WMEAC Response to Governor Snyder’s State of the State

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder should be commended for a successful first State of the State address. Throughout his gubernatorial campaign, Snyder and his team emphasized that the attitude of both Michigan’s government and citizens matter, and the optimism pervading his campaign and his inaugural State of the State address was encouraging. Former Governor Granholm brought a strong and positive energy while in office, and we applaud the Snyder Administration for building on that approach.

Also commendable was Governor Snyder’s clear understanding of the importance of Michigan’s natural resources and Great Lakes to the economic well-being of Michigan.  Throwing his support behind the Pure Michigan campaign, Governor Snyder recognized that “This program supports one of our strongest assets – our water resources and the treasures of the Great Lakes and [it] is an illustration of value for money.”

But like most things in life, the devil will be in the details – the legislation and definitive action that comes after political pronouncements. Here, Governor Snyder’s approach is not as smooth as his optimism. His support for funding 117 different Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund projects is commendable, but fully funding the Pure Michigan campaign while supporting other proposals that undermine the very natural assets we are telling everyone to come visit is not a long-term winning economic strategy.

Unfortunately, some of Snyder’s State of the State proposals do just that.  He declared support for voluntary environmental regulations for some farmers and agricultural operations in the form of MAEPA the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.   Ultimately these types of voluntary programs degrade Michigan’s air and water when implemented in place of sufficient statutory standards.  Snyder argues that “Farmers who run environmentally sound operations can be protected from unnecessary regulations and frivolous lawsuits,”  Yet, the conservationist farmers who are proactively stewarding the environment are clearly not the concern.

Snyder also wants to open up the 21st Century Jobs Fund to “agricultural processing.”  This fund started as a high-tech economic development tool for industries in which Michigan had existing niche assets and game-changing growth potential – areas like alternative energy, life sciences, and automotive manufacturing. However, years of program expansion and fund diversion have watered down the program as a tool of economic development. Snyder’s suggestion to add agriculture into the mix will only encourage this once promising tool’s demise.

Most disappointing, perhaps, was Snyder’s lack of mention of energy efficiency and renewable energy – despite the abundance of positive data emerging from the Michigan Public Service Commission on both issues painting them as win-win-win for the state.

But you can’t fit everything into a 45 minute speech, and too much focus on the negative would be unfair.  All in all it really was a positive, forward-looking speech.

Finally, it seems like Governor Snyder really ‘gets it’.  He seems to understand the absolutely fundamental and intimate relationship between environment, economy, and Michiganders’ identity.  If this basic fact holds true, Governor Snyder’s term will likely be a productive one.

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