A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

As a retired state of Michigan worker, Jeannie Aten of Chelsea was concerned that Rick Snyder was going to get rid of her health benefits.

"If you are," Aten told the GOP gubernatorial candidate at his first town hall since winning the primary, "I'm not going to vote for you."

About 180 people filled an old train depot Tuesday in Chelsea and fired questions at Snyder ranging from what to do about unions to how to handle tax subsidies for businesses.

Aten said after the meeting that she voted for Andy Dillon in the Democrat primary for governor and her husband voted for Peter Hoekstra in the GOP race.

"When it (the primary) was over, we looked at each other and said, 'Back to the drawing board,'" Aten said.

And that was Snyder's message, too.

"Fixing Michigan is not good enough," Snyder said. "It's time to reinvent the state."

Snyder handled Aten's question by saying that there needed to be a "discussion" on state retiree health care.

"What is financially affordable?" Snyder asked.

Snyder spoke on a myriad of topics for about an hour.

He said the state's current method of economic development "was not the way to do it."

The state was picking "winners and losers" by favoring industries and "overusing incentives like popcorn and candy," Snyder said.

The incentives should be scaled back and be used to create a competitive playing field and then let the free market take over, he said.

"We sort of lost our way," he noted.

Snyder called "right to work" legislative "extremely divisive" and said  "it is not on my agenda." He said it was the equivalent to a "World War III discussion."

He believes that public employee compensation is one of the toughest issues facing the next governor.

"Is it financially affordable?" Snyder asked. "What is it comparable to in the private sector? If you can't check those boxes, we need to have a discussion."

Snyder said the one question that gets the fastest response from public employees is when he asks them what their retirement date is.

He blamed the poor morale of the public-sector workforce on bureaucracy and poor management, and told the crowd that if he had a business where all the employees were looking at their retirement date, "I would feel like a failure."

Snyder dodged a question from a public school employee about school funding. He told him that the state had to take a "step back" and look at what was the underlying reason for having an education system. He said the state needs to look at how it deals with academics, how it rewards successful teachers and how to minimize overhead.

"We need to invest in our education system," Snyder said.

In the end, Aten said Snyder has won her vote.

"I liked his answers," Aten said after the meeting. "I think he has a good feel for what has to be done. And something has to be done."

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