In less than a month, Michigan voters will choose between Senator Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Bill Schuette to determine the next governor as well as the direction of Michigan’s future.
Recently, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative sat down with Republican candidate, Attorney General Bill Schuette, for an in-depth, hour long interview with a panel of its reporters from WDET, Chalkbeat Detroit, Bridge Magazine, Michigan Radio, and Detroit Public Television. The DJC reporters asked AG Schuette about his stances on issues including, but not limited to education, the economy, the environment, and social issues.
Featured Image: Bill Schuette at the 2010 Michigan Republican State Convention, Photo by Bill Rice via flickr cc 2.0
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: We’d like to welcome Attorney General Bill Schuette, Republican candidate for governor. Thank you so much for participating in our gubernatorial candidate interviews. I’m Jerome Vaughn from WDET. In the room today and doing the questions are the members of the Detroit Journalism Co-operative. The DJC is made up of six media outlets including the Detroit Public Television, Bridge Magazine, Michigan Radio, Chalkbeat Detroit, New Michigan Media and of course, WDET. We’d also like to thank John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for support on this project. Today’s panel starting to my left includes Koby Levin from Chalkbeat Detroit, Lindsay VanHulle from Bridge Magazine, Bill Kubota from Detroit Public Television and Tracy Samilton from Michigan Radio. So for the next hour, each journalist will ask a series of questions, and we’ll follow up on your answer if they need more specifics. I’ll give us a 30 minute time reminder so that we can stay on track.
Bill Schuette: Well it’s great to be here. Thank you Jerome and Tray and Bill and Lindsay and Koby. Been looking forward to this. And thank you for the opportunity.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: Our first set of questions is about the subject of education and that first question goes to Koby Levin.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Mr. Schuette.
Bill Schuette: Call me Bill it’s much easier.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Bill, then. education experts across the political spectrum believe that Michigan needs to rethink the way it funds schools. They suggest that some students like English learners and students with disabilities need more resources to get an equitable education. Do you think Michigan schools have the resources they need to educate their students?
Bill Schuette: No, I think that this issue of education, Koby, is one of the most fundamental issues for Michigan’s future and how we drive our state forward. And the issue of whether it’s you know a fresh start or a different approach to making sure those who have a tough challenge whether it’s autism or whether it’s your your family situation we have to make sure that Michigan’s children read. So I’m all for a review of our education plan in Michigan because today today in Michigan our third grade reading scores are among the lowest in the nation. And that only 35 percent of our third graders when they complete that class are proficient in reading is outrageous. We ought to be up in arms about that. America is supposed to be described as a shining city on a hill, but if you can’t read the directions or get there or if you can’t spell opportunity, you’re out of luck and out of hope and the prism through which you you see Michigan and you see America is cloudy and is pretty grim. And what’s your future.
Well it’s probably a life of crime maybe in prison but if you can’t read, you’re just out of hope here in Michigan that has to change. And so I think it needs to be outcome focused–how can our outcomes be better? And we need to have from my perspective a review of how the K to 12 budget is allocated and some of those monies have been going into higher education which is a worthy cause but I think our K through 12 budget, Koby, needs to be used for K through 12 budget. And then we need to focus on outcomes. And from my standpoint we need to have–grade our schools A through F.
So a report card for families as to how good is your local school going to going. Now I went to public schools in my hometown of Midland so did my wife and so did our two children, but you know not everyone gets an education like that today. And the fact is we need to provide grants to those schools that are showing improvement. I believe in incentives. So those schools that are showing higher performance let’s reward them with additional funds. And as Governor, I’m going to have a literacy director in the governor’s office because of the significance of reading. We need to have a culture of reading in Michigan. I’m going to build and create a Michigan reading foundation where the philanthropic and business community can invest so we can have summer reading camps and reading coaches and we need to work on pre-K reading as well. Reading is the fundamental issue.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Wanna jump in here.
Bill Schuette: Please.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: You mentioned a review of funding for education in Michigan. Right now our funding system allocates about the same amount of money to every school regardless of the challenges students face. Do you think that’s the most equitable way to fund schools or is there a different way?
Bill Schuette: Well I think we have to look at how we can provide greater training for teachers and for those who have a challenge in terms of their student population. How can we add to it. I’m all for that review. The fact is we need to make sure that we have a new approach because right now the current plan is getting an F. When only 35 percent of third graders are able to read, something’s wrong.
Bill Schuette: And that needs to be full focus and attention it will be when I’m governor.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: Dozens of schools are currently in partnership agreements with the state that lay out deadlines for improving test scores. What would you do if those schools failed to hit those targets.
Bill Schuette: Well, I look at it this way that we need to have consistent markers. It’s as if you too often it seems here in Michigan where we’ve we’ve changed the marker we’ve changed the goalpost. It’d be as if you were moving the field goal in different places on a football field. Let’s have consistent markers and let’s use that is the determination as to how are we succeeding or not. And if they’re not succeeding in reading scores and test scores test scores, then we’re going to have to devote resources people and money in order to make sure we improve. The fact is I want to be judged when I run for re-election as governor. Are more Michigan children reading that will be my commitment. That is my how I want to be judged. This issue of reading is fundamental to how Michigan improves in the future.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: You know as attorney general you argued in favor of school closures. Is that still your position or would you look at a different approach?
Bill Schuette: You know from my standpoint you have to look at schools and see how we can make them improve and function better. But if a school is failing to the school isn’t doing the job then we need to first of all make sure we help the parents and help the children. I think the education policy is a four letter word: K-I-D-S. And we need to focus on the children education and outcomes that ought to be our focus and nothing but that.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: You talked about K12 budget.
Bill Schuette: Yes, sir.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: But what about preschool. We’ve got such a high cost of child care in this state. What should we do about that?
