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Gov. Snyder struggles with timing, travel, and fellow Republicans

Governor Rick Snyder was overseas last week as his top legislative priority tanked in the state House. And now he has to pick up the pieces.

'Good jobs'

The state’s economic developers have big dreams of landing big employers offering thousands of workers big paychecks. So, they hatched this idea of letting big businesses keep the state income taxes paid by their employees in exchange for creating jobs in Michigan. The legislation is known as “Good Jobs for Michigan.”

A lot of Democrats - and some Republicans, for that matter - don’t like the legislation. They think it amounts to corporate welfare. But, the plan passed the GOP-led state Senate.

However, it stalled in the state House. Where it sat until last week. And, that’s where this Lansing drama really begins.

Looking for a deal

Republican Speaker of the House Tom Leonard doesn’t like the ‘Good Jobs’ bills. But, he told Governor Snyder, as a courtesy, that if Snyder could get enough votes for the legislation that he would allow the issue to go to the House floor.

After negotiations, it looked like Snyder had the votes. Democrats, apparently, had agreed to put up some votes for the bill and, in exchange, Snyder would not take up any legislation dealing with labor relations or union bargaining rights.

“Unbeknownst to us, we believe that deals were cut with the Democrats that were never discussed with us. We found this out late in the game,” Speaker Leonard told reporters.

Leonard was not happy. Republicans were not happy.

Where’s Snyder?

Now, normally, this would be a situation where a governor would step in and make some reassurances at such a critical moment. But Governor Snyder was not at the Capitol. He was in Paris at the International Paris Air Show, finalizing some business deals.

The timing could not have been worse.

Yet again

This is not the first time that Snyder has been gone during make-or-break negotiations.

During a deal, for example, to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare in 2013, Snyder was in Israel. He famously had to cut his trade trip short to come back. He arrived home just in time to witness the deal collapse. Not in time to salvage it. That would come later.

Snyder keeps scheduling these trade trips seemingly without regard to the legislative calendar. His absence this time around was noted and lamented in Lansing.

The Snyder administration would like the topic of discussion to be the deals he got done in Europe.

And, instead, it’s the deal he and his business-class base couldn’t pull off because there are some deals only a governor can pull off.

But he’s got to be there to do it. 

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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