at a luncheon hosted by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

In the audience were several dozen elected officials from both state and local offices, college officials, non-profit directors and business owners who came to hear what the new Michigan Governor had to say about his first 100 days in office.

One of the Chamber committee members introduced Snyder by stating that the Chamber of Commerce was encouraged by the changes the new Governor has made, a comment that received a standing ovation as Snyder made his way to the podium.

The first comment that the Governor made was to thank the audience for such a warm welcome, which is significantly different from the greetings he has been getting “outside.” Snyder was no doubt referencing the organized opposition to his policies, which have manifested in protests at the Lansing Capitol and around the state.

Snyder began his talk by saying that after the first 100 days in office he has gotten the response he has expected. “We are in a crisis, but the difference though is this is not about a crisis of panic, it is a crisis of resolve,” said Snyder. He then used one of his many catch phrases by saying that Michigan needed to re-invent itself.

In order to “re-invent Michigan” Snyder believes there are some things that were in need of drastic changes. The first change was to eliminate the Michigan Business tax system and to radically alter the state budget. He has made good on eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and is working on significantly altering the state budget.

Snyder then said he knew that he was going to get a negative reaction from some people, but that he is doing what he said he was going to do during the campaign last year. While it is true that Snyder said he would run the state like a business during the campaign he was not that forth coming on everything he has actually done as Governor. However, his comment about doing what he said he would do does beg the question why some so many people were taken in by Snyder during the campaign season?

Snyder then told the audience that what the state needs is “shared sacrifice.” And while this writer saw many people in the audience nod their heads in agreement the Governor never articulated what share sacrifice actually looks like. This would have been particularly relevant considering that it seems less likely that the business crowd is having to make as much of a sacrifice as working people, the unemployed and senior citizens are across the state.

The Governor then spoke about his dashboard concept as a means of measuring what has been done in state as time goes by. Snyder gushed about the dashed board idea and his Emergency Financial Management system, which he called a way to get communities back on their feet. This is not what some people thought of Snyder’s Emergency Financial Management system when he came to Grand Rapids two weeks ago to kick off that policy.

Snyder went back to talking about the “wisdom” of eliminating the Michigan Business tax, a point, which also got an arousing applause. He then addressed one example of what a shared sacrifice would look like when he said that senior citizens need to start paying their share of the tax burden, otherwise it will shift to the current generation This view is not shared by many senior citizens and the AARP of Michigan demonstrated this opposition on March 22 with a rally of over 1,000 people.

Snyder also said that he expects that his upcoming education reform proposal will also be met with opposition. Indeed, it seems that every major proposal Snyder has put forth in his first 100 days has been met by serious public opposition, but according to Snyder those are the people “outside.”

In his closing remarks Snyder said that Michigan needs to train and maintain “talent.” By talent he was referring to young people the state needs to keep here after they get an education and of course that means youth of privilege who will become young professionals. Maintaining talent does not refer to working class youth, which tends to means youth of color.

Snyder also made a plug for the “new International trade crossing,” a bridge that has the support of the State Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, and the Agri-business community. The Governor said that a proposed bill for this new international trade bridge would be announced within the next week, a proposal that has been scrutinized the by Truth Squad.

Lastly, the Governor said that the state needs to change from a negative culture to one that thinks positively. He said that people are too caught up in a win/lose attitude, with race, geography and partisan politics keeping everyone divided. On the matter of race Michiganders have every right to critique current problems based on race if one looks at unemployment rates for people of color, educational outcomes, poverty, infant mortality and incarceration rates.

Snyder also took a jab at the news media and said that the negative response to his policy has received more coverage. He believes that the vast majority of Michigan is supportive of the policies, but need to speak up and speak out to show that the state can move forward. Snyder even asked the audience the spread the word, to talk to their networks and give feedback. With this closing comment Snyder received another standing ovation.

Q&A

The Chamber of Commerce facilitated the question and answer period by collecting questions from the tables and then selecting which questions to present to Snyder. The questions were often vague and somewhat irrelevant, such as how did you chose your political team?

Another question posed to Snyder had to do with his relationship to organized labor. Snyder said he meets with them regularly and that he is a supporter of collective bargaining. He also shared a story about going to a factory and meeting with workers who all had Wisconsin solidarity t-shirt on and when Snyder showed up they booed him. However, he said that after speaking with the workers he did get a few of them to clap.

When asked what Snyder thought about how to change public education he said that his proposal will definitely look at making changes to the post retirement medical benefits and pensions.

This was just one more indication that Snyder wants to engage in serious austerity measures, where the cuts felt by the working class will be benefits, pensions and shouldering more of the tax burden and cuts for the rich will be less taxes. These were exactly the thing that the audience at the Chamber luncheon wanted to hear as they will certainly be the beneficiaries of such policies.

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