Governor Rick Snyder struck a markedly more upbeat tone in this year’s State of the State address than he did in 2016, when he devoted the bulk of the annual speech to addressing the lead problems in Flint. This year’s address was actually so light-hearted at times that there was even room for a cow joke.
By most of Snyder’s measures, Michigan is doing great. More than 500,000 jobs have been created during his tenure and the state is benefiting from its lowest unemployment level in 15 years. Per-capita personal income is growing faster than the national average and home values are up. Heck, Detroit is even ninth on the list of the New York Times' "Best Places to Go."
Of course, the state does have its fair share of problems, but as the governor began to rattle them off – opioid abuse, Asian carp, unfunded legacy costs at the local level — people grew curious about when he would mention the Michigan city where people still can’t drink water out of their faucets.
That moment came more than 30 minutes into the less than hour-long address. And when he finally did mention Flint, Snyder almost declared the case closed.
“This was a sad chapter in the history of our state,” said the governor, opting for an unusual tense. He did go on to say, “Our work is not done yet, we all owe the people of Flint a solution." (Last year, the message was "I am sorry, and I will fix it.")
Though water quality in Flint has improved, residents at a town hall meeting just last week were told that the city's water system may not be fully fixed for years.
Yet Flint made up only about two minutes of the governor's remarks. That's less time than he gave to applauding Michigan's dairy industry (the state, apparently, boasts some of the country's most productive cows) and shouting out a pork company for choosing Michigan to process a daily 10,000 hogs.
Snyder also devoted surprisingly little time to addressing the state's crumbling infrastructure, which helped precipitate the Flint crisis and, more recently, caused a massive sink hole to open up in Fraser. Though he noted that "every corner" of Michigan is at risk due to aging pipes, he did not offer a plan on how to raise the additional $4-billion per year that an infrastructure commission last month said the state would need just to keep up with necessary system repairs.
You can check out the governor's full speech here.