Rick Snyder

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Today’s announcement that General Motors will spend $1.3 billion upgrading plants in Michigan proved to be a little awkward for one of the dignitaries on the dais.

It’s probably not a surprise that Governor Snyder got a few boos from union members in the audience, given that the first anniversary of the governor signing Right to Work into law was just last week.

Perhaps less expected, the Republican governor had to sit and listen as UAW regional director Norwood Jewell praised Snyder’s Democratic opponent in next year’s election.

This Week in Review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry talk about how Rand Paul thinks Detroit should lower it's tax rate in order to stabilize, what's behind Governor Rick Snyder's 36 percent approval rating, and how the average Michigan graduate has $29,000 in student loans.

We’re into the 2013 winter holiday season, which means we’re just a few weeks away from 2014 and a new round of big statewide elections.

That includes Governor Rick Snyder’s reelection bid -- which isn’t quite “official” yet, despite an active campaign committee, ads, and political consultants.

Still, it’s good to be a Republican governor these days. The presidential race is in the rearview mirror, the economy’s ticking up slowly, and people are looking at Washington and seeing nothing but gridlock and dysfunction.

But Democrats still see opportunity for putting one of their own into the governor’s office in Michigan, as well as eight other states that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. Politico says the Democratic Governors Association has secured a commitment from President Obama to fundraise, campaign, and provide material support to help pick up those states.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder may be facing a tough re-election battle next year. A new poll shows the governor’s approval rating is holding in the mid-30s.

Michigan State University’s "State of the State" survey polled Michiganders earlier this fall. The pollsters found only about 36% of Michiganders approved of the job Snyder is doing in office. That’s actually an improvement.  Last spring, after the Right to Work battle, Snyder’s approval rating dropped below 30% in the survey.

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Governor Sndyer's approval rating is up

Governor Snyder's approval rating is at it's highest since the summer of 2012. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval rating has ticked up to 35.6% according to a new State of the State Survey from Michigan State University to be released today."

College grads in Michigan have an average of $29,000 in debt

A new report finds the average Michigan college graduate in 2012 has nearly $29,000 in student loans. Ferris State and Lawrence Technological University graduates have the highest debt in the state.

Lawmakers get bigger budgets

"Lawmakers in the Michigan House will see their office budgets rise 5 percent in 2014. Lawmakers took a 10 percent pay cut in 2011," the Associated Press reports.

beautifulhustle.com

Casinos operated by six Native American tribes in Michigan will continue to operate even though the gaming compacts that allow them expire this weekend.    That will gives the state and the tribes more time to negotiate new compacts.

The agreements were originally made 20 years ago.

John Wernet is the legal counsel for the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.   He says casinos are a critical source of revenue for the tribes.

This week, on our tryptophan recovery edition of It’s Just Politics, we’re talking money: salaries, wages, and how they’re becoming an issue in the campaign for governor.

Last week, gubernatorial-hopeful and former Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer, called for an increase in the state minimum wage. Schauer wants to increase the rate to $9.25 an hour over three years.

And, like we talked about last week - this is a subtle twist, not just hammering Governor Rick Snyder over his support for a pension tax, and school funding, but trying to give voters something to support, not just be against.

But giving voters things to be against is still an important part of any campaign narrative, and this week, for Democrats and Mark Schauer it was all about serendipity; a nexus of timing and opportunity.

Jake Neher/ MPRN

Warren Buffett was in Michigan Tuesday to help launch a program that will invest $20 million in small businesses in and around Detroit.

Buffett is an advisor to Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, which is committing $15 million of capital to support small businesses in and around the city. Another $5 million will go to business training for Detroit entrepreneurs.

Despite Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing, Buffett says the city has a “huge potential” for economic growth.

Putative Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer rolled out his proposal this week to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.25 over three years; which, as of right now, would make it one of the highest state-mandated minimum wage in the nation.

That’s sparked a debate over the efficacy of the minimum wage – does it encourage prosperity by pushing more money into the economy? Or does it stifle hiring and job creation?