Bill Schuette: You know I was talking about this precise issue with Reverend Jim Holley who’s a friend of mine and a leading thought guy in the city of Detroit and we talked about this issue of pre K and how we can help families and really the children get this quest for reading solved. See I think every child is born with a sense of wonder and purpose. And the key thing is how we can unlock that for every child in this state. And I think the way to unlock it is reading. And that’s why summer reading camps or summer and reading coaches to help children read I think is fundamental and we need to start that as early as possible and work with parents and families. It’s all about reading for Michigan’s future.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Well, regarding pre-K, though, there is some reading going on there but there’s a universal pre K model a lot of the states are talking a lot about.
What about here in Michigan universal pre-K?
Bill Schuette: I think you know from my standpoint we ought to look at every idea and if it doesn’t work then try something else. The fact is the current status quo won’t work for Michigan. The status quo right now is failing Michigan’s children. And I want to make sure that we increase our reading levels. And here’s the point when our high school graduates finish, some will be college ready but they should not have to have remediation to go to college and then they need to learn that and K through 12 and some children want to some children to be career-ready. I think we need to have greater emphasis on apprenticeships and the skilled trades because there are important jobs, whether it’s welding ,coding, what have you. Not everybody, Bill, needs to be. Not everybody needs to be a software engineer living in San Mateo, California. There are important jobs right here in Michigan.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: So let’s go back to that. You see an expansion of a pre-K program universal?
Bill Schuette: Again, I’ll look at that, and I think you have to look at every fundamental idea on how we improve reading in Michigan. And can you. I wish we could just wave a wand and solve every problem in this state in terms of education. But I am dedicated and determined on this issue of reading and education and that’s why I want to make sure we put down a marker so that Michigan’s children read when Bill Schuette’s governor.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: I think even in Oklahoma where they’re doing universal pre-K now.
Bill Schuette: Now, you know, again, I think we’re looking at every one of those ideas how we can implement and Michigan and then look at the priorities of where we have to go. And I’m running for governor because I want our state to grow we need to be a growth state. We need to be a paycheck state. We need to be a job state. And I’m not going to see Michigan be a smaller shrinking state without sufficient resources. There’s not one problem whether it’s pre K or anything else that wouldn’t be solved, Bill, if we had more people in this state more people paying taxes pumping gas what have you. And the fact is we need to be a state that grows our population so we have more resources so we’re not a shrinking smaller less significant state where everyone will beat their chest saying well we have smaller budgets but we’re allocating a shrinking pie. I want us to build the pie, Bill.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: But so I guess you’re taking it under advisement.
Bill Schuette: Yeah, yeah, I will. And I’m a good listener. And what I’ve learned in my experience in public service ,and this is my calling, is to make sure that we bring the best people together. In management, leadership is about those you hire to work with you and I’ll have the finest women and men dedicated on this issue of reading and education and we’ll implement every sound policy we can to move our state forward.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: Bill, I want to look at Detroit in particular. Chalkbeat and Bridge recently found that almost one in three parents are switching their kids’ schools every single year primarily to try to find a better school. You know they’re they’re realizing all this school isn’t working let’s try the next one so you know what. What are the problems you see in Detroit in particular. And what are the solutions you think we need to try there that we haven’t tried before.
Bill Schuette: Well I think a couple of things, Tracy. And first of all whether you live in Detroit or whether you live in Flint or Traverse City or Ada or Benton Harbor or Alpena, the fact is you have parents and families who want their children to have an opportunity to participate in this incredible notion of freedom in Michigan, in America.
Bill Schuette: And when we see reading scores that have gone to the bottom in other states that are having better scores whether it’s math or whether it’s a reading it’s a message that our current approach is not working. So we have to have some fundamental change.
Bill Schuette: I think it’s important that parents have choices and they can choose where they want to send their child to school. So part of this, if a school is not working or it’s not isn’t have had the fit for your child well you should have the freedom to try a different school. So I think you’re sharing that issue that parents want to have the best opportunity for their child. If the schools now work and you don’t want them to be stuck in a bad situation.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: Sure. But in Detroit I mean if you look at their test scores in particular they’re not just the lowest in Michigan; they’re the lowest in the nation.
Bill Schuette: Well forty-eighth and forty-ninth.
Bill Schuette: But this–it applies across the board and it’s not a regional issue and it’s not one part of the state versus the other. Our third grade reading scores among the lowest in the nation.
Bill Schuette: What should we try. I think we should try, Tracy, to number one, grade our schools A through F as I mentioned earlier.
Bill Schuette: Second, we should provide grants and incentives for those schools that are showing better performance and having a literacy director in the governor’s office as an expression of a statement and a substance of making sure that Michigan’s children read has not been done before. and a number four: Michigan reading foundation that has been used in Florida. Jeb Bush has done that in great ways in the state of Florida. We should try to work that here in Michigan to have a culture of reading in our state. And look at it this way: say you have a child who has a challenge or special need.
There may be a school that has a program that might fit that need. But the transportation costs of getting your child from one place to another might impede that. So if you had transportation scholarships funded through the Michigan reading foundation you might give that family and parents a choice, or maybe you want to go to a different school because your neighborhood one is not to your liking. Maybe it’s not functioning as you wish. Having a transportation scholarship to get you to a different school would help as well.
Bill Schuette: I think those are the things we need to try.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: We’re going to move on to the subject of roads now. How would you rate Michigan’s roads compared to other states in terms of quality and maybe even give it a letter grade.
Bill Schuette: Well you know Jerome I don’t think anyone travels on the roads across the two peninsulas and 83 counties as much as I do.
Sometimes when I see some of these potholes I have different words associated for them–nicknames what have you. The fact is I understand the problems we have on the roads today. And the predicate for why we need to invest more in a consistent thorough fashion is that we can’t be a first world economic leader or first world economic power if we have third world roads and we need to make sure that the quest here and the solution is that the quality of our roads need to reflect the quality of our cars that are built here in Michigan.
So that’s really the goal here. I would do. I think our roads are mediocre, and I think they’re not sufficient and they have to we have to invest more in roads, bridges, and infrastructure in Michigan Michigan, which includes broadband by the way. And I would do this. Number one we need to have a view of how an audit of how MDOT spends their money and what is–everyone talks about miles per gallon. What does the what are the miles paved per gallon in terms of how we invest in roads and bridges and how they allocate transportation funds in MDOT number one.
