Bill Schuette Talks State Government
‘The growth is in states that have lower taxes and fewer regulations’
The original interview was conducted in Midland on April 20, 2018.
EVAN CARTER: Hi there, my name is Evan Carter. I’m a reporter with Michigan Capitol Confidential. Today I’m joined by Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill Schuette. Thank you for being with us today, attorney general.
BILL SCHUETTE: Listen, thank you, Evan. Great to be here. It’s wonderful to be at the Mackinac Center. This is Schuette unplugged here at the Mackinac Center with a great Hillsdale grad. So, good day, great to be here.
CARTER: Well first, help us get to know you, attorney general. What kept you in the state as an adult, and what’s your favorite part of living here?
SCHUETTE: Well you know I’m born and raised in Midland, Michigan. You know, my roots go farther back than that. My mom — my grandfather, was a shop teacher, my grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Cleveland, Ohio, and my mom and dad were high school sweethearts. They grew up in the Great Depression. Which was a time, for historians, out there in the internet, the Great Depression was a time of economic calamity in America. People were out of hope, out of work, and out of luck. It was a really disastrous time economically for America.
My dad, fortunately, was able to land a job at Dow Chemical, in Midland, Michigan. And so, my mom and dad motored from Cleveland, Ohio, to Midland, Michigan, planted their flag, and started the Schuette family. But, tragically when I was just a boy of six and my dad was a man of 47, he died of a heart attack. But my mom was tough and resilient. She persevered and raised my two older sisters and me, and so Midland, Michigan, is my home and I married a young girl at the bus stop on Applewood Road in Midland, who, by the way, ignored me for about 20 years, so I’m an acquired taste to be sure.
But now, my wife Cynthia and I have two children; Midland is our home. We have a daughter who is 25 and a son who is 22, will be 22. So the Schuettes call Midland our home and that’s — I’m a Michigan guy and I want to make sure that we drive our state forward and I’m running for governor because I want our state to grow and, we need to be a growth state and we need to be a paycheck state, we need to be a job state. In order to achieve that, we need to have a jobs governor.
CARTER: OK, so switching on to policy questions now. In the past number of years, the state of Michigan has given about a billion dollars in general fund revenue annually in select tax credits to specific businesses and last year the Legislature passed two more major tax credit packages. Was this a good idea, or was this a bad idea?
SCHUETTE: I think the whole predicate in terms of policy for me and for Michigan is where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? 2018 is a pivotal point for Michigan; we can either go backwards, or we can go forwards. We cannot go backwards.
We can’t go back to the Jennifer Granholm disciples and lieutenants that drove our state to the ground. We need to go forward. Now, we’ve rebounded, right? But we’re still, to this day, 300,000 jobs short of where we were during the lost decade of Granholm. Fifty-five counties in Michigan have lost population in this decade; they play 8-man football teams. And they have to combine schools together to get enough skiers to compete against other schools in skiing contests. Now, this is not a story, Evan, about, do you like football or do you like skiing. I like them both, but the point is, our big challenge in Michigan is population. We need to grow our state.
So we need to have an environment, and I think that people at the Mackinac Center and policy folks in Michigan understand, we need to have an environment and a lens. A lens for Michigan that is clear and vibrant and expansive. That is about entrepreneurism, free markets, and free thinking. And that’s the type of environment we have to do to increase jobs for big businesses and small.
Now, there’s a war out there right? There’s an economic civil war and the competition for jobs and placement and industries is fierce. Now I don’t believe in unilateral disarmament, right. So object, objective one is have an environment of low taxes, fewer regulations, and so we can win again. The second objective is let’s compete against other states. I want to us to win against the Floridas, and the Carolinas, and the Tennessees, where their growth is better than Michigan’s.
I’m not settling for second best; you got to have big aspirations if you want to achieve anything in Michigan and in America, so we have to have big goals. So we also need to compete against other states that offer incentives for businesses to plant capital and build jobs. But, but, it ought to be balanced. We need to treat Michigan companies and Michigan businesses with the same part of incentives to make sure that they also are rewarded for growth just like we’d like to attract other businesses. But you can’t play one against the other, and you need to make sure you’re not willy-nilly handing out tax credits and some company pockets them and doesn’t build jobs.
CARTER: You mentioned tax cuts. If you were governor and an income tax cut down to 3.9 percent was on your desk, would you sign it?
SCHUETTE: Let me tell you that is one of the number one, the number one agenda on my desire to serve as governor. It’ll be the first point. Because, you know, this Granholm tax increase years ago was supposed to have been rolled back; it never has been and that’s one of the centerpieces of what we need to do in terms of tax policy is driving a stake through the legacy of the lost decade of Jennifer Granholm and eliminating that tax increase once and for all.