But we’re here to discuss the red meat politics of the minimum wage. Mark Schauer’s announcement sets the stage for a classic class warfare throw down. So, instead of diving too deep into the policy side, let’s take on the political calculation that’s part of choosing that number of $9.25.

Polling shows big support nationally for a minimum wage of $9 an hour. There is some Michigan public opinion research that’s not quite as reliable, but still suggests it’s about the same - about 70 percent favor it.

But that support plummets as the suggested minimum wage goes up, especially above $10 dollars an hour. This shows the risk in using the minimum wage as a political wedge. To a point, it has populist appeal, but people still fear the consequences of setting wage floors. So the key is to find the sweet spot, and Mark Schauer seems to have settled on $9.25. (He says the policy-side reason is that number will make up for the erosion of its buying power over the last four decades.)

Which brings us to the next question: why now? Why not keep beating the Democratic drums - pension tax, school cuts, with a little right-to-work thrown in just to fire up the base.

The answer: Because the base isn’t fired up. And the most recent polling shows Rick Snyder expanding his lead over Schauer. No matter how much Democrats may dislike what they’re seeing in Lansing, a lot of them are still not warming up to Mark Schauer, who is low-key, to say the least.

The minimum wage is supposed to be a jolt to try to put some electricity into his campaign.

Duggan for Detroit

In the weeks after the Detroit’s mayoral election, a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder recently quipped that “adults” are now running Detroit’s city hall.

Does that point to a better working relationship between the governor, Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and the city’s Mayor-elect Mike Duggan?

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes is taking a look at the relations between Detroit’s leadership and the governor’s office.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials have submitted the latest in a series of reports that Gov. Rick Snyder says will help Michigan make decisions about future energy policies.

The "Additional Areas" report deals with reliability of electricity, rates and prices, and natural gas infrastructure. Among the material is a section on the role of states versus the role of regional transmission operators or independent system operators for reliability.

Another section covers the linkage between natural gas prices and electricity prices.

This week we saw yet another split in the Republican Party. But this intra-party fight had little to do with the usual Tea Party v. Establishment narrative. Instead, the imbroglio was over “issue ads.” Or, to be even more specific: disclosure of who is paying for issue ads.

Issue ads can sound and look an awful lot like campaign ads but they don’t directly or explicitly endorse a candidate by saying “vote for Candidate X” or “oppose Candidate Y.” It’s these magic little words – “vote,” “elect,” “support,” – that make a political ad a political ad.

But issue ads can say Candidate X did a horrible thing or Candidate Y is an amazing person. Take for example this ad from the 2010 Republican Gubernatorial Primary: “Raising taxes in this economy is crazy. But that’s what Congressman Pete Hoesktra wants to do… Call Congressman Hoesktra and tell him raising taxes is crazy.” Language like that makes it an issue ad. It says “call Congressman Hoekstra” but it doesn’t specifically say how to vote.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This Veterans Day, Michigan has the dubious distinction of having its military veterans among those receiving the least government benefits of any in the 50 states.

Michigan’s more than 650 thousand veterans get about $3,400 on average in benefits compared with a national average of nearly five thousand dollars a year.   

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Attorneys have ended final arguments in a rare trial to determine whether Detroit can become the largest municipality to fix its finances in bankruptcy court.

The daylong remarks Friday for and against a Chapter 9 reorganization now will be sorted out by Judge Steven Rhodes. He could take days to make the decision.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan officials hope to know by Christmas whether the Obama administration has accepted the state’s plan for extending Medicaid coverage to thousands of working poor people.

The state formally submitted its proposal to the federal government today.

The state wants waivers from the usual Medicaid rules so it can charge co-pays, set up health care savings accounts, and use financial incentives to encourage patients to adopt healthy behaviors.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Public Service Commission has submitted a report on renewable energy to Governor Snyder. That report indicates renewable energy is getting cheaper and more varied, ranging from wind and solar to biomass and ground source heat pumps.