Second, you know, I think we ought to have guarantees warranties for roads and bridges. Why is that important. Everything else that you buy and purchase has some sort of warranty or guarantee. We need to have that in the state of Michigan.
Thirdly, what I’ll do to help our state grow in terms of road funding is I will you know I have great relationships with the administration. The president and vice president and Congress. Former member of Congress, I know how that place operates. And I’ll be an advocate for Michigan to get more road funding federal funding and working with our senators and congressional delegations so that we are a more of a donee receiving state than always sending money to Washington not getting enough in return.
And then finally we have a state budget of 58 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money. And our budget has gone up in the past eight years. Not being critical I’m just saying that’s a fact. But we need and there’s a plan in place for road funding but we need to add to it. And that means that we need to allocate more funding funding for roads. And I as governor and Lisa Posthumus Lyons, an outstanding choice for lieutenant governor, we need to talk about her qualities and strengths. She and I will be on the floor of the Michigan House and Michigan Senate getting more road funding and establishing that as a priority. Every one of our listeners who has a small business or involved in some type of enterprise establishes priorities in their business. I’m going to establish priority of roads for Michigan’s future. Now, my opponent wants to tax everything that moves and when she says she wants to fix the road it’s code language she’s gonna raise your darn taxes. And so the fact is my opponent wants to raise taxes on you know what are you going to put in an infrastructure bank.
You’re going to put your taxes and everybody else’s taxes and that’s the recipe that sent us into a spiral of more taxes and more government mandates that Jennifer Granholm did during her eight years and Gretchen Whitmer, Senator Whitmer, was one of the key architects and those ingredients that sent us back to the lost decade. We’re not going to go that way we’re going to go forward in Michigan.
But what we don’t need to start raising people’s taxes.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Before we talk about how to pay for roads let’s try to get a sense of how much they’d cost. The 21st century infrastructure commission has said that Michigan needs at least 2.6 billion dollars just to fix the roads that we already have. Do you think that’s a reasonable figure?
Bill Schuette: Well, it’s you know, I think that the investment we make needs to be consistent, thorough, and I’ve work, and I’m working with those leaders and thought leaders and in transportation and the road industry. That 2 point billion or four point billion that’s 20 or 30 or 40 cents per gallon that’s not going to fly. That’s you know raising that much taxes would send us backwards what we need to do is work within the budget of the state of Michigan which is 58 billion dollars. I think you can find the investment to have consistent funding, enhanced road funding for Michigan’s future.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: But you agree that to get the roads up to par it would cost two point six–.
Bill Schuette: You know I’m going to work with the Michigan infrastructure commission and we’ll talk with road leaders in the future. The fact is is that we need to I think everybody agrees everybody agrees we need to have consistent enhanced funding for roads, but trying to raise gas taxes by 20 cents a gallon or 30 cents a gallon or 40 cents a gallon, that’s just not going to work.
And frankly it’s wrong.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: You know you mentioned it earlier one of the things that you would do to fix the roads would be to do that top to bottom with MDOT. Yeah. How will that help improve Michigan’s roads and how much money do you anticipate that it would free up.
Bill Schuette: Well, you know it’s it’s all part of a process. And again going through a spirited campaign and when the dust settles and the polls close I’m going to win this race by a narrow margin–52-48 whatever it is and we’re going to win and then we’ll start a process of how we build towards the future and we’ll work with the Michigan Department of Transportation and other leaders in the transportation industry and see how we can be more efficient. See how they allocate it see what other fresh new ideas we can have and then we’ll move forward and then there’ll be the budget process in January and February.
And Lisa Posthumus Lyons and I will be working with the leaders in the legislature, Republican leaders in the House, Republican leaders in the Senate, Democrat leaders in the House and Senate as well. I’m good at bipartisanship. I know how to get things done. I put together a commission on human trafficking where I worked with Republicans and Democrats and, now in Michigan, we have a victim centered victim centric approach to combat human trafficking. And where women who are forced to have sex are treated as victims not criminals. And so I worked on sexual assault kit funding to prosecute serial rapists and put together a school safety initiative called ‘OK to Say’ and so the fact is I know how to work with in a bipartisan fashion.
And my gosh the–in Flint. In Flint, the prosecutor there is a Democrat who is a great friend of mine outstanding leader ran a good–we ran against each other in 2010, but we know how to solve problems and that’s the type of approach, Lindsay, I’ll take as Michigan’s next governor.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: Asked as to the audit portion, though, is the thinking behind that that there’s a that there’s some inefficiencies or that MDOT is not using its funding appropriately or that it’s not putting enough toward roads that it could be?
Bill Schuette: I think it’s all about how a department is run. Again, I’m not casting aspersions or stones or anything like that but the fact is you do an audit to see how it’s been run and you do an audit to see how we can improve and you don’t go in with any preconceived notion. But I think it’s meritorious that there is merit in having every aspect of government reviewed and say OK how do we go forward. We’ve had great eight years. And the real question for Michigan is do you go forward or backwards. And I want to make sure we go forward and part of that is how we can allocate taxpayers’ resources–you know, spent even more efficient fashion.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Well maybe that’s my follow up to Koby talking about that 2.6 billion doesn’t seem like you’re all that in agreement with that number. Looking for a lower number here?
Bill Schuette: Now again I guess the point is is that you know I’ll have this privilege to serve as Michigan’s governor and we will we’ll take a review of past reports. We’ll take a review of past suggestions and say OK it’s 2019. How do we go forward. How do we best use resources in Michigan in the future. And that’s the approach I’ll take and I think it’s a sound approach.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: So regarding that number, though, what do you think?
Bill Schuette: Well, you know it. Again I’m not I’m not hung up on is the number two billion or as the number three billion. The fact is is that we’ll have a team in approach that want to build on the success of the past eight years of Governor Snyder and our Republican leadership in how we move this state forward. And so what–it’s really not an issue of a number it’s about what are the outcomes and how do we make sure that we move the state forward.
