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Snyder had mixed results with last State of State

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican Gov. Rick Snyder began his second year on the job with a State of the State speech that included a report card on Michigan's condition and a call to finish what did not get done in an ambitious 2011.

A year later, some of those big proposals of his still remain pending in the GOP-controlled Legislature. And that means his 2013 address on Wednesday could be similar — less of a long list of new policy proposals and more of a focus on unfinished business.

The governor had mixed results with his State of the State priorities in 2012.

Passage of a plan to phase out or cut taxes that businesses pay on industrial machinery and other equipment? Check. But it now hinges on a statewide vote in 2014 because of concerns over replacing tax revenue that local governments rely on for non-public safety services.

Legislative approval of a new Detroit-Windsor international bridge? No. So Snyder struck a deal on his own with Canada to build it and successfully campaigned against a ballot measure — paid for by owners of the private Ambassador Bridge — designed to halt the new government-backed bridge.

Requirements for insurers to cover autism treatments? Done. Adding into law an existing state authority to oversee Michigan's worst K-12 schools? Stay tuned.

Lawmakers rejected his call to authorize a state-created online marketplace where people and businesses can shop for health insurance. So to meet requirements of the federal health care law, the governor is working on an exchange to be run predominantly by the federal government.

Also stalling was Snyder's push for $1.4 billion in new spending on roads and bridges. He said this week he will give a more specific proposal in this State of the State than the "general framework" outlined in an October 2011 special message.

His earlier proposal was actually pretty detailed in parts, as he sought to replace state per-gallon gasoline taxes paid at the pump with a wholesale tax on fuel to provide a more stable funding source. Gas tax revenues have dropped as people drive less and switch to more fuel-efficient cars.

Snyder suggested increased registration fees of $120 per vehicle as a way to raise revenues, yet said he would let legislators take the lead and he was not tied to any one way of raising extra funds. Bills to raise the gas tax and registration fees were introduced after the 2012 State of the State but died at year's end.

Though Republican legislative leaders seem willing to tackle the "pothole" problem this year, finding enough support for tax or fee increases in the House and Senate will be extremely difficult.

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Michigan says the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gas tax already is high and Michigan's 6 percent sales tax on gasoline does not go toward road repairs and maintenance. Democrats still bitter over the GOP's right-to-work votes in December may not be there to back Snyder when he gets resistance from rank-and-file Republicans.

"Lame duck marked a real low point at the Capitol in terms of trust, transparency and fair dealings," said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, an East Lansing Democrat. "I'd like to hear an agenda that really is about helping the masses, the people of our state. The governor helped his corporate friends."

Though the transportation issue remains in flux, a State of the State success for Snyder was in public safety.

He hinted at, and later secured, more money to run new trooper schools and put state police in crime-ridden Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw. He failed, however, in persuading legislators to enact changes to campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws designed to bring about more government transparency and accountability.

"It was a productive year," Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven said. "The governor and his legislative partners worked on a very substantial agenda, much of which was outlined in last year's address. It's no surprise that some items might be pushed into this year given the competing priorities they were up against, but that's how democracy works. The main thing is that much of the governor's agenda was accomplished and Michigan is better off because it."

What is not mentioned in a State of the State speech, of course, can be just as important if not bigger than what is.

"Hearing the State of the State last year, one never could have anticipated right to work," said Craig Ruff, a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing and a former aide in Gov. William Milliken's administration.

The law ending requirements that workers pay union dues or fees to hold onto their job won approval in December, once a resistant Snyder came out publicly for it after labor unions' attempt to enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution was rejected by voter in November.

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Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 .

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