brian calley

Patricia Drury / Flickr

A state Senate committee opened hearings yesterday on legislation that would start the process of building a new bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.

The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor-Ontario.

Governor Rick Snyder would like the Legislature to approve the initial stages of the bridge project by the end of the month.

Representatives of Governor Snyder’s administration and the Canadian government were on hand to insist the new bridge is an economic necessity that would not cost Michigan taxpayers any money.

Canada has committed to pay all the construction costs with repayment coming from tolls.

Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general to Michigan, says both Michigan and Canada would benefit from expanded border access.

“There are jobs in almost every county of Michigan that depend on companies being able to move things back and forth across the frontier with Canada,” said Norton.

The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to stop the project.

Matthew Moroun’s family owns the Ambassador Bridge. Moroun will testify today before the state Senate Economic Development Committee.

“We intend to show the actual statistics," said Moroun. "You know, we’ve been in the bridge business for 30-some years, and you learn a lot about the bridge business from being in the bridge business, I can tell you.”

Moroun says the state and Canada cannot credibly guarantee taxpayers’ money is not at stake in going ahead with a new bridge.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is the governor’s lead negotiator to win legislative support of the bridge. He says a new border crossing in southeastern Michigan is critical to the economic future of the entire state.

“Our biggest customer is Canada," said Calley. "We sell more to Canada than anybody else. They buy more of our goods than anybody else, and so we need more access, better access to that market if Michigan is to be successful.”

Calley and the Snyder administration face skeptics in the Legislature.

Opponents of a new bridge say traffic studies show there’s no need for a new bridge. They also say the state should not be backing a public bridge to compete with a private business.

Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they remain skeptical the deal would be good for Michigan taxpayers or that a new bridge is necessary, and they say it will take more before they’ll cast a vote in favor of it.

Patricia Drury / Flickr

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says the governor’s office will push the Legislature to approve a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada as soon as next month.

Calley says they plan to introduce a bill after budget and tax deals have been ironed out. He says the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

"The governor started out, right out of the blocks, advocating for a fix to that problem. A fix that doesn't really hold or contain any risk at all for the people of the state of Michigan, but instead put the power of the private sector behind a new project and says that 'we're not for monopolies anymore, we’re for competition.'"

Calley appeared at a speaking engagement with Roy Norton, the Canadian consul general to Detroit. Norton says the Ambassador Bridge is more than 80 years old and carries more than 10,000 trucks a day.

"One, very old bridge, by itself, carries almost 30% of the world’s largest two-way trade relationship, with literally millions of jobs in Canada and the United States depending on everything working right every day."

Norton and Calley reassured Lansing’s business community that the cost of a second, publically owned bridge would fall on the Canadian government, and not Michigan taxpayers.

They say the project would be paid for over time by tolls. And they say tolls for the new bridge would be cheaper than they are now at the Ambassador Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador Bridge Company appears to be ramping up its campaign against the proposed bridge project. The bridge company wants to build its own second bridge instead.

Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder plans to, "discuss legislative accomplishments and future plans" at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning in Lansing. Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger will be there as well. The Detroit News reports:

It's a sign of Republican unity amid continued signs that pieces of Snyder's Feb. 17 budget could be in trouble in the Legislature. For example, enough GOP senators have said they don't support Snyder's pension tax as he has proposed it, which could keep it from passing if Democrats vote against it as a bloc.

Snyder said he, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, will talk about "what we've accomplished so far this year," and what "we're still working on."

Snyder made his remarks today after signing the 15th bill enacted into law by the Legislature since he took office Jan. 1.

"If you go through the State of the State, we've accomplished most of those items," Snyder said, referring to the January speech he gave to lay out his legislative agenda and broader vision for the state...

Earlier bills signed into law eliminated an item pricing requirement for retailers, strengthened the powers of emergency managers appointed by the state to oversee financially troubled cities and school districts and provided incentives for environmental self-regulation by farmers.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Senior aides to Governor Rick Snyder say they don’t expect the massive budget protests in Wisconsin will spread to Michigan. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s style is less combative than that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Calley also says he expects most critics of the Snyder budget will be persuaded to change their minds. He says that’s because tough choices this year will avert the need for more cuts in the future.

“Number one, we’re not going to kick the can down the road. Number two, we’re not going to employ one-time gimmicks and quick fixes and those sorts of things. We’re actually going to fix it so that, take a look at Year Two – this actually does solve the problem so going forth, we can actually spend more time on, where do we go from here? How do we work and grow together?"

Nevertheless, some public employee and retiree groups are trying to organize a protest march on Lansing this week. They oppose a demand for public employees to pay more of their health care costs, and a proposed end to the tax exemption on pension income. Governor Snyder presented his budget proposal to state lawmakers last Thursday.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Reactions are coming in after some intense--maybe radioactive is a better word?--comments made by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley on the governor's budget proposal, which will come out next week.

On Tuesday, Calley compared next week's budget announcement to an atomic bomb. Calley's comments, from WKZO:

"Here's why I think that our message on the 17th of February is going to be dropping an atomic bomb on the city of Lansing: We're going to do an all-cuts solution to our budget deficit."

Sara Wurfel, Governor Snyder's press secretary, claims that Calley misspoke. From the Detroit News:

"This was an extremely unfortunate choice of words," she said.

"It certainly doesn't take into account the very difficult decisions that are being made and the extensive efforts we are taking to help protect citizens and ensure we leave no one behind. We are doing everything we can to address the state's fiscal crisis and trim spending in all areas of the budget, but also to help preserve critical services."

Also, "this is not an all-cuts budget," she said.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder will visit the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will also attend.

The two will tour the auto show and meet with President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Authority Michael Finney.

Media previews of the show began yesterday.  The show opens to the public on Saturday and runs through January 23rd.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/Flickr

It's expected that the debate over whether insurance companies should be required to cover autism treatments for children will continue at the state Capitol next year.

Legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments stalled in the GOP-led state Senate in the final hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Republican Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley has an autistic daughter.  He's been one of the most vocal proponents of the reforms.  Calley said:

Eventually the facts will catch up with the decision-makers and this will happen. I plan to advocate for this starting immediately next year and help education the incoming members, the new members, on this issue, and find a solution for the 15,000 families in Michigan that are struggling through this right now.

Calley said he hopes leaders in next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will approve the reforms.

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced this morning in Ann Arbor that he has picked Democrat Andy Dillon to be state treasurer.  Dillon is currently the Speaker in the Michigan House of Representatives.  Interestingly enough, Dillon lost the Democratic bid to be Michigan's next governor to his primary opponent Virg Bernero.  Bernero went on to lose the general election on November 2nd to Snyder.

Michigan House Republicans

Rick Snyder speaks like a corporate CEO talking up some newly discovered talent when he talks about Brian Calley. Snyder says Calley is young, but he's fine with it, "I think 33's a great age. He's had good private business experience. He's been a successful community banker, so great private sector experience and good legislative experience, and the other part of this is you shouldn't look at just age. This is how we build for the future is we get great young people involved in the process, and so we need more and more great young people like Brian."

Calley worked as a commercial banker in mid-Michigan before he was elected to the state House in 2006. He built a reputation as an expert on tax policy, and as someone who could easily work with Republicans and Democrats.

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