And how do we have the legislature agree to work with the governor who will be hands-on former member of Congress former member of the Michigan Senate. I can make. I can. I know how what the requirements of the women and men in the legislature to do their job and I’ll work with them to see so we have success on roads, bridges, and infrastructure.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Well, you were talking a little bit about numbers regarding repealing the Michigan prevailing wage law. The savings could be up to $250 million dollars.
Bill Schuette: Right.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: You have been talking about that we haven’t heard that much about that from you lately.
Bill Schuette: Well, you know the prevailing wage statute the elimination of that is gives Michigan a more competitive edge. And what it does is also saves taxpayers money because it’s will be done on competitive bidding not a set and not a set price or cost. And again my opponent Senator Whitmer wants to go backwards and reinstate the prevailing wage statute. I’m a right to work Attorney General. I’ll be a right to work governor. I supported that.
Now again, my opponent Senator Whitmer wants to go backwards and she wants to repeal right to work. Again, I’m about going forward and trying to reinstate the policies of the failed governorship of Jennifer Granholm is the wrong way for Michigan to go. Because remember, we had 15 percent unemployment. We lost 500,000 jobs and we–people left the state in droves. Sometimes people forget what the the failed the governorship the lost decade of Jennifer Granholm was.
You know, I was at a company last week and a woman came up to me. Her name was Pam. And she said that now she has to go to Georgia to see her family because some of her family members are the ones who left our state during the last decade. We can’t go back there, Bill, and we have to make sure that we compete and win against any other state in America. That’s the that’s my paycheck agenda to drive our state forward not going backward.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: One quick follow up on that. This is a subject we’ve been talking about for years and years and years. The public has said it’s a top agenda item item for them. Why are we still at this point?
Bill Schuette: In terms of.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: Not having the roads fixed.
Bill Schuette: Well, you know what–it’s your question is a good one and it is about leadership. It’s about drive and you know no disrespect. Our past two governors, Governor Granholm and Governor Snyder, did not have a legislative experience. And I do in a strong and effective and accomplished fashion. As a member of Congress as a member of the Michigan Senate and I understand the motivation requirements they have to deliver the women and men in the legislature to do their job and make sure that they’re performing at a high level. And I am a detailed guy and I’ll be on the floor. I’m a hands-on guy and I will want to encourage people. And you know this is just like auto insurance reform the same same issue as to roads. The fact is we haven’t had auto insurance reform in Michigan and we have the highest auto insurance rates in America.
Thousand dollars more than any other state. Why hasn’t that gotten done? Because you’d have to have the leadership that’s required. And I’ll provide that to bring parties together to say OK we need to have this consistent road funding. This is how we lower auto insurance rates in Michigan. And on that, that I’ll talk with Mayor Duggan and I think I’m Mayor Duggan’s and Detroit’s best hope because we’re going to have a republican senator–senate and republican house and we need to have a republican governor to help drive this through and help Mike Duggan in Detroiters have lower auto insurance.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: We’re going to move on to the subject of the environment. Tracy?
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: Yeah. You brought up Flint. I’d like to ask you how you’re going to make this transition from your role your prosecutorial role in helping people in Flint to the governor and making sure people are actually getting what they need.
Bill Schuette: And I’m glad you asked this question and defined it and I think in an important way. You know Flint is a city where some people like to play politics with. Flint is a city that I think wrongly some people view it as the citizens of Flint are some pawns on a chessboard. That’s that’s wrong. I, as attorney general, started an independent investigation of what laws were, if any, were broken in Flint. And remember, 12 people died in Flint and kids were poisoned. I took an oath ,Tracy, twice as attorney general to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan. So help me God. Did that twice. Did in January 1st of 2011 January 1st of 2015. And when kids were poisoned and people died. I did my job. Now some folks wanted me to just ignore it and brush it under the rug. What a caustic arrogant approach that is.
And you know what. And it would have been political if I’d done nothing and just pretend it didn’t occur. I would have violated my oath. So I make no apologies for making sure that we have a trial process now. I make no apologies that people have pled guilty to crimes because I know families in Michigan in Flint today that only drink water from a plastic bottle they wash their vegetables only with water from a plastic bottle. And so–.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: It’s expensive to do that. What are you going to do to help them as governor?
Bill Schuette: I’m helping them as governor because I’m the guy who took on a problem and filed charges where some even in my own party didn’t want that to occur. Well, you know what, I’m doing my job. I make no apologies for that. And as I am the candidate for governor who stood up for this process and this principle that there is one system of justice applies to everybody no matter who you are whether you’re a big shot or no shot at all. And I think that’s important in terms of my character and how I approach things. Then as as governor, this is an issue of rebuilding trust in government.
Bill Schuette: And I met with some pastors in Flint just this past past week and listened to them in terms of how they and their parishioners–members of their congregation are still questioning the faith and trust in government.
Bill Schuette: Gee, you wonder why. Until we rebuild trust and replace the pipes, people will still drink water from a plastic bottle. And, you know, I think we need to rebuild trust because I’m the guy who had the courage and steadfastness to provide justice to families of Flint and we need to make sure we replace those pipes from the street to the house.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: They have enough money to do that right now.
Bill Schuette: Well you know what we need to make sure it’s done and then there are a host of other issues in Flint in terms of jobs and safety. And that’s why when I work with David Leyton, the Democrat prosecutor in Flint, and Bob Pickell, the Democrat sheriff in Flint, it’s an example that you know that yeah you can have Republicans and Democrats working together and you know what you can some solve some problems.
Just an example: in Flint, David Leyton and I have worked on the opioid issue together. David Leyton and I have worked on this issue of sexual assault kits providing justice to women who experience brutal rape horrific crime and then nothing had been done. And all these sexual assault kits in a warehouse in Detroit but now I was able to get the funding and worked with prosecutors like David late and others to make sure there’s justice for victims of serial rapists in the state of Michigan.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: Governor Snyder has announced to deal with Enbridge to replace the controversial aging Line 5 pipeline beneath traits of backing not with a tunnel. You called it quote, “An important step forward in safeguarding our Great Lakes,” but environmentalists say it still doesn’t resolve the issue and it will take years to build. Is the tunnel the right solution? If so, why? if not why not?
