LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder delivered his third State of the State address before a joint session of the Michigan Legislature Wednesday evening.
"Once a year, we do the State of the State. It's a moment to stop and pause. It's a moment to stop and reflect on how we can use relentless positive action to reinvent the State of Michigan," he said to open the address.
Overall, Snyder's speech was upbeat and he was more impassioned than is typical as he referenced Michigan's strengthening economy.
He said that Michigan has the "sixth fastest-growing economy in the nation" and highlighted that "Michigan is a growing state again in population" for the first time in years.
Snyder said the legislature must act now to finance road repair, suggesting the investment of $12 billion over the next 10 years to prevent increased costs if Michigan's ailing roads and bridges are allowed to deteriorate further.
He proposed boosting vehicle license fees and tax motor fuels at the wholesale level to raise billions of dollars for repairs. He bluntly referred to those suggestions as "user fees."
Legislators from both sides of the aisle are considering the best way to pay for those repairs. Raising taxes to fix roads will be a tough sell, but Political Reporter Rick Albin said that higher registration fees may be more palatable once the administration breaks down the numbers.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer also told 24 Hour News 8 before the speech that improving infrastructure must be a priority in the coming year.
"We do have consensus that we all think we need to fix our roads. We need to make an investment in infrastructure," Whitmer said. "The question is, how do we do that?"
She said she would be skeptical of a new tax on individuals rather than on businesses, however.
"What I would like him to say is what is plan is to help the people of Michigan," said Whitmer, criticizing the governor for what she said was previously taking "corporate bottom lines over us, the people."
Snyder also mentioned a divisive December lame duck session and talked about healing Lansing.
"I wish it hadn't happened. Sometimes it does happen. What I would say to all of you is I hope we can work together," Snyder said.
He urged bi-partisanship and pledged to work hard to find common ground.
"We're hired by the people of the State of Michigan and our role is to give them great customer service," the governor said.
Snyder has also revived his support for overhauling Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan after vetoing legislation last month over an anti-abortion rider. Snyder repeated his call for easing regulations on the big insurer and requiring it to pay taxes after it transforms from a charitable trust to a customer-owned nonprofit.
He vetoed the measure in late December because of abortion language added to secure support from Republican legislators.
Supporters say the change is necessary to level the playing field for the industry and prepare for the federal health care law. Critics say it's unnecessary deregulation that short-shrifts the elderly.
Blue Cross Vice President Andrew Hetzel told the Associated Press he's encouraged Snyder is making the overhaul a priority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
"It is my hope that one of the things that has changed is the expectation of success. To really change the culture of this town, to where people were very pessimistic. Remember back in 2011, the governor had proposed all kinds of initiatives and most people said those things would never get done. And now, it's kind of a spectacle when something doesn't get done," said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley before the address.
Breakdown of Snyder's 3rd State of the State address:
7:04 p.m. -- Gov. Rick Snyder takes the podium.
7:05 p.m. -- "Once a year, we do the State of the State. It's a moment to stop and pause. It's a moment to stop and reflect on how we can use relentless positive action to reinvent the State of Michigan." Proceeds to welcome and thank various lawmakers, justices and state officials.
7:07 p.m. -- "I want to thank the citizens of Michigan for this opportunity. It's an honor to be your governor." Offers special thank you to military members. References April 2012 trip overseas to visit Michigan National Guardsmen, during which he performed a re-enlistment ceremony.
7:09 p.m. -- Economy: "Sixth fastest-growing economy in the nation." Talks auto industry, agriculture, tourism (Michigan's No. 1, 2, and 3 industries). "Michigan is a growing state again in population."
7:18 p.m. -- Praises personal property tax reform. "It's going to keep business coming to Michigan."
7:19 p.m. -- Thanks Grand Rapids public-private partnership to put the rapids back in the Grand.
7:20 p.m. -- "We have people in need in our state; we need to reach out to give them more great service." Talks about Pathways to Potential, summer youth initiative, autism aid, dental coverage for children.
7:25 p.m. -- "We're a role model. I wish Washington would follow what we're doing here. If you talk to someone in DC, you should tell them to look to Michigan. We do things right." Says there is $500 million in the state's rainy day fund.
7:30 p.m. -- "We're hired by the people of the State of Michigan and our role is to give them great customer service." Urges bi-partisanship and pledges to work hard to find common ground.
7:32 p.m. -- Begins to address Michigan's roads:
"It's time to do something, folks. We need to invest in roads."
Proposes investing $12 billion over 10 years.
Suggests "user fees," referencing higher gas taxes and registration fees.
"On average, we spend $81 more per vehicles than the surrounding states do."
Says we need to do something now to prevent major failure and increased expenses.
Says investing $1.2 billion per year will create jobs and save lives by preventing crashes.
7:37 p.m. -- Addresses education. Discusses failure rates and rates of students who need remedial classes in college. "That's unacceptable." Talks Educational Achievement Authority.
7:43 p.m. -- "We should reform no-fault. It is time to do that in a thoughtful way." Discusses costs of auto insurance, proposes no-fault reform and fraud reform.
7:44 p.m. -- Says Michigan can do more to put veterans to work in Michigan and improve licensing regulations. Urges legislature to take up bills soon to make that happen.
"We're going to create a new a new agency by the end of the week: The Veteran's Affairs Agency."
7:46 p.m. --
"Mental health. We need to do better." Pledges more budget money to address mental health issues.
7:48 p.m. -- "I'm going to ask for legislation to deal with slum lords."
7:49 p.m. -- Calls for more police officers on the streets and a next-generation 911 system.
7:55 p.m. -- Referring to 2000-2009: "It was a lost decade. We lost over 750,000 jobs." Talks about a decline in the Michigan economy since 1965. "Can't we have 44 years of going up now? That requires hard work."
7:57 p.m. -- Reiterates that the state must act now on roads and says that politics as usual is unacceptable. "We can use some common sense and get it done."
7:58 p.m. -- "We are not here for us. It's an honor and a privilege to be elected." The legislature applauds enthusiastically.
8 p.m. -- Address concludes:
"Enough talk for tonight. Let's go to work tomorrow. Let's reinvent Michigan. God bless Michigan and all of us."
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Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.