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Not real impressed with that speech

Jan 18, 2017

Governor Rick Snyder gave his annual state of the state speech last night. If you missed it, don’t feel bad. There was virtually nothing to miss. I’ve seen five different governors deliver these annual speeches over the last 40 years.

None of them will live for the ages. Years ago, after one, a reporter for United Press International turned to me and said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself, and another speech next year.”

But in a world of forgettable speeches, this was probably the weakest. The governor came into the legislative chamber with his wife and kids. Very early on I realized that this speech seemed largely to be the governor attempting to justify his last seven years in office to himself, and perhaps his family.

Essentially, he used a good deal of it to recount successes he believes he’s had, though many of them may have been mostly a function of the improving national economy. State Representative Henry Yanez, a Democrat from Sterling Heights, was especially brutal in his comments to the news service MIRS: “I think he might as well (have) just said ‘President Barack Obama saved the auto industry and there’s a bunch of other stuff. Good night and go home.”

That’s a little too harsh, but not very. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, not known for cheap shots, said that if the speech had been soup it would have been broth, because there was nothing in it. At times, the governor bordered on the bizarre.

Long before his brief mention of the continuing crisis in Flint, the governor seemed to obsess over cows. He went on and on about how our dairy cows were the second most productive in the nation, and that the winners, the cows of Colorado, should moo-ove on over.

The governor indeed spent as much time on the cows as on Flint, about which he essentially said “things are getting better, but there’s still more work to do.”

To my astonishment, he did not even mention the huge unemployment insurance scandal, in which the state incorrectly accused more than 20,000 people of fraud and assessed huge fines and in some cases garnisheed their wages.

The vast sinkhole in Fraser got only a brief mention. Candice Miller, now Macomb County public works commissioner and as a loyal a Republican as they come, said she was “disappointed” by that. The governor did say we should do more about infrastructure, but neither offered any new programs nor suggested how we might pay for the improvements we need.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who always does his best to obstruct any kind of progress, quickly indicated he had no inclination to provide new money for infrastructure needs. Instead, though the governor never mentioned it, the lawmakers are focused on cutting taxes and lessening the money they have to work with.

The governor did say he wants to keep the Healthy Michigan plan, which has provided Medicaid to more than half a million residents and has resulted in a healthier work force. But it’s not clear what will happen if, as expected, Washington repeals Obamacare.

Next year, the governor will give his very last state of the state speech. Right now, it’s hard for me to imagine what more he’ll have left to say.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.