Gov. Rick Snyder spoke Wednesday night of upgrading Michigan roads, starting a Metro Detroit regional transit authority and helping cities and townships combine services.
Those are among the second-year policy priorities for "the reinvention of Michigan" he pushed during a one-hour State of the State address to legislators and a statewide broadcast audience. "We cannot afford to slow down," he declared.
Focusing on roads, Snyder urged the Legislature to start work on a 13-bill road package introduced last year and hold hearings about how to keep Michigan's aging roads from getting progressively worse. "The state cannot afford to neglect the health of our infrastructure," he said. "We are underfunding our road system by upward of $1.4 billion a year. Let's solve this."
One step Snyder suggested last year to finance road upgrading involves raising vehicle registration fees by an average of $120 per vehicle.
On Wednesday, the governor also proposed a regional authority called Bus Rapid Transit for Detroit and four surrounding counties, which would help qualify for federal grants to establish high-speed commuter lines serving Detroit, Oakland, Macomb, western Wayne and the Ann Arbor area. "It's 40 years overdue, he said. "I encourage your support."
The speech previews budget plans coming Feb. 9. With a surprise surplus of $457 million left from the last fiscal year, Snyder can expand initiatives and propose new ones. "We closed a large deficit," he said. "Now let us show real leadership in how to strategically invest and save for the future – not simply spend money because it's there."
He wants to use some of that money to help local communities finance joint programs to deliver services more efficiently. Though he didn't get specific, that could involve combing emergency services, public works and libraries. "The state's role is to help local jurisdictions solve their own problems," he explained. As summarized by The Detroit News, Snyder also called for:
- Schools to expand opportunities for "cyber learning." He suggests that students be able to take at least two computer-based classes each academic year.
- A new Education Achievement Authority to take control of the bottom 5 percent of Michigan's worst-performing schools.
- More frequent campaign finance disclosure filings by political candidates.
Snyder glanced at an official eight-section outline of his key points during the Capitol address.
As a follow-up, the Republican governor has an online town hall forum set for 6 p.m. Thursday that will be live-streamed here and at Rick Snyder For Michigan on Facebook. Questions can be submitted at the state's website.
In March, Snyder pledged, he'll deliver a special crime-reduction message to the Legislature. "While statewide crime is down," he noted Wednesday, "it is unacceptable that Saginaw, Flint, Detroit and Pontiac are among the nation’s top 10 cities in violent crime."