$54 billion and counting: Governor highlights education, budget during SJ visit

Gov. Rick Snyder speaks with members of The Herald-Palladium's Editorial Board on Wednesday, during a visit to St. Joseph. (Don Campbell | HP staff)

Gov. Rick Snyder speaks with members of The Herald-Palladium’s Editorial Board on Wednesday, during a visit to St. Joseph. (Don Campbell | HP staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Gov. Rick Snyder visited the Twin Cities a few hours after signing the state’s fiscal year 2017 budget into law Wednesday.

Snyder was in town to support state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, at a private reception. Snyder had signed House Bill 5294, sponsored by Pscholka, at Holland State Park earlier Wednesday as a way to highlight investments in natural resources protection.

The governor met with The Herald-Palladium to discuss the budget and Michigan’s economy.

The bulk of the budget provided funds to education and health and human services. When combined with the school aid bill signed by Snyder on Monday, the total investment plan for the state – including federal funding – totals $54.9 billion.

“In public safety, we’re going to add 65 state troopers, maintain additional investment in cyber security and more ballistic vests for corrections and probation officers,” Snyder said. “There are a lot of important areas that we’ve made investments in.”

Among the budgeted items included additional funding to aid Flint with its recovery from the water crisis. The total funding for Flint’s recovery is now up to $234 million.

The bill signing marks the sixth straight year the state budget was completed in June. The fiscal years starts Oct. 1. Snyder said the quick process has been made possible through a lot of bipartisan work.

Funding for higher education has been one of the bigger challenges this year, Snyder said. While there was an increase for university funding, Snyder said it was originally higher.

“That’s something we had to make tough cuts back on in 2011, and we’re not back to the level we had been at,” Snyder said. “An increase for higher education is something I had in the original budget that we’ve scaled back on because the revenue estimates coming in are lower than expected.”

In his sit-down interview with The Herald-Palladium, Snyder answered questions that ranged from his remaining two years to how the Flint water crisis was handled.

In response to Attorney General Bill Schuette saying Snyder’s lawyers have been withholding Flint documents:

We believe we’re complying. We’ve provided over 300,000 documents and we are still in document production. He made a comment about private attorneys, but actually the people helping quarterback all our document production are his assistant attorney generals.

On the topic of whether Schuette investigating Snyder is an attempt to gain support for the upcoming election:

You should ask him. I’m not running for anything (laughs). I don’t make judgments based on politics, I make it based on what I believe is good policy.

On his lack of endorsement for any presidential candidate:

I enjoy my job as governor of Michigan and I’m going to focus on Michigan issues. I do think Michigan can hopefully be a role model of doing things right as opposed to the fighting that’s been in Washington before this presidential election. This (election) has made it worse.

In response to the media’s treatment of Snyder amid the Flint water crisis:

I don’t spend any time dawdling on that. The way I view it is what matters most is what we are doing on the ground at Flint to take care of the citizens. Generally, there are a lot of people who pick up pieces of information and are running with it. That’s a major challenge.

On his goals for the last two years of his term:

A lot of it will be to continue what we’re doing. There’s more work to be done and we have some exciting things coming. This whole mobility issue is big. The automotive issue is going to transform to the mobility issue and we need to be the leader in that. It’s moving toward intelligent vehicles and that’s going to help with transportation.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 30, 2016)

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