But the surprising point in the report was this statement:

“...it is theoretically technically feasible for Michigan to meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standards of as much as 30% from resources located in the state.”

A successful program that utilizes volunteers to fight crime is growing in Detroit.

Governor Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing announced Monday that the Americorps Urban Safety Corps program will extend into five Detroit neighborhoods.

The program empowers Americorps members to recruit and mobilize community volunteers for public safety efforts.

LiveStream

Both Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Governor Snyder testified this week in the trial that will decide whether Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

Facing hours of pointed questions from lawyers for city unions, retirees, and pension funds, both Snyder and Orr said that bankruptcy wasn’t a foregone conclusion for Detroit.

But both also insisted the city was clearly insolvent, creditor talks had broken down into multiple lawsuits, and Orr had to move quickly.

“It was somewhat shocking how dire it was,” Orr testified.

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has decided that future donors to his nonprofit "social welfare" fund should be disclosed to the public.

The decision announced late Friday comes in the wake of Governor Rick Snyder's decision to dissolve his 501c4 fund and create a new one.

Schuette's On Duty for Michigan fund has been able to legally accept unlimited amounts of money from anonymous donors. Fund board member Gary Gordon says the money has "reduced the burden on taxpayers" and improved the effectiveness of Schuette's office.

Insurance sure is a hot political topic these days with hearings in Washington on the glitches with the HealthCare.gov website, and the recent fight in the Legislature over the Medicaid expansion. So what better moment to re-kindle the controversy over Michigan’s auto insurance rates and the no-fault law?

Which is exactly what Governor Rick Snyder did this week when he re-started talks among the groups with an interest in an overhaul of the law. That includes doctors and hospitals, insurance companies, and trial lawyers – all major political players in Lansing.

And, certainly, people who’ve been injured in car and truck accidents have a big stake.

Auto insurance is intensely political. (So much so that some states even have elected insurance commissioners.) Pretty much everyone runs the risk of being hurt in a crash, and everyone who owns a vehicle - under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law - is supposed to carry liability coverage.

People are always upset by insurance rates, but none more so than people who live in cities with high premiums. Cities like Detroit and Flint.  Insurance rates actually affect elections. Some city dwellers use out-of-town addresses on their driver’s licenses and voter registration to get lower rates, which also means they don’t vote in local elections.

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He wants them to have more options when it comes to meeting the algebra II graduation requirement.

“I’m not in favor of changing the requirement for algebra II,” Snyder said at a workforce training conference. “I’m in favor of making it as tangible as possible for people.”

The governor says learning the principles of algebra II is often easier as part of a program in robotics or vocational training.

A trial to determine Detroit’s fate in municipal bankruptcy starts Wednesday.

Judge Steven Rhodes will hear arguments from city lawyers about why Detroit qualifies for Chapter 9 protection.

University of Michigan law professor and bankruptcy expert John Pottow says some city creditors will argue that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was pre-determined--and there was no good-faith bargaining process, as the federal bankruptcy code requires.

Michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder says Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Director Kevin Clinton will succeed departing Treasurer Andy Dillon next month.

Kevin Clinton will play an important role in the state’s financial intervention in struggling cities and schools. He admits he’ll have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing.

Associated Press

He announced today that he will step down effective November 1. 

In his statement, Dillon said his recent divorce "distracted" him from his work:

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce I have tendered my resignation to Governor Snyder. It has become clear to me-- as it likely is to most -- that it is unfair to my family and the residents of Michigan, to allow issues related to my recent divorce and the unfortunate acrimony associated with it to be a continued source of media attention and scrutiny. My family deserves privacy and our residents deserve to know their State Treasurer is not distracted by such issues and events. For these personal and professional reasons, I have determined it is in the best interests of all that I resign."

Dillon was both praised and criticized for his role in ushering the city of Detroit into bankruptcy. In a statement, Governor Rick Snyder praised Dillon for his tireless work and expertise.Dillon's announcement comes one day after he was deposed by union lawyers about Detroit's bankruptcy.

