Lansing Gov.-elect Snyder wants budget done by July 1 Also plans to move up State of the State address by several weeks

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Gov.-elect Rick Snyder is so eager to jumpstart Michigan's recovery that he said he will move up the annual State of the State address by a couple of weeks and have lawmakers pass the budget by July 1 instead of dragging the process into the fall.

"We hope to go fast," he told The Associated Press in an interview. "It's setting the tone."

Although Snyder has until March 14 to present a proposal for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, he plans to do it earlier. He also plans to deliver his first State of the State address in mid-January rather than at the more traditional end of the month.

The Republican governor-elect already has told lawmakers and his staff that he wants to get a lot done in the 182 days between Jan. 1 and July 1, including passing a two-year budget, one year longer than normal for the state.

Michigan faces a shortfall of up to $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year, something Snyder will have to address in his budget proposal. He declined to go into specifics Tuesday, saying it's still under review. But he noted he won't cut spending without weighing the consequences.

"It's not just simply a dollars thing. ... There's an issue about societal value," he said. "You try to do the right thing by people, but there has to be an outcome or a result that's meaningful. That's not something you can quantify in every case."

Few recent Michigan budgets have been completed by mid-year. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm usually gave her budget proposal to lawmakers by early February, but fights over how to deal with shortfalls led to stalemates that often lasted right up to the Sept. 30 deadline.

In 2007 and 2009, lawmakers missed the deadline altogether, prompting brief government shutdowns. Snyder said that's not how he plans to operate, and he doesn't want lawmakers to think they can, either.

"The concept I'm trying to get my team to believe in is dog years," he said with a laugh. "It's a little under four years if you take 182 days, so we hope to accomplish a whole lot."

As Michigan begins to emerge from its decade-long economic slump, Snyder said his first priority will be eliminating any hurdles to that recovery. He plans to cut business taxes in the budget that takes effect next fall.

"I always said business taxes were the first things we were going to review," he noted.

He dismisses predictions that Michigan would be at the bottom nationally in the number of jobs added through 2014, noting that he plans to remove tax and regulatory policies he believes would make it harder for the state to recover. Snyder wants to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a corporate income tax on most businesses, lowering business tax revenues by about $1.5 billion a year.

He also wants to get public employee compensation more in line with the private sector but said he hasn't decided whether he'll support incoming state Treasurer Andy Dillon's plan to have all public employees -- including state and local government workers, teachers and university staff -- covered by one health plan.

While public employees may be asked to pay more for their health and retirement benefits, the end result will be more certainty for workers, who wouldn't have to fear furloughs and similar steps to balance the books, Snyder said.

On Wednesday, he'll name the directors of transportation and state police as he continues building the team that will take over once he's sworn in Jan. 1.

He said he knows there are challenges ahead, but he's eager to take the reins of state government and make changes he hopes will lead to a better future in Michigan.

"It's that positive person in me that drove everyone nuts" during the campaign, Snyder said. "I'm not giving it up."

Published: Thu, Dec 23, 2010