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Published: Saturday, 12/24/2011

Editorial

Michigan's big year

Nobody can say freshman Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder didn't hit the ground running in 2011.

Within weeks after the former venture capitalist and computer executive took office on New Year's Day, he unveiled an ambitious program. Most of it became law in a few months, aided by the fact that the electoral wave that swept him in also gave his fellow Republicans large majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

Governor Snyder asserts that Michigan's hope lies in attracting new business. He persuaded the Legislature to cut business taxes by nearly two-thirds. To help pay for that cut, lawmakers agreed to tax pensions and made ill-advised spending cuts to higher education.

The governor also got lawmakers to balance and enact the state budget in near-record time, approve a tough emergency-manager law for distressed school districts and cities, phase out restrictions on charter schools, recast workers' compensation laws to save employers money, and reduce benefits for state workers. For a man who had never held office and proclaimed he was not a politician, the new governor had amazing success.

Although plenty of people were unhappy with his program, Mr. Snyder prudently avoided stirring up the kind of rancor that other new Midwest Republican governors, notably John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, generated. Mr. Snyder said he did not want to deprive public employees of collective- bargaining rights, and had no interest in right-to-work legislation.

Mr. Snyder was not totally successful. The Legislature wouldn't even vote on his worthwhile proposal to build a new Detroit River bridge. Lawmakers also took no action on his plan to raise $1.4 billion to maintain Michigan's crumbling roads. The governor, whose mantra is "relentless positive action," vows to continue pushing both proposals next year.

It remains to be seen when -- and whether -- the governor's tax cuts will produce new jobs. It also is unclear whether his relentless momentum will keep purring or finally stall in what, for many lawmakers, is an election year.

So far, the governor's most-effective opposition has not come from Democratic lawmakers, who are outnumbered and ineffectual. He faces a greater challenge from members of his own party in the Legislature, many of whom are far to his right, especially on social issues.

Mr. Snyder had a phenomenal rookie season. The question now: Will he slump in his sophomore year?



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