Gov. Rick Snyder had a lot of optimism Friday morning when he spoke at the Townsend Hotel — optimism about jobs, the state of the Michigan economy and optimism that common sense will prevail when it comes to his second year as governor.
"The most important thing (for Michigan) is for people to be nice to one another, be positive and look toward the future," Snyder said.
Snyder has been top of mind recently as several candidates for the Republican presidential nominee arrive in Metro Detroit — Mitt Romney spoke to the Greater Farmington Area and Livonia Chamber of Commerce Thursday while Rick Santorum spoke at the Oakland County Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner Thursday night.
Snyder formally endorsed Romney for the nomination in a Detroit News op-ed Thursday.
However, Friday morning was all about Michigan and Snyder's goals going forward in 2012. Continuing with the theme of optimism, Snyder said his administration will be working on "relentless positive action" during the upcoming year — or, working to move the state and its economy forward even during times of economic unrest.
"I call 2012 the year of good government," Snyder said, as he outlined his budget principles for the upcoming year:
- Living within our means: "How's that for a radical concept for government," Snyder quipped.
- Prioritizing: "We have all these ideas, and many of them are good ideas, but we can't do them all," Snyder said, noting he plans to prioritize safety in 2012 and has plans to spend nearly $50 million on the issue in the upcoming year.
- Ask for, measure and reward success: "It's not about simply spending money anymore," Snyder said. "It's about showing results."
All of these measures, Snyder said, are about getting back to the fundamentals of good governance and using common sense when making big decisions. That means finishing projects that have already been started — such as fixing Michigan's roads and bridges — and dedicating resources to projects that work to connect the private and public sector while also bringing jobs to the state.
Snyder said for Michigan to succeed in coming years, Michiganders need to be optimistic, disregard the issues that seek to divide and be fired up about change.
'We've been negative for too long," he said. "We got down on ourselves during too many bad years ... But our best days are not behind us, they're ahead of us."
No regrets on film-incentive cuts; auto industry is 'comeback story'
Despite his endorsement of Romney, Snyder made sure to avoid the automotive industry's "bailout" when asked whether the auto industry's success was critical to the state. (Romney made a jab against federal help to Chrysler and General Motors in a Feb. 14 commentary in the Detroit News.)
"What a comeback story," Snyder said of the automakers' recent troubles. "Now, they're actually ahead of Michigan in reinventing themselves."
Many questions fired at Snyder during a question-and-answer session centered on education, such as whether the state will change its educational financing model or to what standards will charter schools be held.
While Snyder conceded that issues such as educational financing aren't on his agenda in 2012, he said the focus should be on improving student performance and looking at innovative approaches to education, such as dual enrollment and cyber schools.
"It's not a question of money, but a question how we will work together to solve these issues," he said.
Close to the concerns of many in Birmingham was the recent elimination of Michigan's tax incentives for the film industry. Snyder said he doesn't regret cutting back on those incentives, noting that that money is needed elsewhere.
"It's not a film credit, it's writing people checks," he said. "It doesn't make any sense ... It's better to put that money in other funds, like education or the Pure Michigan campaign."
"We have precious resources. We have to allocate them where we need it," Snyder added, noting that schools, municipalities and businesses should collaborate at developing innovative "best practices" that not only cut down on costs to taxpayers but bring jobs to the state.
The audience comprised more than 350 chamber members, business leaders and guests, all of whom packed into the Townsend Hotel ballroom.
Kathy Sinclair and Diane Moak are part of the Birmingham Public School district's Friends of Different Learners. Both said they were pleased to see Snyder is making education some kind of priority going forward in 2012.
"It's good to know education is a priority to (Snyder)," Moak said, with Sinclair adding it was nice that Snyder's message was positive overall.
"He was very energetic, which is good, especially for a morning breakfast," Sinclair said.