UPDATE: Governor Calls for Road Fixes, School Changes, Combined Local Services

In his 2012 State of the State speech, Snyder also proposes rapid bus lines for Metro Detroit commuters.

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."

Pax January 19, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I am wondering how Mr. Snyder will improve education when he intends to eliminate teacher pensions. It is no small wonder that many gifted, highly qualified teachers are leaving the profession for ones that offer more job security. It is a sad day for our students.
crazycatlady January 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM
do like the rest of us and put your own money into a retirement account.
Ben Giovanelli, CPA January 19, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Combined local services? Works great if you're the controlling municipality. Not so great for the others who get to shut up and do what they're told. Pretty sure the Governor needs to think this one thru a little more. And possibly review the Home Rule act.
laurie puscas January 19, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Ben, the city of Rocheter has gone through a transformation, new individuals were elected a number of years ago, a new city manager was hired and a renewed focus was placed on the "peoples" interests. Taxes were reduced, a climate for serving the taxpayers was established, and residents and business owners are now treated with respect. Furthermore, a focus was placed on ethics. It is no wonder the leadership of Rochester and Rochester Hills are having difficulty when their philosophies are so very different. I will be proposing an ethics ordinace for city council members and city employees for the city of Rochester Hills in coming weeks. It is time the tax payers have full disclosure of the gifting that is taking place and the possible influence being made on the business dealings in Rochester Hills government.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Teachers are overpaid in Michigan with rich benefits not found in the private sector. Also, teachers have more job security than most people right now.
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Gov. Snyder's call for municipalities to consolidate services is an insult to City Managers, Mayors, and Township Supervisors all across the state. What does he think these elected officials have been doing for the past ten years? Snyder is pandering to the same idiotic notion that the Tea Party loonies espouse that "government can't manage it's money, but we, the business elite, know best". If Snyder really wanted to re-invent Michigan he'd start by admitting that tax revenue that is based on the real estate market value of somone's house is at best unpredictable and at worst just plain stupid. To let Wall Street dictate how much money a city has to fund its services by manipulating the market is just foolish. If the last three years have taught us nothing it's clear that consolidating services,rightsizing and downsizing is not a long term solution but just another reactionary bandaide fix.. Our system of market value based taxation must be replaced by something predictable and consistant. More enlightened communities outside of Michigan have replaced the value tax with a Land Use based tax in which every property, regardless of the supposed retail "value" of the building which sits on it, is assessed an amount per square foot of the LAND for every zoning classification. The unpredictability of revenue streams because of market fluctuations and Wall Street fraud is eliminated. No more silly Headlea nonsensense and no more passing the buck to local offcials.
Brian January 19, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Dear Ferndale_1986: What do you consider to be fair compensation and benefits for a teacher?
Joshua Raymond January 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Will unions allow great teachers and teachers in high-demand fields to be paid better than standard? If not, there is a perverse economic incentive for great teachers to leave for higher paying jobs and for poor teachers to remain. Increasing teacher pay across the board does not get rid of this twisted incentive, but could actually lead to even more unqualified teachers. Pensions are unsustainable with people living longer now. When people retired at 65 and lived to 72, they made sense. With an average teacher retirement age of 58 and a life expectancy of over 80 years, that would be approximately one retired teacher for every 1.6 working teachers. That is not economically feasible to maintain for a pension system.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Dear Ferndale_1986: What do you consider to be fair compensation and benefits for a teacher? 9 months/180 days pay for 9 months/180 days of work. health insurance 20% paid by employee. no defined benefit pension, 403(b) plan with 4% match instead.
Rem30 January 19, 2012 at 04:35 PM
To Ferndale_1986 I am not sure who you know in the private sector but the people I know have pay, vacation, and benefits that far outweigh what I earn as a Public school employee. Many of these people have less education than I do. Please read up on what the Govenor is doing to education. Not in terms of teacher pay ( we will never agree on that) but what cyber schools and charter school will do to public education.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 04:38 PM
To Ferndale_1986 I am not sure who you know in the private sector but the people I know have pay, vacation, and benefits that far outweigh what I earn as a Public school employee. Really? Be specific. How much do you pay for your health insurance? Which school district?
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 04:42 PM
same old tired drivel. Wall Street is evil blah blah blah .....
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 04:44 PM
.... Tea Party loonies espouse that "government can't manage it's money". wake up and smell the coffee. government can't manage its money, it's broke.
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I didn't say Wall Street was evil but I did say that to maintain a tax system that allows the actions of Wall Street to determine how much money a local community has to spend on local services is just plain nuts. A sensible system would keep control of local revenues in local hands....a pretty conservative idea, in my opinion. Then, what Wall Street does and how it conducts its business wouldn't force our elected officials to have to cut services, lay off cops and firefighters, or close libraries. How is the present tax system working out for you?
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
