Inside and outside of Oakland

Rick Snyder: Michigan's purple state governor?

  On the elections maps following Tuesday’s election, the country was divided into red and blue.
  Red states were those where Republicans prevailed and blue states were those where Democrats prevailed.
  With Republican Rick Snyder’s election as Michigan’s next governor, and Republicans taking control of the state House and Senate, Michigan falls into the red state category.
  But there are signs that Snyder, the 52-year-old Ann Arbor venture capitalist and former chief executive officer of Gateway computers, is taking a purple look at things — a blending of red and blue —  as he prepares to take office in January.

  In radio interviews following the election, Snyder said one litmus test for ideas presented to the governor’s office for consideration is whether they’ll benefit the majority of Michigan residents — decidedly a purple point of view.
  During the primary and general election campaigns for governor, Snyder struck both a pragmatic and populist note.
  He avoided blaming Democrats for the state’s current messes in favor of the broader “Lansing is broken” message. He had pragmatic messages of customer service government and return on investment of state tax dollars.
  Along the way, the political rookie, who hasn’t held a major elective office before, picked up the endorsement of former moderate Republican Gov. William Milliken, Michigan’s longest serving governor and arguably the most “purple” governor in the state’s history.
  A purple point of view may indeed be the way to go for Snyder, who will govern with Republicans in control of both the state House and Senate.
  After all, he’ll be seeing plenty of red when he gets to Lansing — as in red ink — and he has promises to keep and a persistently high unemployment problem to deal with.
  When he presents his first state budget to lawmakers in March, it’ll be one that proposes to eliminate an estimated $1.4 billion deficit. Among the Snyder proposals during the campaign was a $1.5 billion tax cut for businesses by replacing the onerous Michigan Business Tax with a flat tax.
  Just the combination of the two will likely mean difficult and unpopular spending cuts in government services ahead, and a tough sell to lawmakers, even if the majority are Republicans.
  For that reason alone, Snyder’s honeymoon with the near 60 percent of voters who supported him, and with the state’s 110 House and 38 Senate members, may be a short one.
  While it’s popular with both parties to campaign on the pledge of cutting taxes and fixing government, the flip side when push comes to shove is that lawmakers typically don’t want the blame for slashing services for people who live in their own districts.
  What kind of reception Snyder’s plans to “reinvent Michigan” get from Lansing Democrats is also anybody’s guess at this point.
  Now in the minority, Democrats can continue partisanship by voting no on all of Snyder’s coming proposals, opting instead to let Republicans get the blame in the next election for anything unpopular.
  Likewise, there’s no guarantee that Republicans will fall in behind Snyder since there remain differences in philosophy between the moderate and conservative wings of the party.
  But his proposals deserve a fair shake from Democrats and Republicans as the state grapples with a high unemployment rate and the need for a greater social net in a time of falling resources.
  How purple Snyder ultimately turns out to be is anybody’s guess.
  But there’s one thing that’s certain.
  For Republicans who now control all the political branches of government, it’s time to put up or shut up. For Democrats, it’s time to join in the tough decision-making ahead.
  Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc.

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