Bill Schuette: I think the tunnel is a very good solution. Over two years ago or close to two years ago I laid out a plan and a framework with respect to Line 5. And clearly, its days are numbered. Its days are numbered and we’re going to have to replace that with a different approach, making sure that we also provide propane for our citizens in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan. Heavy reliance on propane for heating. We also need to make sure that our energy producers be able to get their product to market.
We also should have a pipeline advisory board which is similar to the Mackinac Island Advisory Board right now and legislatively legislatively we need to make sure that no heavy crudes pass through the 4.5 miles of the Straits of Mackinac. I think that the tunnel is a very good idea. I’ve advocated for that in the past. I am glad that there is an agreement now and that the sooner we get to work on that the better.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: How big of a problem is PFAS for Michigan?
Bill Schuette: Koby, PFAS, it’s a big problem for our state and we’ve seen it and I think our listeners are aware of this and a variety of different areas across the state we’ve seen it in Parchment outside of Kalamazoo. We’ve seen in Rockford north of Grand Rapids. We’ve seen it near Alpena Wurtsmith Air Force Base where sometimes it’s fire fire retardant. It might be another processes of a business where it’s leached into the aquifers and you know cause severe problems with the water table. And what we need to do in Michigan is make sure we devote sufficient state resources to providing first clean and safe water.
The citizens there and then having a clean up process and working with the federal government on that. And again this is where my relationships I’m a relationship guy I’m not perfect but I’m a relationship guy. And by my knowledge of how Congress works I think that helps us in terms of federal funding to help on cleanup and also it helps my relationship because I’m a relationship guy within the state legislature work in conjunction with the federal government to try to clean up those areas.
Remember, Article 1 of the Constitution of Michigan talks about safety. And I think that also means safe drinking water. And we owe that to citizens of Michigan.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: So how does that plan to deal with PFAS line up with your stated goal of reducing regulations broadly speaking?
Bill Schuette: Well, you know, I think that again, two separate issues. This is the 21st century. This is the 21st century–ought to be able to have economic development the state of Michigan and sound environmental practices and sound stewardship. You know etched in the DNA I think of every citizen of Michigan because we’re surrounded by these marvelous Great Lakes and we all enjoy them whether it’s a Memorial Day, Labor Day, whether it’s you know you know fishing in the winter, ice fish, doesn’t matter. We we were part of this environment, and we have a responsibility there.
But we also need to make sure we have jobs and paychecks for families in the state of Michigan. And so we can have cleanup standards we can have making sure example in terms of our Great Lakes. I want to have I want to have high standards for discharge I don’t want to have the lower federal standards as an example. I think you can make decisions to protect our Great Lakes, and we can also expand economic development because if we don’t grow our state, if we’re a shrinking state I don’t care whether you make furniture in West Michigan whether it’s cars in Detroit or everything in between. If we have a shrinking growing population it’s not sustainable. And I’m an optimist, Michigan’s optimist. But the fact is if we don’t grow our state have more flexible regulations that are competitive and tax policies that are competitive, Koby, with the Tennessees in Texas and Carolinas, there’ll be more and more people leaving Michigan.
And I here’s the here’s the best or one great indicator is that Michigan once, and we’re talking economic development and environmental policy here. Michigan once had 19 members of Congress after the next census we’re going to have 13. What does that tell you. It tells you that other states are growing faster than Michigan. And I want us to compete and win for jobs and paychecks in Michigan against the Tennessees and the Texases is in the Carolinas, and I think we can do that and still have a sound environmental policy.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: So as well as the candidate, we’re at the 30 minute mark. The next question goes to Lindsay.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: Thank you. You know funding for environmental cleanups is becoming an issue in Michigan. Governor Snyder has talked about raising fees. Still others have talked about bonding as a preferred approach. Which of those two if any do you do you favor? If none of those, what would be your plan to you to raise money for environmental cleanups?
Bill Schuette: Well I think the issue if you approach it this way. Right now, what Michigan needs to do is make sure that we have a process of more jobs and bigger paychecks for the state of Michigan. Our number one goal is to make sure that we build and grow our state. And every one of these problems we’ve talked about we’ve talked about education or talking about environment.
We can talk about roads we can talk about infrastructure. Every one of these problems we’ve talked about would be helped or minimized if we had more people in our state more people pumping gas more people paying taxes more people going to school. All of that. We have a slowly shrinking pie then it’ll put great strain on our resources. You know from my standpoint, always looking to have raised fees and have more taxes will set Michigan back. I’m going to look at how we can best have clean up processes and I’m going to work with leaders in the industry. I think the continual, Lindsay, the continual comment I say is–hear from people is work with us when you want to put together a program. Let’s work together when we’re trying to have more cleanup approaches for our environment. And that’s what I’ll do with people the immediate reaction to raise fees, I think, is the wrong idea.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: Do you then prefer bonds? Is that–.
Bill Schuette: You know, it’s an option. But again, I’m going to get there as governor with a talented group of people and will say OK it’s education. It’s cutting the income taxes, it’s lowering auto insurance rates and the next governor, Lindsay, will have a short period of time a short period of time to make big changes in our state and to move forward and we can’t have small aspirations they need to be big aspirations bold moves otherwise your capital in the town of Lansing, it sinks like a stone. And I’m not going to let that happen. So in my first days, weeks, months as governor we’re going to eliminate the Granholm Whitmer income tax increase that was supposed to have been temporary. But it’s funny how a temporary tax can be permanent in Lansing.
We’re going to drive a stake through that and then we’re going to cut auto insurance rates. In the meantime we’re looking we’ll look at OK what are the environmental cleanup approaches we should take and how do we make sure we get more money into roads. That’s the approach I will take.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: Is it fair to say that at this time you don’t have a preferred solution?