How can any city manager be expected to prepare a budget when he/she has no clue how much revenue there will be to work with? Will house prices...and the value based revenue those prices bring in....be more or less than the past year? How can a city develope a reasonable plan for infrastructure replacement or repair if there is no way to know how much money there will be to work with? That is precisley whaat we have today with a tax system based on the estimated retail market price of houses. How would you make personal spending decisions if you didn't know how much your employer was going to pay you next week or next month but left it up to some thrid party to determine?
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
to Roger Gienapp: How is the present tax system working out for me? present tax system works out fine for me. Headlee keeps my property taxes at a reasonable level, federal capital gains tax is now reasonable, my present federal income tax bracket (25%) is a little high should be about 20%. Michigan 4% income tax is reasonable, Michigan 6% sales tax is reasonable. I live in Ferndale and yes there have been cutbacks which should have been done a long time ago. I would have preferred that the City filed for bankruptcy since it's the retired employees that are killing the City's finances and a bankruptcy could have reset retiree benefits to a reasonable level, current employees have contracts and pay and staffing levels that are fair to the City and the employees.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
control in local hands is what has sunk most of the cities around here. overspending and overstaffing and overly generous contracts to city employees is the cause of the budget problems. quit trying to scapegoat others like wall street for your problems.
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 05:34 PM
My post didn't address State or Federal income taxes or sales taxes. It only refers to the method by which we tax ourselves locally to fund local services. As it exists our system is indexed to the retail value of a property which bears no relationship to the cost of delivering services to that property.As values rise or fall...for whatever reason...so does the revenue while the cost of the services we desire remains the same. Further, the disparity in taxes paid by individual property owners for the same services varies wildly and is inherently unfair and unequal. The tax system used to fund local services needs to be fair and predictable but the current system of taxing ourselves based on the supposed retail market value of a house is neither.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM
it's called budgeting and management. private sector does it every day with variable revenue streams. and regular normal people do it every day too, especially those with jobs or professions with fluctuating income. many people making the decisions in government haven't spent a day in their life in the private sector and are clueless. that's the problem. more to the point, you don't run a city assuming a three bedroom 1,000 sq.ft. brick bungalow built 80 years ago is worth $185,000. if you want the answers to your questions, go to Pontiac and talk to Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson. The county has come through the recession in good shape and is rated AAA. So don't give me your hogwash that it's impossible to plan and operate in a responsible manner. Your entire line of reasoning evades personal responsibility and does blame shifting, another disease pervading America right now.
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 06:03 PM
the present system is working. the cities spend commensurate to tax revenues, this is what is supposed to occur. when tax revenue drops, the city cuts back on expenses and especially labor which is the largest cost of service. the city finds ways to do less with more, which is something they would have never done if the downturn didn't force their hand to do things they should have done long ago. this is what has happened, and the world hasn't ended. we have had layoffs, pay cuts, cuts in city hall hours, cuts in city employee benefits - and the world hasn't ended. hopefully the last few years have taught the local cities a lesson, especially in this area which rides the auto industry. this economic shakeout is one of the best things to happen to America, it burns the deadwood out of government.
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Well, I guess we could keep riding the rollercoaster, but why would we want to?
Ferndale_1986 January 19, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Well, I guess we could keep riding the rollercoaster, but why would we want to? Because it keeps government efficient and in check, preventing excesses in government spending and services. A natural self-correcting mechanism.
Joshua Raymond January 19, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Roger, your land use tax is an interesting idea, but I see a few issues. 1) A mansion on one acre of land would be taxed the same as a small house on the same property. A mansion on a half acre would pay less. 2) Failure to adjust taxes to the economy in a recession would lead to even more foreclosures and property values spiraling downward. 3) If the community's income level is going down, why should the government be immune? With all the faults of property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes, at least they are somewhat proportional to wealth and keep government spending in line with the community's economic status.
Roger Gienapp January 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Joshua, you hit on the crux of a land use tax. The factor that impacts the cost of delivering services is the AREA that each use occupies and not what the value of a building is that sits on the land. A one acre single family zoned property costs more for the roads and sewers and water lines that border it, it costs more to drive a garbbage truck longer distances to pick up one house worth of trash, the allocation of fire stations, fire fighters and equipment is based on the distances they have to travel and the same is true for police patrols. Therefore the varriable, along with the specific land use , is the size of the lot and a Land use tax would assess a property on its use and the area it occupies. A simple way would be a cents per square foot "tax" regardless of what kind of house sits on it or if any house sits on it or not. The more of the city you use, the more it costs to bring services to you, the more you pay. The ups and downs of the economy have no impact on costs of services....they don't get cheaper just because your house is supposedly worth less at any given time. Likewise, the guy down tthe street who lives on the same sized lot you do but has a small cheap house worth less than yours shouldn't pay less for the same services or vice versa. It's the land USE plus the AREA of that use that determines cost.
mike smith January 26, 2012 at 02:27 AM
the last ten years were ran by Grandholm dont blame gov Snyder for this mess, just like everyone blamed Bush
mike smith February 10, 2012 at 02:54 AM
What do pensions have to with good gifted teachers? They can always open an IRA like the rest of us


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