Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that Mitt Romney will likely emerge as the winner of the state’s Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Thank you so much for coming in, governor.
RICK SNYDER: It’s great to be with you, Al.
HUNT: We’ll talk about the Michigan economy, I promise. But, first, all political eyes are on the Wolverine State for next Tuesday. Who’s going to win the Michigan primary?
HUNT: Going away?
SNYDER: Well, it’s close.
SNYDER: But he’s made a lot of progress off the last week or so, in terms of the polling. And importantly, he’s getting an opportunity now to get around Michigan and talk about what he’s achieved and where he wants to head, and that’s the important thing.
HUNT: Let’s head back to politics, just a couple Michigan questions: Detroit a near basket case economically. How likely is it that you will have to appoint an emergency manager to run the city?
SNYDER: Well, I don’t want to have to. And we’re making progress, working with the city, the mayor, the city council on a consent agreement, which is basically an agreement between the three parties to say, “Let’s work our way out of this in a more positive way.”
HUNT: And you think you can avoid then -
SNYDER: I hope so. Again, that’s the goal, is I don’t want to appoint an emergency manager.
HUNT: How soon do you have to make a decision?
SNYDER: We’re probably going to have about another 30-day period here to get through that. The other thing is, it’s interesting when people talk about Detroit -- Detroit has a lot of great things going for it. The city is financially challenged, but there’s such good news going on in Detroit that it shouldn’t -
HUNT: It does.
SNYDER: - overwhelm that, and that’s one of the challenges is to make sure we talk about the good things for -
HUNT: Culture, people and the Tigers.
HUNT: And the Lions.
SNYDER: Or the Lions and Red Wings. But one of the nice things is, there’s like 98 percent occupancy in midtown Detroit now for apartments, with young people coming into the city. It’s an appealing place for -
HUNT: Well, your state is recovering, too. You still have a high unemployment rate, but it’s down a lot. Things have come back. And yet some critics say now’s the time, you have a decaying infrastructure, you know, K-12, you’re only kind of returning the budgets to where they were before they were cut. The University of Michigan system is challenged. Shouldn’t you be investing now?
SNYDER: Well, we are. And we had a budget surplus this year, and we’re investing that back, but we’re not just spending money. That’s one of the challenges that, not being a career politician, coming from the private sector, is too often people just talk about spending money. We’re investing wisely, so we’re talking about best practices, about watching real results for real people, much like you would in the business world. That needs to come to the public sector, and I believe we’re going to be a leading state in making that happen.
HUNT: And part of your success story in the last year or two, of course, has been the auto industry really has come back, GM with the great profits. Chrysler is now profitable. You have said that the government rescue plan was necessary and good. Your candidate, Mitt Romney, opposed it. He was for something that he said would not have been a government bailout at all. The auto industry and others say, if he’d done that, the industry would have gone bankrupt and there would not be a GM and a Chrysler today. Isn’t that a problem for that candidate out in Michigan?
SNYDER: No, what I actually said was - is I’m not going to armchair quarterback.
HUNT: No, I know. I’m talking about, isn’t it a problem - not for you, but isn’t it a problem for Romney?
SNYDER: Well, again, in some ways, he had a different solution, and that might have worked, but we’ll never know. So that’s part of the point about not wasting time.
HUNT: Hank Paulson says it wouldn’t have worked. Mike Jackson, a Republican who you know, the head of the auto dealers, says that when he says that, that’s just disingenuous, it’s not true, it had no chance to work. And where would they have gotten the credit? You’re in private equity. Where would they have gotten the credit?
SNYDER: Well, there’s where I view this as a lot of hypotheticals, because it’s interesting, though. All the time that’s been spent on the auto bailout, people really aren’t discussing the relevant question. And the relevant question in my view is to ask these candidates, what are you going to do to drop the unemployment rate by 50 percent going forward?
HUNT: Going forward.
SNYDER: And people are - so they’re spending way too much time on looking at history where, as you talked about, we were worst in the nation for unemployment. Now we’ve made huge improvements. We’re at 9.3 percent, but that’s still too high. And the question is, is how do we get to 4 percent or 5 percent?
HUNT: Well, that is the most important - but you don’t think the auto industry could have gotten private money back in 2008, do you? You don’t disagree with Paulson and Mike Jackson and Steve Rattner and all the others?