Bill Schuette: I’m I’m I’m I’m I’m open to review what the approaches are but let me to best approach might be, I’m not going to raise taxes and fees. That’s not what we should do.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Let me continue on that just a little bit. You talk about you’re going to consult with leaders in industry in your plan to fix–.
Bill Schuette: And the environmental leaders and citizens. Don’t worry I’m not leaving anybody out.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: That that was my question.
Bill Schuette: Because it’s an all of these issues. If you come in, and this is this is the experience skill set I have, Bill. If you come in with a preconceived notion to try to how you’re going this is what you have to do without having a table where people on all sides are part of it, you get nothing done. I’m an example on auto insurance rates. You know we pay a thousand dollars more than any other state in America. And I was in a parade in Macomb County, St. Clair Shores, just before Memorial Day. Guy came up grabbed me by the shirt, and he was relatively polite but he made his point.
He said, Schuette, we got to cut auto insurance rates and told me the story about his daughter his daughter not moving to Michigan because the high cost of auto insurance rates. So how do you solve that problem. Well it’s the same way you’d solve this issue on environmental problems. You bring people around a table on auto auto insurance you bring the auto insurers you bring the hospitals the medical providers, the Chamber of Commerce.
Everyone has got to give a little bit, everybody has to win a little bit. With respect to environmental matters you bring in the environmental groups, industry groups, and activists and you bring them around a table to say how can we solve the problem. That’s how I do business and that’s how we do it as governor. Oh just that I’m not gonna leave anybody out.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: So, little more about Line 5 here. Its days are numbered. This tunnel is going to take a while to build you turn off Line 5 now and wait for that tunnel to get built?
Bill Schuette: Well I think what we need to do is this announcement by the governor I think is a positive step and continue to review that approach of the tunnel. I think it’s the right approach. The tunnel is the right approach. I’ve advocated for that and the sooner we get that job done the better. And in the meantime.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Is Line 5 still running you know?
Bill Schuette: Well, let’s let’s start the construction on the tunnel and this can be supervised visual inspection. It will be a kind of utility corridor for other transmission electrical and otherwise through those 4.5 miles of the Straits of Mackinac. I think it’s a very good first step, Bill.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: Let’s transition to start the transition from the environment to the economy. Tracy?
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: So Bill, you’ve mentioned a few times in terms of where we’re going to find the money we need. We’ve got 58 billion dollar budget.
Bill Schuette: Yeah we do. That’s a fact.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: But in reality a lot of that is already you know protected, allocated for programs that we have to fund. So in reality we’ve got about 10 billion here to work with. You know, we’ve got 2.6 billion of that maybe we might need to do for roads. We don’t really have a huge pot that we can play with. Do we need to increase that pot? How do we do it?
Bill Schuette: I think you’re talking your question’s about economic growth and how does Michigan plan for the future. How do we build for the future. And, Tracy, I look at it this way. You know we were on the mat eight years ago. We were on the mat. We were on life support. Again we had 15 percent unemployment, lossed 500,000 jobs and people left the state in droves. And you know some of our kids just didn’t come back.
Bill Schuette: And the question for voters is, OK we’re going to go forward and build on the success of the last eight years where now we have in Michigan the lowest unemployment rates we’ve seen in decades. We have a desire for more talent and to fill jobs which means talents in other word we’ve got to grow our population for crying out loud. Otherwise, we’ll be a shrinking state. And here’s my viewpoint, Tracy, and you mean you may not agree with me and that’s OK.
But our job to make Michigan a leading state in America, We have to compete against Tennessees where 110 people moved to Tennessee every day. Or an Austin. A 747 planeload of people arrive in the Austin Metroplex everyday to live and work. Now why do they do that. It’s not the weather. And we all know, I betcha everybody here and then the listening audience knows that people have moved to the Carolinas or Florida or Texas and why do they do that. It’s because their taxes are lower their economic development costs are lower and you get to keep more of what you earn. So if we’re going to grow our state we better be compete and win. And that is my point.
Well, I think we need to expand the pie instead of oh my gosh those who worry about were you know we can’t we have to raise taxes to pay for everything if we don’t lower our taxes to lower our costs of investment for economic development enterprise, we will be a vacation state. People come to visit Michigan but they won’t be here to live. I want people to come to Michigan to live because this is their home and I want them to do this for six months and a day. Now where they spend the other five months and 29 days, you know I could kind of care less. I mean I wish them well, but I want the to be Michigan residents we have people who live in Michigan not just vacationing.
And so that’s why our economic growth plan and my paycheck plan, Tracy, of cutting cutting taxes eliminating the Granholm Whitmer income tax is important. And why do tax cuts help? Well just look at it here in Michigan. The administration and the republicans in Congress have cut taxes on a federal level. And now what’s happening. The Ram truck is going to be moved from Mexico to Michigan. Now, when is the last time you’ve ever heard about jobs coming from Mexico to Michigan and that’s 2,600 jobs at the Warren Truck plant. Not too far we’re filming this effort here and every Chrysler automotive worker’s getting a 2,000 dollar tax cut bonus and a billion dollar investment at the Warren Truck Plant. Cutting taxes helps grow our economy. I want to do that in Michigan because I want us to grow and have more jobs. That’s my approach.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: Well, I think nobody would argue that cutting taxes doesn’t have some benefit for growing the economy but the link is not–it’s not dramatic it’s not powerful we need to do other things and a lot of people are saying if I have to choose between lowering taxes cutting taxes more or fixing the roads, the polls are showing that people want the roads fixed.
Bill Schuette: Oh, I’m listen–and we can fix the roads. But the fact is is that you know look at it look at our state right now look at our state right now. We have lowered taxes. I want to eliminate the Granholm Whitmer income tax increase. We’ve seen what taxes cuts on the national level have done with it’s pretty dramatic. I would respectfully differ with you.