Now, here’s why. It has cost, the Granholm tax increase, has cost Michigan $8 billion since it was passed. We ought to put that money back into people’s pockets. Contrast that with what Trump and the Republicans are doing, in Congress in Washington. We’ve rolled back taxes on the national level and think what that means for Michigan, as an example. We’re going to bring the production of the RAM truck from Mexico to Michigan in the Warren truck plant. That’ll be a billion dollars investment, 2,500 new jobs. And everybody at Fiat Chrysler Automotive is receiving a Trump tax cut of $2,000.
Now in Michigan, we should couple the tax increases from Washington by rolling back taxes here in our state. And I want to eliminate that Granholm tax increase. It means that this is the guiding principle for Bill Schuette. We need to make sure that people get to keep more of what they earn and the government takes less of what you make. That’s why I’m for rolling back the Granholm tax increase.
We need to compete and you’ve got me on a roll here, because the point is, you look across America, where is the growth? The growth is in states that have lower taxes and fewer regulations, and that’s the type of Michigan we need to have.
Look at it this way, we’ve lost five members of Congress over several decades. We once had 19 members of Congress; we’ll have 13 members of Congress after the next census. The math is easy; you don’t have to be a wizard to understand that. Other states are beating us, growing more than we are, and I want to be judged as governor of the state of Michigan, where we’re adding members of Congress instead of losing members of Congress, and let’s build schools instead of consolidate and close schools. That’s the governor I want to be.
CARTER: Switching gears quickly, criminal justice reform. That would be a big issue a governor would have to deal with. What do you think about this issue, and are there any specific reforms you’d like to talk about in the criminal justice system.
SCHUETTE: You know, I think it’s important on this issue of criminal justice, that two points are firmly in mind. Number one, people want to have safe streets and secure neighborhoods, and so the schools are places of learning not of violence. But it also means we’re a country with a heart and spirit of second chances, and it’s the 21st century, and that’s why I think it’s important that you try to differentiate between violent and nonviolent crime.
There are bills going through the Michigan Legislature right now that try to address this issue of differentiating violent crime and nonviolent crime in terms of accelerating the parole opportunities for nonviolent offenders. [Rep.] Klint Kesto has a bill moving through the Legislature right now that I think will pass, and I’d be pleased by that.
I also, as attorney genera,l worked with prosecuting attorneys across the state of Michigan and we had seven civil asset forfeiture bills passed, which is a reflection of due process, the constitution, and fairness. So, I’ve had a track record of making sure we have strong record of public safety but also respect for the constitution and due process and private property rights. And this new approach that Rep. Kesto and others in the House and Senate are trying to launch and pass, I think is a positive step forward.
We can achieve things in Michigan and as governor, I want to make sure that everyone knows that everyone needs a second chance. We ought to have hearts that reflect that and make sure that our streets are safe and secure and our schools as well.
CARTER: On to energy. In 2008, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and then in 2016, Gov. Snyder expanded upon it. So now our energy, electricity energy providers have to get 15 percent of their energy from what the state deems as a renewable energy source. Was this renewable energy portfolio a good idea, or was this a bad idea?
SCHUETTE: I think this 15 percent renewable standard is a pragmatic decision made by everyone in the state of Michigan. I believe you need to have a mix, a mix of energy alternatives and options for a state to be strong and viable. That means a mix of gas, clean coal, nuclear, renewables, a balanced portfolio for energy use and mix. We’ve achieved that in the state of Michigan; the 15 percent renewable standard, I think has it about right, and now let’s go forward and try to have reliable, consistent energy sources so that we thrive and grow. This is all about jobs; this is all about paychecks.
As attorney general, what I did was, I sued the Obama administration because they tried to go around Congress. You couldn’t get the handcuffs that Obama wanted, you couldn’t get it through the legislature in Washington, so they went around and put some job-killing rules and regulations forward. And as attorney general of the state of Michigan, I sued the Obama administration in a case called Michigan v. EPA. It was like the Supremes: Stop in the name of love; stop in the name of Michigan and Schuette. We beat Obama and the EPA and their job-killing regulations because they couldn’t establish a clear cost-benefit rationale for their handcuffing regulations. And so I get the importance of making sure that the states have responsibilities, and we can’t have a federal government trying to impose energy costs that suffer at the hands of Michigan workers. Michigan workers suffer of that.
CARTER: So speaking of energy costs, residents in Michigan have the highest energy costs, on average, according to the federal agency that tracks that, the Energy Information Administration. As governor, what would you do to bring down residential energy rates?
SCHUETTE: I think everybody feels this pinch, whether you have a cold winter, or a hot summer. The energy rates we pay, it sticks you in the pocketbook. So when people have their Tuesday night finance night, or you look at your bills when you’re sitting at your home and there’s too many bills and not enough check, and so that’s why cutting income tax rates; that’s why having real auto insurance reform where we drop the rates are important for pay increases for Michigan families and another ingredient of the stress on people is the issue of energy costs.
