When Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State speech tonight, it will have added significance for me. As Governor Snyder recently reminded me, “We sort of started this journey together.” He was referring to a lengthy one-on-one interview I did with him in Thomas Edison’s laboratory at Greenfield Village in July 2009. It was the day he announced he was running for governor and I was the first journalist to interview the political newcomer. Few in my profession paid Snyder much attention. And to be perfectly honest, I thought his chances of becoming governor were about as remote as the Seychelle Islands. He fooled us all!
What a difference 17 months can make. Now, Michigan’s self-described “nerd” is Michigan’s governor and at 7:00 pm he’ll be in the spotlight like never before. If he’s smart, he’ll make the most of his first State of the State speech and his nearly 60 percent favorable rating.
What Governor Snyder needs to do is layout his vision for Michigan. Talk straight with the people and be pretty specific about the economic challenges we face. How will he revive Michigan’s spirit of entrepreneurship? What will be the role of government under his administration and what sacrifices does he expect from the people? We all know what shape Michigan is in and most of us are prepared to swallow the medicine, regardless of the taste.
How does Governor Snyder plan to erase the state’s projected $1.8 billion deficit? How will he raise revenue to replace the $1.5 billion that will disappear if his proposal to replace the Michigan Business Tax is approved? Will a 6 percent corporate income tax really do the trick? If not, then what? Is he really prepared to make major cuts in the education and corrections. Traditionally, most specifics come out when governors make their budget presentation in the latter part of January. But tonight, Snyder must give Michganders a sense of where he is going. He cannot be vague by just saying, “We’re going to reinvent Michigan.”
So far, Governor Snyder has done a good job of reaching out across political party lines. In that sense, he seems to be using former Governor Bill Milliken as his role model. Governing from the middle is to his political advantage. But the best advice I can offer Governor Rick Snyder is to just be yourself tonight and remember that’s why the people have chosen you to be their leader. Be bold and creative!
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