LANSING - Newly-elected State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, said he likes what he heard in Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address Wednesday.
"Creating jobs is my focus, and I am pleased that turning around Michigan's economy was at the heart of Gov. Snyder's address," Casperson said. "I was especially pleased that at the heart of his roadmap were areas of particular importance to the Upper Peninsula. I was excited hear him speak about his commitment to meaningful regulatory reform that all too often kills economic opportunity locally and unreasonably interferes with our way of living in the U.P., as well as his focus on rural development and tourism.
He called for building a new, separate bridge across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, opening the state's venture capital fund to more types of businesses such as agricultural companies, spending $25 million annually on the Pure Michigan tourism promotion campaign and reducing public workers' benefits.
He also asked legislators to eliminate a law that requires price tags on every item, noting Michigan is one of only two states that have the requirement.
"It's bad for business and it's bad for consumers," he said. "Let's make item pricing one law that's out of stock."
Business and agriculture groups applauded the governor's speech, saying he was taking the state in a welcome new direction.
"The governor is sincere in his passion for agriculture's role in Michigan's economic recovery and he is fully committed to reforming government and revitalizing our state," Michigan Farm Bureau President Wayne Wood said in a release.
Others, however, said they were waiting to see more details of his proposals and how he planned to pay for them.
"Gov. Snyder struck the right tone of bipartisanship tonight. But the devil's in the details when it comes to how we pay for providing good schools, protecting our waters and air from pollution and making sure our streets are safe and roads and bridges are rescued from disrepair," said Frank Houston, campaign director for 40 organizations that make up the group A Better Michigan Future.
Snyder said he has set up a state website called the Michigan Dashboard that will track 21 measures in key areas such as economic growth and health and education that he'll use to measure whether Michigan is making progress toward becoming healthier, safer, better educated and better run.
"We will measure and measure and measure, and that is how we will succeed," he said. "The focus will be on agreeing on action, implementation, measuring results and continuous improvement. We will not continue the fighting that resulted in rhetoric and paralysis. It is time to solve problems."
Unlike his predecessors, Snyder didn't use a teleprompter and handed out only an outline of his speech rather than his complete address. He spoke for nearly 50 minutes, introduced his family at the beginning and wore a tie - a concession to the formality of the occasion from a governor who prefers forgoing them.
Interestingly, his declaration that he wants lawmakers to approve the bridge project known as the Detroit River International Crossing had Democrats on their feet, but few Republicans. The new bridge is opposed by the private owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, who have donated heavily to lawmakers in the past to block it.
"Every farmer and manufacturer in the state can tell you why it is important to have world trade. This new bridge will create jobs, strengthen our economy and help establish Michigan as a hub for global commerce," Snyder said.
Michigan's unemployment rate dropped to 11.7 percent in December, its lowest rate in nearly two years but still well above the national average. To help attract jobs, Snyder said the state needs to establish a new initiative to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to live and work in Michigan.