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Commitment to jobs, people, good government drives Michigan's successful comeback agenda

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

LANSING, Mich. ? Michigan's commitment to jobs, people and good government has made it the nation's comeback state, and seizing opportunities to further reinvent Michigan that await in 2013 will keep that drive alive, Gov. Rick Snyder said in his third State of the State address.

"Michigan is showing the world that anything is possible with hard work, courage and relentless positive action," Snyder said. "Our success comes from every corner of this great state. While we all can be proud of this progress, Michigan's reinvention must continue. We still face too many challenges that have been ignored for too long. Let's renew our spirit of collaboration and innovation so we can do what's best for our state as a whole. Reinventing Michigan isn't the easy thing to do, but it's the right thing to do. We all want more and better jobs for working families and bright futures for our children. We can achieve both by moving forward thoughtfully but boldly."

Many objective measures underscore the state's progress. Michigan's economy is at a 10-year high and private payroll jobs have increased by 177,700 since August 2009. Fundamental reforms and sound fiscal stewardship have put Michigan back on the path to prosperity. For example, the Budget Stabilization Fund - used by the state to respond to unforeseen circumstances - now has its largest balance in more than 10 years thanks to prudent budgeting and planning.

Key to success is the recognition that Michigan's greatest asset is its people, and investing in people was a top priority of the governor's in 2012. Pathways to Potential, a new model of service delivery for the Department of Human Services, will expand from 21 schools to 135 by mid-February. The Summer Youth Employment initiative proved successful, serving 764 teenagers in Flint, Saginaw, Detroit and Pontiac in partnership with 13 nongovernmental agencies. In addition, the bipartisan effort on autism insurance reform is giving affected children a greater chance to live independently.

To fuel Michigan's positive momentum, create more jobs and enhance our overall quality of life, the governor proposed working with his legislative partners on:

These efforts will be bolstered by Michigan's recent accreditation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Achieving this accreditation allows applications prepared by the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with higher efficiency, which will achieve faster results for Michigan veterans. Accreditation also elevates the state's ability to work directly with the federal government to resolve broad policy issues affecting the delivery of services to veterans.

  • Investing in Michigan's deteriorating roads to ensure long-term savings for the state, save lives and deliver quality, cost-effective results for taxpayers. Simply maintaining the current condition of our roads - which most motorists agree is not good - demands significant investment. Snyder pointed out that every dollar invested today saves money in the future, which is critical given Michigan's decades-long road maintenance, repair and construction challenges.

    Michigan is currently short about $1.2 billion a year to fix our roads, and new investments haven't been made in them since 1997. We can pay today or continue to delay, but that will cost us twice as much. We'll need $12 billion over 10 years - and that's just in today's dollars. Continuing to delay lets the costs balloon to $25 billion in 10 years and saddles the next generation with that bill.

    The governor is proposing a simple and fair "user fee" based on three revenue sources: 1) a shift from the gas tax to a tax at the wholesale level; 2) an increase in vehicle registration fees for light cars and for trucks; and 3) an optional local or regional registration fee that will be permitted.

    The total will be about $120 per car on average, but since it's a basic user fee, it will fluctuate based on the amount of use and the vehicle's value. Snyder will work with lawmakers to determine the proper balance between the funding sources to ensure that adequate revenue is generated.

    Poor roads take a heavy toll on vehicles, causing an average of $357 in repairs each year for family cars. Having quality roads reduces damage to vehicles, makes driving safer and also helps to spur job creation by making Michigan more economically competitive.

    Most important, investing in better roads means saving nearly 100 lives a year, according to a March 2012 report from The Road Information Program.

    Snyder said taxpayers expect and deserve value for their money when it comes to roads. He added that adhering to best practices at the state and local levels, as well as managing our infrastructure with a long-term vision, will maximize efficiencies and innovation.

    "Investing money in our roads and bridges today saves money in the long run," Snyder said. "It also builds the foundation for our 21st century economy. We know what needs to be done. Let's fix our roads."

  • Reforming the no-fault auto insurance system to lower the high rates that burden families. Unlimited benefits, and the lack of control over their costs, have made auto insurance beyond the financial reach of many residents. Michigan has the nation's highest no-fault average claim cost severity. In addition, the average claim cost in Michigan increased 81 percent from 2004 to 2012. Detroit, Novi and Muskegon are among the Top 10 most expensive cities in the nation for auto insurance. Reforming the system can ease the strain on motorists and make Michigan more competitive.

