Now that the budget’s done, Governor Rick Snyder goes to work on his goals for the balance of the summer. He spent a few minutes with the Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta just after he signed the new state budget.
RICK PLUTA: Governor, thanks for sitting down with us. So, just name one thing in this budget that you consider to be a really major accomplishment.
GOV. RICK SNYDER: Autism. We passed autism legislation and we’re putting the resources behind it to follow up to help kids in real need. There are scientifically proven treatments now. We can make a difference in people’s lives, so it’s a great quality of life move for kids that have autism and their families, but it’s also a great savings to society. We all win.
PLUTA: Now that the budget is done, what’s your next big priority?
SNYDER: “MIPSRS.” (Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System).
PLUTA: “MIPSRS” being the school employee retirement fund?
SNYDER: Yes. It’s really to look at that retirement program, because both the House and Senate have had different versions and different thought processes. And it would be good if we could come together and get some conclusion there, because it’s an opportunity to hopefully have programs that work well for people in the system to provide for their retirement and at the same time be much more cost-thoughtful, and make sure it’s an affordable system that’s a well-funded system for the long term.
PLUTA: And teachers say for them, if they’re forced to pay more, that’s a broken promise.
SNYDER: Well, one of the issues is that we should have a system that really is appropriately funded, and that hasn’t happened. So, part of the reforms here are, instead of building a system that’s potentially an unsustainable system that could have major issues, let’s be thoughtful, think ahead and put something in place that then people can say, we know what the situation is and we can move forward with our lives based on it.
PLUTA: The state was in court this week on the foster care lawsuit settlement and the state was given high marks for the progress that’s been made. But still, a third of foster kids aren’t getting home visits by caseworkers, 40 percent are getting their medical and mental health screenings. Michigan is still in the bottom 10 in the nation in terms of reporting abuse and neglect. What is there in this budget that moves the state closer to being in full compliance with that settlement?
SNYDER: Five hundred seventy-seven people. That’s a lot of resources.
PLUTA: You’re expected to sign an income tax cut soon that on an individual basis is considered pretty modest when a lot of people, not just Democrats, but certainly Democrats among them say that that money could go to schools, to higher education, to improving roads, other infrastructure. Why is now the time to do that?
SNYDER: Well, you always have a balancing act when you do a budget, and people have different perspectives on priorities. But when we went into this, we presented a budget back in February, and we had a set of priorities based on the information available that I think was a great set of priorities about balancing the budget, about putting money in the Rainy Day Fund, about paying down liabilities and funding these important programs. I mentioned autism earlier, things like healthy kids’ dental, additional public safety. So here was a situation where we could meet the goals and objectives of the budget we put together. There were additional resources available, and isn’t is appropriate to say one of the options we should look at is returning those dollars to our hard working taxpayers?
PLUTA: You’ve warned legislators, well, everyone really...that it would be a good idea to stay away from hot button social issues like abortion. Now, we’ve just had this big dust-up over the use of a word or a phrase during a heated abortion debate, we’ve had a week of protests. Is this exactly what you were talking about?
SNYDER: Well, I hope they resolve that issue, because it does take away from working on the economy and more and better jobs and a future for our kids. But what I would say is that I respect the difference between the executive and the legislative branch, it’s an issue in the House of Representatives, and I hope they address it quickly so we can all get back on the agenda of jobs.