Rick Snyder

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.

official portrait

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.

Flickr

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

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.

So, is it too soon to start thinking about Election 2014?

If you think so, think again. (Or maybe turn off your TV.)

“One Tough Nerd” is back on the air with a 60-second ad called “Michigan is Back,” and it’s basically the launch of Governor Rick Snyder’s campaign for a second term. That’s despite the fact that Snyder continues to insist that he’s not an “official” candidate and, furthermore, that it wouldn’t be a good idea right now: “When you have the official candidate kind of role, it makes it more confusing for people.”

He also said last weekend at a Republican conference on Mackinac Island that an early launch isn’t necessary because, unlike his political debut in 2010, people now know who he is and he doesn’t have to build name identification.

Yet, not even a week passed before the governor’s reelection campaign made what appears to be a significant ad buy, maybe more than $500,000. Not only is he on the air earlier than anyone else, he’s up four months earlier in the cycle than last time around when he was unknown.

So what gives? It’s interesting that a governor who makes a point of being a non-politician (or, as he prefers, “not your typical politician") is now cutting distinctions that only a politician would make – the kinds of fine-pointed legalisms that typically get teenagers grounded. Governor Snyder is a candidate and should be viewed as such.

We here at It’s Just Politics have never accepted that Snyder was committed to any course other than seeking a second term. And once again, his actions and behavior (as well as most of his words) have borne that out. So why would Snyder belie his own analysis by going up so early? Here are some ideas:

  • Habit. The last time around, Snyder also launched early. We were introduced to “One Tough Nerd” on Super Bowl Sunday 2010, when he was a largely unknown businessman running against some better-known established political names. It worked before.
  • Numbers. Most polls this far out show the governor running at least a little ahead of Mark Schauer - the almost-certain Democratic candidate. But, Snyder is still below that crucial 50 percent mark in every poll that we’re aware of. He’d certainly like to move that number up to a more-comfortable place, preferably before another poll comes out. That would appease Republican funders, too.  And this might be the moment, the public seems to be responding reasonably well to some of his very assertive actions in Detroit.
  • Image. If Rick Snyder wants to remain on top, he’s got to retain control of his image. And maybe the best way is to get out before the Democrats get busy trying to define and redefine impressions of “One Tough Nerd” in the public mind. (Democrats have already crafted their counter-persona, “One Weak Geek.”)
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder says Michigan has become a more business-friendly place since he took office—and that’s good news for the automotive industry.

The Governor addressed industry leaders at the Michigan Automotive Summit in Detroit Wednesday.

Snyder says that in the emerging global economy, there will be a “go-to place” to on each continent to make things. And he thinks Michigan is poised to be that place in North America—but the state needs to embrace, not reject, its manufacturing past.

Governor Rick Snyder has begun airing a sixty second commercial that, to anyone with an IQ exceeding that of a hamster, is clearly a campaign ad aimed at getting the voters to reelect him next year. It touts all the governor’s supposed accomplishments of the last three years, and hints what he wants to do in a new term.

Snyder says the message is: “simply put, we said it and we did it.”  Actually, the commercial is a shorter version of a five-minute video shown at last weekend’s Mackinac Island Republican conference. That version openly referred to “another four years” with Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley in charge.

Standard campaign commercial fare. But there are two things odd about this. For one thing, it is highly unusual for any candidate to run such a commercial more than a year before the election. After all, this stuff is terribly expensive. When politicians do things like this, as a friend used to say, “it just goes to show you what God could have done if he had just had the money.’”

But here’s the really odd thing about all this. Snyder is pretending he is not yet running for reelection, and to an extent, the media are letting him get away with it. “I’m not an announced candidate,“ the governor told reporters yesterday. “I’m happy being governor. I’m focused on being governor,” he said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The first campaign ad in the race for Michigan governor will start airing tomorrow (Wed.). In fact, Governor Rick Snyder is launching his ad campaign before he’s formally announced he’s a candidate.

The statewide ad buy is modest, but it comes as Snyder continues to insist he should not be treated as if he’s running for reelection.

“I’m not an announced candidate,” he says. “I’m happy being governor and I’m focused on being governor.”

Detroit Free Press / Detroit Free Press

The 2014 election season is warming up. In Michigan, we're moving from "One Tough Nerd" to "One Successful Nerd."

In an early bid to make his case for re-election, Gov. Rick Snyder released this video:

But critics say Gov. Snyder's record on the economy makes him vulnerable.

Detroit Free Press video / Detroit Free Press

DETROIT (AP) — A nonprofit fund that Gov. Rick Snyder created is paying for housing and some other expenses for Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report payments by the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund previously weren't disclosed.

Kevyn Orr was hired in March. Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says the fund paid $4,200 a month for Orr's condominium at downtown's Westin Book Cadillac since April. She says it also will cover Orr's commuting expenses to visit family in Maryland.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans to push ahead with plans to privatize food service for the state's 45,000 prison inmates under a proposed $145 million, 3-year contract.

Snyder tells the Detroit Free Press that he'll consider objections from Republican state Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and unionized prison employees and others but won't let them block the process.

All Things Michigan / Flickr

About 1,500 Michigan Republicans were on Mackinac Island this past weekend. They were gathered for the state GOP’s biennial leadership conference, where much of the focus was on a reelection campaign by Governor Rick Snyder that has yet to be formally announced.

There were plenty of hints: Snyder basked in chants of “four more years.” He rolled out a campaign video. He invited people to sign nominating petitions to put him on the August primary ballot next year.

But when asked about a formal announcement on his reelection plans?

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