No Washington politicians are covering themselves in glory these days. Out in the states it is a different story. And in Michigan specifically there is a standout Republican, Gov. Rick Snyder, who is both popular and successful in a state long thought to be solidly blue. His relentless optimism and low-key demeanor are a startling contrast to the Beltway bloviating pols who seem to think the United States is dying before our eyes.
Last week the Detroit Free Press reported on the latest poll in the gubernatorial election race. Snyder leads by 8 points. On the economic question the paper notes, “59% said they believe the Michigan economy has bottomed out and is improving, which is up from 56% in September.” The polling director is quoted as saying: “The perception of the state’s economy has improved dramatically. That is helping Snyder.”
In his state of the state address last month Snyder had plenty to crow about:
Snyder took office in 2011 vowing to reinvent Michigan government, adopting a mantra of “relentless positive action” and promising to work in “dog years” to urgently change the direction of the state.
He touts the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and the planned phased removal of the personal property tax on manufacturing equipment, plus the elimination or streamlining of business regulations. Snyder also signed into law in December of 2012 right-to-work controversial legislation that makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment and says Michigan’s business climate has significantly improved in the last three years.
Snyder pushed through an unpopular pension tax in 2011 which he says was needed as a matter of fairness and to assure balanced state budgets into the future. Bond rating agencies have improved their outlooks for Michigan debt and the state’s Rainy Day Fund savings account, drained nearly to zero when Snyder took office, has grown to $580 million. . . . Free Press analysis of Snyder’s three earlier State of the State addresses found he has completed or made progress on 76% of the 67 unique pledges he has made.
Michigan’s unemployment remains over 8 percent, well in excess of the national average, although it is down from 13.4 percent in 2009 and the employment rate has improved for the last four years. Other stats are promising:
Michigan’s total employment averaged nearly 4.3 million in 2013, while unemployment averaged 408,000. Since December 2012, employment in Michigan grew by 73,000, or 1.7 percent, while unemployment fell by 20,000, or 4.8 percent. The labor force, which counts the number of people working or looking for a job, rose by 54,000, or 1.2 percent over the year, despite monthly declines since October 2013. That was the first annual labor force growth since 2006, according to Michael Williams, acting director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. The number of payroll jobs in Michigan increased by 64,000, or 1.6 percent, since December 2012. The largest gain of 21,000 was in professional and business services, while the manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities sectors also saw significant growth.
University of Michigan economist George Fulton projects Michigan’s unemployment rate will improve to 8.2 percent in 2014, 7.3 percent in 2015 and 6.4 percent in 2016.
Snyder is also overseeing the Detroit bankruptcy while setting aside money in the now-balanced budget to protect retiree pensions, a move that has angered big banks and Wall Street bond holders.
In a real sense he is cleaning up the mess left from years of liberal rule. And he is doing it without coming to the feds for massive bailouts.
Key to the state’s comeback is his pro-growth, pro-immigrant agenda. In his state of the state he declared, “We have some icons in Michigan that if you say these words, most of us know them and we think of them as ours. If I say the words Dow, Meijer, and Masco, we think, those are Michigan, right? Every one of those three companies was created by an immigrant. We need to encourage immigration in our state. That’s how we made our country great. We need to focus on legal immigration and make sure people know Michigan is the most welcoming place, and I’m intent on moving forward with that.” There’s a Republican who understands that immigrants willing to work can fuel a more prosperous society for everyone and are an essential part of a technology boom.
For all that, we can say, well done, governor.