MARQUETTE - Gov. Rick Snyder lauded the newly-created mining severance tax and two Upper Peninsula Republican lawmakers Thursday in his third State of the State Address before the state Legislature.
The severance tax -which occupied the time and energy of numerous local and state officials and mining company interests over the past year- resulted in a simpler tax structure for projects including Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains.
The package of six bills, introduced by former state Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, also created a Rural Development Fund from some of the tax proceeds, which will finance infrastructure and job-related initiatives throughout Michigan.
"We made great progress in terms of doing severance tax reform," Snyder said. "That's something we needed in Michigan for non-ferrous metals. It's a huge issue for the Upper Peninsula and we should be proud of the outcome."
Snyder said more mining is on the way for the region.
"We have a dozen potential mining projects either in process or on the drawing board and this tax change will help encourage them to come to Michigan, bring jobs to the Upper Peninsula, help the Rural Development Fund that can help Michiganders across the state," Snyder said. "Good work."
Snyder praised creation of a downstate regional transit authority, which was guided by legislation sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.
"A huge accomplishment of something that had been 40 years in the making, this was attempt 24 and success happened, it's known as the Regional Transit Authority for Southeastern Michigan and it was a great effort of people working together and I want to thank you for all that hard work," Snyder said. "On the legislative side, I want to give a shout out to Senator Tom Casperson for his great work in making the RTA happen ... its a very quotable line: A Yooper brought mass transit to metro Detroit."
Casperson said it was "pretty cool" being mentioned by the governor, "especially the part about a Yooper fixing Detroit's problem."
Snyder also mentioned state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who is reintroducing legislation putting skill trades job training into the state K-12 educational curriculum.
"On the skill trades training side, there's opportunities there for us to do much better," Snyder said. "'Cause skill trades, there are open jobs in Michigan that we're not filling, and on that topic I really look forward to working with several representatives on that: Representatives (Joel) Johnson, (R-Clare) McBroom and (Aric) Nesbitt (R-Lawton). So thanks for signing up to help be part of the team to get things done there."
Casperson, who said there's much more work to be done, said Snyder's address was a chance for the busy Legislature to realize recent accomplishments, including moving Michigan to become the "fastest turnaround state."
"We've been going so hard down here we've never looked back," Casperson said. "There's been a dramatic change and for the positive."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.