ESCANABA - Gov. Rick Snyder continued his tour of the U.P. Thursday, stopping by the U.P. State Fair for the annual Governor's Luncheon.
After attending and presenting a plaque at the U.P. Veteran of the Year Ceremony earlier in the day, Snyder toured the fairgrounds, including visits to the barn area, the DNR Pocket Park, and the new educational pavilion, which houses a number of activities and the Miracle of Life and Growing UP Foresters exhibits.
At the luncheon, Snyder continued discussion on how Michigan has come back as a state.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Gov. Rick Snyder introduces himself to Glen Hanson, a farmer from Stephenson, near the beef barn show ring Thursday. Snyder toured the U.P. State Fair before the Governor’s Luncheon.
"It's exciting to be here to give you a brief update on how Michigan's doing, and the good word is, is we are doing better," said Snyder. "We are a comeback story, and we should be proud of that."
He noted the state had been at the bottom in many measures including employment and income growth, but now progress has been made, and the hope is to continue this momentum.
"We should not be content nor complacent with where we're at," he noted. "We have to do better. We have too many unemployed people still. We still need personal income levels to come back up. We need to find opportunities for our young people and to do even more to keep them right here in the U.P., right here in Michigan."
Snyder emphasized the need to re-establish Michigan as a place that can "make things," whether it's manufacturing something, growing something, or coming up with an idea. One of the issues he's heard a lot about is the need for more skilled trades people in the state. He mentioned the creation of the website MITalent.org, which highlights more than 80,000 open jobs throughout the state that have not been filled. According to Snyder, Michigan's jobless rate would drop
by 2 percentage points if these jobs were filled.
During a question and answer session following his discussion, Snyder addressed education reform throughout the state. He noted reform was needed as the education system itself was broken.
"We lost our focus and we didn't focus enough on student growth," he said. "Too often we were having kids come through the system and we didn't have all the tools that we needed with the teachers and the administrators to make sure they were actually learning as much as they needed to."
One statistic he found troubling was the high percentage of high school graduates across the state required to take a remedial course at community colleges before taking a regular college course. This was one of the benchmarks that indicated the system needed to be fixed, he said.
Just recently, the Michigan Legislature made some reforms to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.
"That was a system that was not sustainable," said Snyder. "We had $45 billion of liabilities on our books that we weren't making the proper payments on, and I want to make sure our teachers have a system that they know that's going to get funded that they can count on those benefits - not a system that's growing out of control, much like the issues in Washington."
Snyder also voiced his concerns with the Affordable Care Act, which he believes will not solve the health care crisis.
"If you ask me, the Affordable Care Act was a misfire," said Snyder. "It ended up going in a direction that wasn't the appropriate direction and what it's done now is preoccupied the entire public sector, most elected officials in this entire country. it's created great anxiety about economic hardship on businesses, job creation, and our future."
He believes the two main priorities that should be discussed regarding the health care crisis are wellness and cost containment, creating a patient-centered medical home model.
Other questions he answered related to personal property tax reform, the need for improved connectivity for cell phone and Internet service in the U.P., and the International Trade Crossing - a bridge over the Detroit River connecting Michigan to Canada. Snyder noted the bridge is no cost to Michigan taxpayers and a project that would be repaid from Canada by bridge tolls.
Snyder said the project is important because the future of Michigan is about trade and commerce. Another benefit he mentioned is that the Canadian dollars may be used as federal highway road matching dollars used toward road projects in the state.
"I really encourage you to pass the word to everyone that we want this bridge," said Snyder. "More and better jobs, a great future for Michigan at really no cost to us. Awesome opportunity, so let's build a bridge."
Following the luncheon, Snyder stopped by the Daily Press where he talked about the Pure Michigan campaign and the Great Lakes.
Snyder said the hope is to improve the Pure Michigan campaign, which has been a success.
He hopes the campaign can improve its advertisements as the most recent set of ads did not feature hunting or fishing - a large part of the state's culture.
"The other one is I think there's some more focus we can do on the U.P. and the program," he said. "Part of that is I'd like to see if we can get some local partners, though, to really join in, because I think there are some geographic markets we can probably do more tuning and tailoring."
Regarding the future of the Great Lakes as it pertains to other states wanting to use the water as a resource, Snyder said the creation of the Great Lakes Compact was a big development, so some of the fundamentals have been addressed, but more can always be done.
"It's about the protection of one of the world's greatest assets and we need to do more," he said.
In November Snyder announced he will present a special message on energy and the environment, where the Great Lakes will further be discussed.