Governor stays strong in support of NITC

Winning in 2012, state issues focus of GOP Mackinac conference

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Mackinac Island — Republicans basked in warm sunlight on the first day of autumn Friday on Mackinac Island, still celebrating the November election that gave them control of state government and the Supreme Court.

But the message from leadership at the kickoff of the three-day Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference focused on taking back the White House and defeating Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, in 2012.

About 2,000 party activists registered for the biennial conference, which will feature speeches Saturday from presidential frontrunners Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Michigan native, party spokesman Matt Davis said.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, told those who attended the opening session that 2010 “was a remarkable year,” and with the overwhelming Republican outcome came “the responsibility to govern.”

He said the Legislature is focused on jobs and balancing the state budget through cutting costs.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he’s heard more talk about balance sheets in the past nine months than in all his previous years in the Legislature.

“It’s nice that we’ve started to talk about this state as if it is a business,” Richardville said.

Still, elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and an overhaul of business regulations have yet to move the needle on the state’s unemployment rate, which has edged up about a percentage point since early this year. Unhappiness over a new tax on pensions and cuts to schools and cities has resulted in Capitol protests and recall campaigns aimed at Snyder, the GOP legislative leaders, and others.

Snyder, a millionaire businessman whose “relentless positive action” mantra was adopted as the theme of the conference, has said the effects of the business tax cuts won’t be felt until next year and he believes the state’s citizens will support the “reinvention of Michigan” as he better communicates the need for the changes he’s implemented.

But at the opening session, Snyder took some tough questions about subjects such as the public bridge and his recent health care initiative, even from party activists.

Why not let businessman Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, build a second span, instead of backing a public bridge, one attendee asked the governor in a written question.

Why require doctors to record the body mass index of children and send the information to the government, asked another.

Snyder said providing the BMI information is optional, not compulsory. He said it can provide useful information, just as information collected about immunizations helped Michigan move from one of the least immunized states to one of the most.

“That’s democracy,” Snyder later said of the criticism.

Snyder, who is to address the conference over dinner Friday night, is pushing hard for a new public bridge to Canada he says will clear a border bottleneck and set a path for future growth for the state’s manufacturers.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley praised Michigan Republicans for the 2010 election results, telling them: “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“You have the opportunity to show every state in the country what a good state looks like,” Haley said.