SNYDER: I just don’t even go there. I don’t see the value -
HUNT: But you don’t know any place that they would have gotten it?
SNYDER: Well, again, I don’t speculate. I view it as it’s not an armchair quarterback -
HUNT: I’m not going to get you to go there, governor.
SNYDER: I look towards - I look towards the future, because that’s - too much time spent on doing negative things, and we need to get the public sector much more focused on common-ground solutions. That’s why we’re getting so much done in Michigan. I call it relentless positive action. We don’t blame anyone for anything. We don’t take credit for anything. We just go find common ground, advance a solution, and make progress, and it works.
HUNT: Speaking of the future, another candidate, Rick Santorum, has called for eliminating totally any tax on manufacturing. You’re a big manufacturing state. Good idea?
SNYDER: Well, again, I think - I’m in favor of a very balanced tax system that’s simple, fair and efficient. It’s about a lower rate, broader base. And that’s what we did in Michigan. We eliminated the Michigan business tax. It was the dumbest tax in the United States. It was a job-killer. And we got rid of it, but we put in a flat 6 percent corporate net income tax that works well.
HUNT: How about the federal government eliminating tax on manufacturing, as Santorum says? Would that be good for Michigan?
SNYDER: Well, it’d be good for Michigan. I’m not sure in terms of best tax policy overall that’s the best answer, though.
HUNT: You prefer the Romney tax plan.
SNYDER: Well, Romney - Governor Romney has a good tax plan. And he has a good plan overall, because one of the things that he talks about that I admire is he talks about talent and the need to really connect people with where the jobs are.
For example, in Michigan, we started a portal last fall called mitalent.org. There are 76,000 open jobs in Michigan. That would drop our unemployment rate by almost 2 percent if we filled those jobs. And not much was being done to connect people with the opportunities or let them know what skills they need to be successful. So we’re helping lead that, and I think that’s something that should happen all around the country.
HUNT: Governor, in the Republican debates and in campaign commercials, there’s been a lot of union bashing, talking about labor bosses. Is that a winning line that resonates with voters? Or do you worry that that’s divisive and counterproductive?
SNYDER: Well, it resonates with some voters, obviously. But as a practical matter, I stay away from divisive issues. That’s why I’ve said in Michigan, I don’t want to see right-to-work legislation -
HUNT: Would you like to see the candidates stay away from union bashing or labor boss talk?
SNYDER: Yeah, because - well, I view it as the key thing is to create jobs. And it’s really looking toward the future.
HUNT: So stay away from -
SNYDER: Yeah, and there’s a lot of good issues out there. And that’s what we’ve done in Michigan.
HUNT: I’m not putting words in your mouth when I say stay away from that stuff, am I?
SNYDER: Well, I stay away from it as a practical matter.
HUNT: And would you like to see your candidates stay away from it?
SNYDER: Well, what I would say is, is I think we need to be focused on the forward-looking question of, how do we create more and better jobs? And how do we create a future for our kids?
HUNT: Governor, one more question. I couldn’t get you to talk about the auto bailout thing, but it’s popular in Michigan. The polls show Barack Obama is well ahead of Republicans right now, today. It’s going to be pretty uphill to defeat Barack Obama in Michigan in the fall, isn’t it?
SNYDER: I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I mean, I’m used to uphill races in the races I ran in Michigan.
HUNT: You are. Right.
SNYDER: I started in the margin of error. It’s really getting to a dialogue that focuses on the future, the jobs question. And, again, I think that’s one of the challenges, is I don’t think our system works well today, because we spend too much time looking at the past and not the present. And the average citizen wants to know where their next job is or the job for their kids.
HUNT: Am I right in saying Obama would be the favorite, though?
SNYDER: He would be the favorite, according to all the polls.
SNYDER: But as a practical matter, I come back to this again and again. I ran in Michigan, and there are a lot of issues - and the two things that are on people’s minds are more and better jobs for the future and a brighter future for the kids. And I think Michigan’s a great microcosm of the country. We’re solving the problems that are being struggled with at the national level.
HUNT: Michigan is a great state. Governor Rick Snyder, thank you so much for being with us.
SNYDER: Thank you.
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