Snyder talks immigration, preschool plan in speech

MARQUETTE – It’s a mixed bag when it comes to people’s reactions to Gov. Rick Snyder’s Thursday evening State of the State address, delivered before a joint session of the Michigan Legislature.

Good reviews and bad appear to fall along party lines.

“I believe the positive tone of Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address last night,” said Marquette County Republicans Chairman Brendan Biolo this morning. “It shows that Michigan is headed in the right direction.”

Biolo, who was elected as chairman in December, said he was pleased by the governor’s message of positive growth.

“The state was over a billion dollars in debt and now we have a surplus. With an improved jobs report, Michigan will continue to be on the rise.”

However, Marquette County Democrats Chairman Ben Bohnsack saw the governor’s address – and the state’s surplus – in a different light.

“The governor last night had a lot of nice things to report, but that overlooks the fact that we have a fund surplus because of people who’ve paid the price, like everyday workers and retirees, and public schools and universities and revenue sharing with cities and counties,” Bohnsack said this morning. “Besides that, along came the resurgence of the auto industry thanks to (President Barack Obama’s) bailout. So all of these things mean the Republicans are missing the real needs of our state.”

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, was happy to hear Snyder set a positive tone for the coming year, and said he appreciated being personally named and thanked by the governor for his work on transportation issues.

“I think anytime the governor does something like that, you certainly appreciate it,” Casperson said. “He and I have worked together on various issues. I believe we’ve got a pretty good working relationship. When he does stuff like that, I think it’s a shout out to the whole effort, not only him and myself but our staffs working together.”

Casperson said he thought the speech was “very good.”

“I appreciated the opening remarks by the governor, setting the tone, talking and asking for civility, not that we have to agree with each other, but we certainly can treat each other with respect,” Casperson said. “He lives by that. He hasn’t criticized other people. He just keeps commenting on what is the solution.”

Casperson said he was also happy Snyder pointed out specific successes in the Upper Peninsula.

“He brought up the U.P. and talked about the Smartzones and gave a lot of credit to the U.P. and the various groups involved with that,” he said.

State Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, said he was optimistic about Michigan’s future, but was hoping for a more substantive speech from Snyder.

“It was more of a report card for Michigan,” Kivela said. “I’m encouraged that the governor acknowledged the partnerships in the U.P. paying off, notably the Smartzone expansion from Michigan Tech (University) to Northern (Michigan University). That was a highlight for me.”

Northern Michigan University officials also said they were happy to hear Snyder praise their work with Michigan Tech University in expanding Tech’s Smartzone.

“We were very pleased that the governor recognized the cooperative spirit and the cooperative work that’s being done between NMU and Michigan Tech in the Marquette and Copper Country areas,” said NMU Communications director Cindy Paavola. “This is one example of many cooperative efforts between the universities. We’re very excited about the potential of these projects to work together.”

Kivela said he was heartened to hear Snyder discuss work to prevent the spread of invasive species, a continuing investment in early childhood education and investment in programs for seniors.

Kivela said he hadn’t anticipated Snyder’s remarks about immigration but felt encouraging legal immigrants to live and work in Michigan was a good idea.

“I think that we’re trying to grow the state and I think that’s a very realistic way to do it,” Kivela said. “We’ve lost population, we’re looking for people to move to Michigan, there’s a lot of immigrants looking to carve out a great life for themselves and Michigan is a great place for it.”

For more reactions from other Michigan organizations, visit

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.