Flint crisis, economic recovery and infrastructure major topics in State of the State
Under heavy scrutiny for the events that have unfolded regarding the Flint water crisis, Gov. Rick Snyder took the stage in front of state representatives and his constituents for his annual State of the State address. Contrary to what some predicted, Snyder did not mention anything about higher education, especially the relationship between declining state support and increasing tuition rates. Here is a brief recap of what Snyder said.
Flint Water Crisis
First and foremost for the governor's speech, he addressed those in Flint affected by the poor quality of the city's water.
"Your families face a crisis," he said. "A crisis you did not create, and a crisis you could not have prevented. I'm sorry most of all that I let you down. You deserve better. You deserve accountability. ... Most of all, you deserve the truth. The truth about what we've done and what will be done to overcome this challenge."
Snyder said he will be filing an official request to the Legislature to address immediate, short-term funding to ensure everyone in Flint has clean water. The request will cover costs such as replacement of fixtures in high-risk areas, treatment of children with high-lead levels, an infrastructure integrity study and providing aid to the city for utilities.
"When Michiganders turn on the tap, they expect and deserve clean and safe water," he said. "It’s that simple. It’s that straightforward. So that’s what we’ll deliver."
Snyder also commented on the current state of Michigan's infrastructure, particularly the condition of the roads and underground pipes.
"We need to invest more and smarter in our infrastructure so we can avoid crises like this in the future," Snyder said.
To solve these problems, Snyder plans to create the Commission for Building the 21st Century Infrastructure.
"We need experts deep in credibility and clout; visionary leaders committed to Michigan's future," he said.
Detroit and Education
"Great challenges cannot be addressed without hard work, long hours and try partnership with the communities in need of new hope and a fresh start, but solving them is not impossible, and certainly not without precedent," Snyder said to begin his talks about Michigan's largest city.
Snyder brought up the challenges the public schools in Detroit are currently facing.
"Detroit schools are in a crisis," Snyder said. "Too many schools are failing at their central task of preparing our young Michiganders for successful, rewarding life. Simply put, not all Detroit students are getting the education that they deserve."
Snyder also touched on the debt currently being faced by Detroit public schools — a total that has reached more than $515 million.
"Let's solve this (debt) problem and help the kids," Snyder said.
Snyder announced his plan to create the Commission for 21st Century Education to solve debt problem in Detroit schools.
"In terms of accomplishments, we should be proud, from a job-creation point of view," Snyder said. "Personal income is increasing again in Michigan ... we need to take special efforts to make sure that the people in places that have not participated join us."
Snyder: Michigan's unemployment rate has been cut in half since Dec. 2010, references Michigan's "comeback".— The State News (@thesnews) January 20, 2016
Snyder touched on many aspects of Michigan's economy, but emphasized the importance of the Soo Locks.
"The Soo Locks is something we always talk about and we're proud of, but often we don't talk about how important it is," Snyder said.
The Soo Locks are responsible for the transportation of a large amount of the steel used in Michigan, and this steel makes its way to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan through the Locks' one 1,000-foot lock — the Poe Lock. The other locks cannot accommodate such carriers.
"The Poe Lock is absolutely critical to our future," Snyder said. "The issue is, there's one of them. An analysis was done, what would happen if that one lock went down? It would devastate Michigan's economy. To be blunt, it would devastate the national economy."
To help ensure the working condition of the Soo Locks, Snyder plans to work with Congress to commission the building of a second 1,000-foot lock.