  • Increasing transparency in Michigan's elections and encouraging voter participation. These include allowing no-reason absentee voting for people who apply for an AV ballot in person at a clerk's office, and comply with existing photo ID requirements; permitting online voter registration in the same manner currently used for changes of address in the state's verification system; and increasing the frequency of candidate reporting by requiring them to file quarterly reports during non-election years.

  • Creating a Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, which will emphasize consumer protection while helping to create a climate that allows the insurance and financial services industries to thrive. The industries are critical to Michigan, employing more than 150,000 residents and generating more than $9 billion in annual payroll. The new agency will be responsible for consumer protection, outreach and education.

  • Creating an Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority. The authority will partner with state and local law enforcement and the insurance industry to provide education, training and enforcement programs to reduce incidents of insurance fraud. It will be funded through a $2 per vehicle assessment on insurance companies.

  • Encouraging the Legislature to adopt the use of "fiscal notes." This helps to ensure that government doesn't spend beyond its means. It also provides lawmakers and the public with an easy-to-understand and transparent accounting of the fiscal impacts of proposed legislation.

  • Supporting our veterans by creating an agency focused on helping them to identify and connect with services. With services to veterans currently spread across 15 state departments, the new agency will increase awareness of programs available to veterans. In partnership with veteran service officers and county veteran counselors, the agency will improve customer service by creating coordinated points of entry to veteran benefits by expanding access to services in every county. In addition, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will review the state's licensing requirements and provide a list of occupations for which veterans' military skills are equal or superior to their civilian peers. After the review, the governor will work with lawmakers on legislation that expedites the process of getting veterans back to work, particularly as EMTs, mechanics and commercial truck drivers.

    These efforts will be bolstered by Michigan's recent accreditation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Achieving this accreditation allows applications prepared by the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with higher efficiency, which will achieve faster results for Michigan veterans. Accreditation also elevates the state's ability to work directly with the federal government to resolve broad policy issues affecting the delivery of services to veterans.

  • Strengthening communities by ridding them of abandoned properties. The governor is calling for legislation to prevent property owners who do not pay their taxes, or let abandoned properties fester to the detriment of neighborhoods, from buying additional property.

  • Combating the theft and resale of valuable metals. Thieves have become more aggressive in robbing properties of their metals. Snyder is asking the Legislature to give law enforcement the tools it needs to fight this problem, which impacts families, farmers, churches and businesses.

  • Pursuing a "next generation" 911 emergency system to better protect families and assist emergency responders. This updated technology will enhance the quality of information that is communicated and improve situational awareness of emergency responders before they arrive at the scene. Michigan first must move forward with enabling legislation that creates the governance model and finance structure that integrates this technology into one comprehensive vision to guide strategy and investment.

  • Help students who need it the most by encouraging and expanding the success of the Education Achievement Authority. The governor will work with the Legislature to codify the EAA into law and pass legislation that enables student-centered learning across the state in our most challenged school districts. The EAA was established to overcome the lack of improvement in the state's lowest performing 5 percent of schools.

  • Keep working cooperatively to reach a consensus on reforming Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the benefit of consumers. The state act that regulates Blue Cross is over 30 years old and ongoing changes in the marketplace make this an ideal time to modernize Michigan's system while creating a regulatory environment that encourages competition, market speed and innovation, efficiency and cost reduction.

  • Establishing Michigan as a leader in autonomous vehicle testing to attract jobs stemming from this emerging industry. Autonomous vehicles are capable of sensing their surroundings and navigating without human input. As of October 2012, three states have passed legislation regarding the testing of autonomous vehicles. There are no federal regulations regarding these vehicles. The governor is proposing that Michigan enact laws clearly stating that testing and operating this new technology here is legal. Such a move will signal that Michigan intends to be a leader in this field and help to attract autonomous vehicle companies to locate here.

  • Increasing funding for:

    • The successful Healthy Kids Dental program, which serves 440,000 Medicaid-enrolled children.
    • The Office of Great Start, which promotes early childhood education.
    • Demonstration projects to improve mental health services, particularly with regard to early intervention for children.

Snyder also laid out the administration's policy "road map" for the year. In March, he will conduct an economic development summit to collaborate on the critical issue of connecting Michigan's talent to opportunities. In April, the governor's education summit will explore issues such as school safety and early detection of mental health issues. Results of the comprehensive Michigan Land Management plan are expected in May, and the governor looks forward to working on them with the Legislature. A summit of Great Lakes governors is planned for June, and a series of reports regarding Michigan's energy policies are due in December, which will help the governor and lawmakers determine the state's next steps regarding energy efficiency, renewable energy and the electricity market.


Editor's note: Click here for more information on the governor's 2015 State of the State address.