CHICAGO - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder continued his push to raise the state sales tax for new road funding in his State of the State address Tuesday night.
The Republican governor, who won a new term in November, also hailed Detroit's swift exit from what was the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in the U.S., and said now was the time to "grow the city of Detroit."
Snyder also noted that Michigan's unemployment rate has fallen to roughly 7% from 11% 10 years ago.
"We're better, but to be open with you, better is not good enough," Snyder said in his fifth State of the State speech. "We need to do more."
Snyder praised the participants in the so-called "grand bargain" that hastened Detroit's bankruptcy exit by raising money for pensions backed by the city-owned art collection. Snyder singled out for praise former emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who was in the audience.
The governor urged Michiganders to approve a May 5 ballot proposal that would raise the sales tax to 7% from 6% to generate new money for the state's roads and bridges. Snyder has long made new road funding a priority, and had hoped to have the Legislature pass a funding package during the recent lame-duck session. Instead the lawmakers opted to send the question to the voters. The sales tax increase is projected to raise an additional $1.2 billion a year, as well as $100 million for mass transit and local governments and another $300 million for schools.
"In the end, what I need you to do is vote yes," Snyder said. "Vote yes so we can have safer roads. Vote yes so we can get rid of crumbling bridges. Vote yes to give Michigan stronger schools and local governments."
The governor also called for a new law that would require all bills to have fiscal notes attached to them, and said he wants to merge the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health into one agency to help the state's "most vulnerable residents."
Snyder will unveil his 2016 budget on Feb. 11 where he is expected to address an unexpected $325 million shortfall in current-year revenue.