Pretty dramatic to have 2,600 new jobs come into the Warren Truck plant and the Ram being produced in Michigan instead of Mexico. I’d call that very dramatic and I’d and so, I think growth policies are important for our state and to just like reducing auto insurance rates. This is an important discussion we should have because when. Think of families sitting around their kitchen table they’ve got too much month, not enough check. And when you look at your auto insurance rates that are chewing a lot of that up people that has to end.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: So what’s your approach to economic development tax incentives. Does Michigan have too many or not enough for just at the right place right now.
Bill Schuette: [You know I believe in, and your question’s a good one, Jerome. I believe in economic incentives they need to be balanced. I look at it this way. Any business it could be a large corporation or it could be a small business is big for Michigan and small business has really helped drive the state. We should have balanced incentives that apply to both businesses that are large and small businesses that may be small but they can really rev and generate growth and jobs and paychecks for people in the state and I think we all have to realize it’s an economic civil war out there. It is a battle for jobs across America. And I was with Governor Haslam, governor of Tennessee, just three weeks ago and I talked about we talked about when he goes to Asia or Europe to try to have foreign direct investment come home to his state of Tennessee.
The first question they ask, ‘Are you right to work’. And so, this is an example of how Michigan is getting retooled for the future. I’m for right to work. And Ed help us go forward. And Gretchen Whitmer wants to eliminate right to work which will take us back which which we can’t go. So the point is we need to have the incentives and tools in Michigan that propel job growth. And here’s what else I’d do, Jerome. I’m going to make a beeline for Illinois. Why? Because that state is so messed up that they’ve got so many taxes they can’t balance their budget. And so we need to go there for entrepreneurs and for companies and say, ‘Come to Michigan’.
This is a state where we balance our state budget where we’re cutting taxes where we want to remove the heaviness of mandates and have this be a growth state. I think we can build our state’s economy by also attracting businesses to Michigan with incentive packages. So I’m I think balanced incentives are good for the future, Jerome.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Let me ask you one thing regarding Illinois. Any other states you sniping for?
Bill Schuette: Yeah, I’d look at I look at our neighbors. I would I would look at Illinois. I’d also look at other states like New York. I think there’s great opportunity here. There’s you know there’s an ethic and a spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurism. We see it in Detroit now where we’re rebuilding a city that some thought never would happen again.
Detroit’s a city of 138 square miles and Detroit’s future is about jobs it’s about education and it’s about safety. I think that applies to any city whether it’s big or small. But this spirit of enterprise of Michigan that was carved out of the wilderness that was the arsenal of democracy, I think our our attitude and I talk about this a lot our attitude has to be that Michigan must be the best place for any family to raise their children and build their futures and have a job. And that’s the that’s the attitude everybody must have for Michigan’s future. Not that, ‘Oh my gosh, all the jobs are going to go to Illinois. All the jobs go to Tennessee and Carolinas’. Nonsense. I don’t believe that.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: So you’ve already talked quite a bit about auto insurance reform. Let’s just get down to brass tacks.
Bill Schuette: Thanks for asking the question.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Do you think Michigan should keep its unique in the nation unlimited lifetime medical benefits.
Bill Schuette: And your question is smack dab on target. And for our listening audience the issue is that Michigan–Michigan has the highest auto insurance rates in the United States of America. Thousand dollars more than on average than any other state. And this story of the guy in the parade that I mentioned earlier on our show where his daughter is now coming to Michigan resonated with me and it’s repeated wherever I go. I was up in the UP, Stormy Kromer, and one of the employees over there said hey Bill what’s going on, ‘why aren’t you cutting auto insurance rates?’ It happens wherever I go. And so we have to lower auto insurance rates and what you’re talking about is catastrophic fund where we have unlimited medical benefits forever. And here’s what has to happen on this issue of auto insurance. And here are the three principles, Koby.
Number one: we need to crack down on insurance fraud. Secondly, we need to stop the frivolous lawsuits of the trial lawyers. And that has to that has to end. And then thirdly, I think what’s fair–I think what’s fair is giving citizens across the state an option of what their choices in coverage should be and how do you how do you obtain that? You have this table and you bring the hospitals on one side, and next to them you’ll have the Chamber of Commerce.
Next to them you’ll have business leaders, next to them you’ll have those in the medical profession and the trial lawyers and we’ll have here is the predicate here is that people in Michigan must have lower auto insurance. Mike Duggan agrees with me and, again, Duggan is a great friend of mine. Yeah, he’s a Democrat so we have different choirs so to speak but we have something in common a lot of things in common actually. And it’s about how we can have a lower auto insurance rate for people in Detroit and across the state.
Bill Schuette: And what I’ll say is, ‘Mayor, we need about three votes in the Michigan senate. Mayor from the Democrats side, Mayor we’re going to need about half a dozen votes in the Michigan House of Representatives’ and then we’ll get to put together a package where everyone gives a little bit and everyone wins a little bit. And the biggest winners, the biggest winners have to be the citizens the state of Michigan. The status quo is unacceptable. The status quo is unacceptable that Michigan pays a thousand bucks more than any other state. We have to be a growth state. If we just do this same same approach, that’s wrong.
Koby Levin, Chalkbeat Detroit: Thank you.
Bill Schuette: Yeah.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: We’ve got just about 10 minutes left; we’re going to move onto some questions about social issues. Lindsay?
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: As you know after the Grand Rapids Chamber’s endorsement of your candidacy some businesses said that they were planning to leave the chamber citing the attorney general opinion that you wrote looking at the Civil Rights Commission’s ability to interpret statute. You know you’ve made it clear that you think that that they’re not able on their own to interpret statute and that’s really the legislature’s job as governor. You know you’ll have the ability to work with the legislature on setting policy. And so you know I wonder do you do you think that we need to expand Elliot Larsen to include protections against discrimination for LGBT individuals.
Bill Schuette: Lindsay’s question is a really good one. It’s about LGBTQ and having a Michigan that has no discrimination. And you know, here is how I make decisions and here’s who I am. You know my dad died when I was six and my mom raised my two older sisters and me as a single mom.
