Editorial

Business has questions, does Snyder have answers?

January 11, 2013
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Wednesday is must-see TV for the state’s business community, especially those employers who call West Michigan home.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State Address is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. It will be carried live on most of the state’s public radio and TV stations, and can be viewed live on the Business Journal’s website, grbj.com.

Initial reports peg transportation funding and “the ballot initiatives” as topics of discussion during Snyder’s address, but based on information coming out of West Michigan, here’s hoping the governor covers a few more subjects, as well.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s yearly government affairs survey revealed that health care costs are at the top of every business person’s list of priorities. Local regulatory and tax-related issues, as well as the tax burden for businesses, also rank near the top.

The Snyder administration’s elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and phase-out of the Personal Property Tax are steps in the right direction, but too often the governor shoots before he aims, resulting in a haphazard approach to issues that are of importance to West Michigan.

A case in point is the PPT and the squabble over revenue-replacement options, or the lack thereof. Same goes for the state’s plan for the health insurance exchange, which wobbled along for months.

What business leaders require is certainty, structure and support. Washington’s fiscal cliff/debt ceiling/health care mandate debacle is throwing a huge wrench into corporate financial planning. Simply put, it’s difficult to come up with a solid plan for growth when the future is so uncertain at the government level. This includes both state and federal lawmakers.

There is no denying the governor’s pro-business stance and his desire to put Michigan on equal footing (or better) with the economic development enjoyed by other states. However, a narrow focus and questionable long-range planning sometimes leave businesses in an unintended lurch.

Too often, Snyder’s to-do list leaves something to be desired when it comes to articulation of a plan regarding how to accomplish these goals. Any business person will agree that a plan’s strength is in its details, not in how quickly it can be implemented.

In addition to transportation funding and the always-contentious right-to-work laws, we are hoping that Snyder takes time to address other issues of importance to West Michigan: Education reform (education advisor Richard McLellan’s first draft was so full of holes, it resembled Swiss cheese) and higher-education funding, health care plans for business and Blue Cross Blue Shield restructuring, a new energy policy, and reform of the no-fault auto insurance law are just a few of the items that deserve air time.

Becky Bechler of Public Affairs Associates, which represents Kent County’s interests in Lansing, sounded an ominous note recently when discussing the legislature’s very contentious mood.

“I think this could be a very challenging year and very little might get done,” she said.

For the sake of a more certain and structured future for West Michigan businesses, let’s hope that’s not the case.

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