"The decision to seek bankruptcy protection was not an easy one but was determined to be the only remaining way to address Detroit's long-running financial crisis," Dillon said yesterday after the three-hour meeting.

Dillon was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in January 2011, after an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial election.

Bill Ballenger is with the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics. He says it was a little surprising it took this long for Dillon to step down, but he says he saw no sign that Dillon's personal turmoil was affecting his job performance. "It made it unlikely he could continue to be any kind of an asset," said Ballenger. "On the other hand there hasn't been any criticism of Andy Dillon's performance as state treasurer.


The petition drive is the citizens’ direct route to changing laws. It’s part of the state constitution, Article 2, Section 9 (if you want to read it for yourself). The petition-initiated law is not subject to a veto by the governor. If the Legislature refuses to adopt it, the decision goes to voters as a statewide ballot question.

 

Right to Life of Michigan submitted petitions a week ago to initiate a law that would say people could no longer get abortion coverage as part of a basic health insurance plan. Consumers would have to buy separate coverage to get abortions paid for. The only exception would be an emergency abortion necessary to save a woman’s life.

 

“I had a similar bill that came to me that I vetoed,” Governor Rick Snyder reminded folks after the petitions were filed. “And that was the right answer in my view.”

 

Snyder vetoed this language when it was part of a bill sent to him last year by the Legislature because it did not include those rape and incest exceptions. That’s despite the fact that he has identified himself as “pro-life,” that is opposed to abortion, when he ran in  2010.

 

But not sufficiently so for Right to Life (which endorsed another candidate in the 2010 Republican primary.) Right to Life has a ready response when governors veto legislation it supports. So, once again, Right to Life launched a petition drive to enact as an initiated law what Snyder had vetoed.

Well, it has been an odd and remarkable week in an odd and remarkable year. Large parts of the federal government are still shut down, and Detroit’s march towards bankruptcy is still proceeding, agonizingly slowly.

Yesterday, however, there was a flurry of good news, most from poor beleaguered Motown itself. The city’s thoroughly corrupt former mayor was sentenced to a record stretch in federal prison.

Governor Rick Snyder's website

This week, Gov. Rick Snyder became the state’s first sitting governor to testify under oath in a case.

On Wednesday, Snyder sat through more than three hours of questioning surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy case. Today brought depositions from State Treasurer Andy Dillon and top Snyder advisor Richard Baird.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes recaps what’s happening in the case, and whether we can expect to see the governor called in to testify in the bankruptcy court trial, which begins on Oct. 23.

Listen to full interview above. 

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Unions representing Detroit city workers and retirees got a chance to question Gov. Rick Snyder under oath Tuesday about the city’s historic bankruptcy filing.

A federal judge is set to begin hearings on whether the governor and Kevyn Orr — the emergency manager he appointed — properly filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

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The shutdown and Michigan

"If the federal government shutdown goes beyond this week, there could be serious consequences for the federal justice system. Federal courts will run out of funding to deal with anything “non-essential” on October 15th. Then some court staff will be furloughed, while others will work unpaid," Sarah Cwiek reports.

And Steve Carmody reports, the shutdown could soon affect Michigan's real estate industry.

"Government agencies that verify the identities and tax returns of people taking out mortgages are closed by the shutdown. That means multiple home sales could be held up because of the paperwork problem caused by the government shutdown."

Snyder in Toronto

"Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is visiting Toronto for a speech to the Council of the Great Lakes Region and meetings with Ontario business and government leaders," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Abortion opponents have turned in more than 315,000 petition signatures calling on the Legislature to place new restrictions on health coverage.

The new law would require consumers to buy separate coverage for abortions.

Abortion opponents say they want to make sure that abortion coverage is not automatic when people buy insurance under the new federal healthcare law. The petition-initiated law would require consumers to buy a separate rider for abortion coverage.

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