LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder centered his second State of the State address Wednesday night on building on the successes of 2011 and continuing to improve in 2012.
Speaking in an upbeat manner, Snyder did not announce any major changes for the upcoming year and kept his topics on issues from 2011, stating he wants to instead focus on finishing “what we started.”
“2011 was a year of building the foundation of good government,” Snyder said. “2012 needs to be the year of implementing good government. We cannot afford to slow down.”
State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, was happy to see Snyder focus on issues that are relevant to Montcalm County.
“It is good to hear that the governor is again addressing the state’s deteriorating roads and infrastructure,” Outman said. “Here in Montcalm County, many of the roads and bridges are in dire need of attention and it sounds as if Gov. Snyder is pushing hard to address these challenges.”
Snyder announced $1.4 billion more for road and bridge repairs and renewed his support for plans to build a new, government-owned international crossing over the Detroit River.
Snyder said Michigan’s automotive, agriculture, tourism, mining and timber industries are “key to the future.”
Snyder’s remarks on keeping a focus on agriculture were especially important to State Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, who pointed out it is one of the “most important and relevant issues here in Montcalm County.”
“This governor recognizes that agriculture is Michigan’s second-largest industry and its impact spreads across the globe,” Emmons said. “Helping the agricultural sector grow will enhance our entire economy.”
Snyder delivered a “progress report” on the state of Michigan, pointing out positives such as a 12-month unemployment drop from 11.1 percent to 9.3 percent — the lowest rate since October of 2008.
He also pointed out that the state added nearly 80,000 private sector jobs during 2011.
“We need to build on the positive jobs climate that we have helped to create,” Emmons said of Snyder’s statements about job growth. “It has already resulted in job growth, but I will continue to work to create jobs as long as there are people looking for work. That will remain my No. 1 priority.”
Outman also was pleased with the statement of job growth and pointed to last year’s change in legislation as a direct reason for that increase.
“This is very encouraging and justifies the legislation we enacted last year to make Michigan a more business-friendly location,” Outman said. “Companies looking to relocate are giving Michigan a serious look and businesses that already call Michigan home are seeing a better climate and will look to grow. We made job creation our priority and are seeing the results with more jobs in Michigan.”
But Snyder said there are many disappointments to go along with those positives, such as an obesity increase of 1 percentage point to 32 percent of the state’s population, calling those statistics “disturbing.”
Snyder has a goal to prepare 100 percent of all high school students for college and he pointed out the number of high school graduates ready for college increased from 16 percent to 17 percent. However, said the low number is “unacceptable.”
Snyder also pointed out 29 percent of Michigan veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed.
“As a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, I appreciated the focus on helping our veterans who have been missing out on so many opportunities,” Emmons said. “They have sacrificed to protect our liberty and they deserve our support.
Outman, a veteran, agreed “wholeheartedly” with Snyder’s stance on correcting the issue of veteran unemployment.
“The unemployment rate among newer veterans is nearly 30 percent and we must make sure that those who have sacrificed so much for their country are able to find jobs when their military service ends,” he said.
Little on education
Montcalm Community College (MCC) President Bob Ferrentino, who attended the State of the State address as a guest of Outman, said he wished Snyder had spoken more in detail about education in general, but was happy to see Snyder’s goal of 100 percent college readiness.
“He didn’t throw any curveballs tonight,” Ferrentino said. “I was a little disappointed he didn’t bring up education directly, but I was happy that he wants 100 percent of our kids to be college ready. That’s going to take a long time. I was hoping to hear a little bit more about higher education funding. I don’t expect any promises in the State of the State address, but It would have been nice to touch on it.”