Bill Schuette: And she taught us–my two older sisters Sandra and Gretchen–who’s the real Gretchen are my life, if I may add. Gretchen Schuette, who will be in Michigan and you’ll get to get to meet her. But my mom raised my two older sisters and me as a single mom and she taught us that everybody everybody has to be treated with dignity and grace and respect and you know the people with whom you work you live you play sports. You meet have to be. It’s all part of a larger family and how you deal with people with honor.
Bill Schuette: Now as governor, I’m going to make sure that I treat everybody with respect and dignity and grace just like my mom taught me. Now you may not always agree with every decision I make whether it’s on roads or or you know environmental policy or whatever. But the fact is I’ll treat everybody with dignity, honor, and respect.
Bill Schuette: And I was asked Lindsay by a legislator in my official capacity as attorney general to give legal opinion a legal opinion whether eight unelected people to a commission could change the law. Well, the answer’s no. You know it’s Civics 101 that only the legislature in the Michigan Constitution can change a law and that has to be signed by the governor. And so that was my legal opinion and that opinion’s been stretched and misrepresented because of the politics, and you know, which again is just nonsense and my viewpoint is, Lindsay, that we need to have a state that is hopeful and welcoming and attracts talented people from across America regardless of your sexual orientation your ethnicity your creed your color–doesn’t matter.
And so as governor as governor I will have a state called Michigan that where there is no discrimination whether that’s on race color sexual orientation, gender identity, creed, ethnicity, religion. We have a state with no discrimination. So I’ll work with the legislature, as Lisa Posthumus Lyons, will to make sure to make sure that we have a Michigan where we pass laws that there’s no discrimination.
Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine: You know to be clear does that mean that you support expanding the Elliott Larsen Act.
Bill Schuette: I will work with the legislature to make sure that our laws in Michigan whether it’s Elliot Larsen or anything else that we have a crystal clear approach then in Michigan there’s no place for discrimination period.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Well, would that mean expanding that law?
Bill Schuette: Elliot Larsen can be expanded as long as, and I I think, so we just where there’s no discrimination period, Bill.
Bill Schuette: And that means–.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Expanding the law to include LGBT–.
Bill Schuette: And making sure that we there’s no discrimination whether it’s sexual orientation or gender or religion or color or creed or ethnicity. There can be no discrimination in Michigan. And let’s pass a law that reflects that.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Thank you. Let me to ask another question though. What are you going to do about the opioid crisis here in Michigan?
Bill Schuette: You know that I have a friend of mine. His name is Peter. And some years ago we were talking on the phone and you shared with me his–the fact that his son was addicted to opioids. And we started talking about–he said, ‘Bill, I want you go to a recovery center and then you call me back.’ He was going to give me a homework assignment, Bill. And I did. And when you go to a recovery center you’ll see that opioids have they have no discrimination. Young old rich poor rural urban. Doesn’t matter what your income level is.
Bill Schuette: And when I met with this group for about an hour and a half almost two hours and you hear the stories of how they this one woman had an athletic injury and was overprescribed on opioids and then it’s so easy then to fall into this trap with the heroin which plentiful supply sadly and and low cost even more tragically.
Bill Schuette: And so I called the guy back–my friend–and we talked more about it and he had found his son on the floor and was able to revive him but you know we we’ve cried about what his son had to go through and this opioid crisis is real. You have more pills that have been prescribed in 2016 than there are people in Michigan.
More people have died because of opioid and heroin abuse than are killed in auto accidents. So it’s real. You can’t arrest your way out of it. You have to do a couple of different things. It’s treatment and education that’s important. We had a I was with Walgreens folks a month ago where they have kiosks. They’re trying to put into their stores to get rid of that you know the stuff in your grandparents medicine cabinet. But also I’ve cracked down on the pill mill docs as attorney general and the heroin dealers with a unit that’s the focus just on stopping the pill mill docs and filed charges on them to send a message that those merchants of death are permitted here in the state of Michigan.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: Do we expand treatment and what kind of treatment.
Bill Schuette: I think you have to expand treatment for those who were going through this and trying to get clean from the grip of addiction.
And so, yes, we have to expand treatment and help for those trying to you know get free of this addiction and have a positive life here in Michigan.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: And I’m just wondering what kind some people talk a lot about medically assisted treatment versus abstinence-based.
Bill Schuette: I think you have to have options for both. I think you know the behavioral health problem is a big issue. Abstinence is also certainly positive important thing and how you can have medical assistance as well. I think you have to have various options.
Bill Kubota, DPTV: And more money to do all of that?
Bill Schuette: Well, you have to. You’re going to have to again do with every way you can. Obviously resources need to be maximized and it has to be what’s the best outcome based.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: Time for just one last question, and this will be a little bit about politics and we’ll get about.
Bill Schuette: The tawdry–the tawdry side of politics.
Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio: So you talk on your campaign on your campaign page, you talk about being a foot soldier of Ronald Reagan and you have sought the endorsement of President Trump. So what are the values here that you’re saying you share with these two individuals.
Bill Schuette: You know, I appreciate President Trump’s efforts to cut taxes in America which meant we have the Ram truck moving from Mexico to Michigan. I appreciate that economic message and also the trade agreement that was announced between the United States, Canada, and Mexico because we rebalance trading relationships. I think that’s important because for too long the elites in America viewed manufacturing as you know just wasn’t cool and kind of the forgotten states where we make things and the grit and determination we know is Michigan and having the rebalancing trade relationships encouraging manufacturing. I think that’s an important value.
Bill Schuette: Ronald Reagan was a guy and when I was first I was the youngest second youngest congressman in the United States of America. And Ronald Reagan I looked to as a guy who stood up against communism stood for freedom and this country is a place of enterprise. He had his quote I think captures the best, that America is a special land inhabited by those people who have a love of freedom faith and peace and situated between two great oceans so that this place called Americans can thrive. And that’s a value system I get from Ronald Reagan and I’ve had the privilege to work with the presidents seeing them up close and that helps me in terms of how I lead Michigan and the future.
Jerome Vaughn, WDET: That’s all the time. Thank you very much.
Bill Schuette: Thank you. I’ve enjoyed this thank you very much for the privilege of being here today. Thank you.