What I will offer as governor, as someone who understands relationships and understands the desire to make sure that people have lower cost. I’ll work with the energy providers in the state firsthand, directly, in person, and with members of the Legislature, and I want to do everything we can to make sure we have a strong energy portfolio where customers and companies have choice and ways we can drive our costs down to the person, you know, in Monroe or Menominee and north, south, east, west, so I get the call for lower energy rates.
CARTER: When you say choice, are you referring to energy choice in terms of buying more than, it’s like 90 percent cap, now are you referring to that specifically?
SCHUETTE: Yeah, I’m referring to that. I think that’s an element that always needs to be explored, so there’s greater choice and opportunities for consumers and customers and businesses, small and large, to have the lowest rates as possible.
CARTER: Another issue that a governor would have to deal with is Michigan’s low-income residents. There is a number of them, what would you do, what are some government policies you think you could remove or encourage to be removed that would make their life easier?
SCHUETTE: I look at it this way, everybody in the state, the real drive is paychecks, right? And income. We need to have a state that has more jobs and more paychecks, so part of the opportunity you can give people is have a thriving economy and a growing economy. And right now, Michigan is a state where other states are growing faster than we are, we talked about that earlier in our discussion here, where their population is increasing and in Michigan is steady.
I’m not going to be governor, Evan, I’m not going to be governor and manage Michigan’s decline. If people want a shrinking-pie theory for Michigan, I’ll have none of that. I happen to have bold aspirations, big goals, not tiny, small, or incrementalism. That’s done. I want to make sure we have big goals for Michigan’s future — that means more jobs, more paychecks and lower taxes. We’ve talked about that; I think that helps people who are low income.
Also, I think requiring a work requirement for Medicaid for able-bodied adults who are not seniors are important. Because this element of work is an ethic and in a culture we need to reinforce all the time. I think that helps people who are low income. Also, in terms of health care, we need to have a system that is market-orientated, where people get to choose their doctors. The one-payer clarion calls out there, it would be a dead end street for options, choices and lower costs in terms of health care. I mean, look at the VA. The fact that we do not honor our veterans properly in the VA, and some of the problems and failures there, is a great example of why a single-payer system is a bad idea.
So let’s have greater choices in health care, which helps lower-income people and also sometimes the rules and regulations that come out on, whether it’s painters or braiding, or hairdressing, what have you, I’m not being funny about that. These are rules and regulations that I think hamper low-income folks who are trying to make it. Let’s try to have, to give folks a boost and a help instead of having a “Oh, you got to pass this test,” or “You have to get this license.” Let’s ease up on licensing requirements so that people can have entrepreneurism at the heart and spirit of their future instead “Oh, my gosh, I gotta get a license from the government.” What a happy day that’s — not.
CARTER: What would you say is the most important issue facing the state of Michigan, right now, Attorney General Bill Schuette?
SCHUETTE: I think the biggest, most important issue facing Michigan right now is population. And hey listen, I’m an optimist. I’m Michigan’s optimist, I’m probably America’s optimist, but our biggest challenge is population.
Other states are growing faster than we are. Look at the five biggest cities in the United States of America. Where are they located? Texas. You know a hundred — a 747 planeload of people move to Austin, Texas, every day to live; 110 people move to Nashville, Tennessee, every day to live. Now why does that happen? Is that because of the temperature, climate? No. It’s about lower taxes, fewer regulations, fewer rules, an economic climate that encourages growth, opportunity and freedom. And that’s the lens that I view Michigan’s future by.
We need to make sure we grow our population because I’m not going to be a governor who manages Michigan’s decline, and you know sometimes people say, “Bill why do you want to cut taxes?” We cannot afford not to cut taxes, because if we don’t have more growth, and if our state doesn’t grow, we’ll be a smaller, shrinking, less significant Michigan.
I want to serve as Michigan’s governor to be Michigan’s jobs governor. So we have more paychecks, more growth and more jobs. Also, I think it’s an attitudinal thing. I want people to cop an attitude. I want people to cop an attitude about Michigan’s future and that if we have the right goals, if we have the right vision, we have the right aspirations that’s big, bold and it’s all about entrepreneurism and free markets, Michigan can be a state that will be second to none. Where people plant their flag, where people raise their children, and where people build their futures.
CARTER: Thank you for being with us today, attorney general.
SCHUETTE: Delighted to be here, thank you.
CARTER: If you would like to see all of our gubernatorial interviews, or you’d like to see news on politics and policy in Michigan, check out MiCapCon.com or look us up on Facebook.
This is the fifth and final interview in a series of interviews with Michigan gubernatorial candidates we released throughout May and June. In addition to this interview with Attorney General Bill Schuette, we also interviewed State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Dr. Jim Hines and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, all Republicans; and Shri Thanedar, a Democrat. Michigan Capitol Confidential reached out to Democrats Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, businessman Bill Cobbs and former State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer but was unable to secure interviews with them.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.