By John Irwin
At first glance, Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic nominee Mark Schauer might not seem that distinguishable from each other.
Both are portrayed in their campaign ads as down-to-earth and “normal.” Both are optimistic about Michigan’s economy and agree jobs are coming back to the state. Each attacks the other as an enemy of business and workers. And both make themselves out as champions of education.
The truth is, though, that these two candidates could not be further apart on most issues.
To help you out as you head to the polls today, CMU Insider has laid out where they each stand on some of the most important issues in Michigan today.
As you’ll see, Michigan faces a fork in the road, and the two sets of policies on the table for voters today, if implemented, could mean drastically different things for Michigan’s future.
And your vote matters, too. Snyder is a slim favorite in the polls, with 46 percent of voters saying they’re voting for Snyder and 44.3 percent saying they’re voting for Schauer, according to the latest RealClearPolitics poll of polls.
This will likely be a very close race, so it’s important to understand the issues before heading to your polling place. Here’s a brief look at where they stand on five key issues of importance for Michigan students.
Snyder: Snyder signed a controversial budget in 2011, his first year in office, that cut higher education funding by 15 percent. Snyder and his allies have framed the cut as a tough but necessary thing to do in order to get Michigan’s budget under control.
“We did have to make a cut to the higher ed budget that first year to balance the budget, which was difficult,” Snyder said, according to The State News. “What I will say since then is we have made increases in the 3% range or so…and this last year we actually made a double digit increase.”
The governor has raised higher education funding incrementally in the three years since, though funding levels are still well below where they were when he entered office. He has promised to restore the 15 percent cut by the end of his second term as Michigan’s economy continues recovering from the Great Recession.
Snyder has also implemented changes in how public universities receive state funds. This year, they were required to keep tuition increases below 3.75 percent in order to receive state appropriations. Next year, that cap will drop to 3.2 percent.
Snyder has also proposed the expansion of dual-enrollment programs as a cost-saving measure for students and has called on universities to increase needs-based financial aid opportunities.
Schauer: Schauer has called himself Michigan’s “education governor” and promised he would restore higher education funding to pre-2011 levels.
He said at a rally at Western Michigan University that restoring the 2011 cut would allow for Michigan’s economy to grow as students would stay in the state.
“The point is, as I’ve laid out in my campaign, it starts with public education,” Schauer said. “It also begins with starting to fund higher education at the level it needs to be, so that college tuition does not continue to go up for young people.”
In his education plan, Schauer calls for an expansion of partnerships between K-12 schools, universities and community colleges, in addition to an expansion of dual enrollment programs, though he is short on specifics.
Snyder: In March, a federal court overturned the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2004. It was delayed by an appeals court soon after, but not before 300 couples were married in the state.
The governor said the state would not recognize those marriages while the ban made its way through court, and he said he will let the court system decide whether Michigan should have a ban on same-sex marriage. He has repeatedly declined opportunities to clarify his personal stance on same-sex marriage.
Schauer: Schauer is a proponent of same-sex marriage and has called for the repeal of Michigan’s ban on it.
He also has thrown his support toward amending the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include prevent LGBT Michiganders from being fired from their jobs solely for being gay.
Snyder: Snyder is a proponent of fracking, a controversial method of drilling for gas. He’s acknowledged safety and environmental concerns associated with the method, but he says that, if done safely, fracking can, and does, greatly benefit Michigan’s economy.
Snyder has cut funding for both the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources, and he has allowed public land to be opened up for use by private companies.
Schauer: While very short on anything specific, Schauer’s energy plan calls on Michigan to invest heavily in alternative sources of energy, including solar and wind power, as a way to look after the environment and strengthen the economy.
Schauer opposes fracking as an unsafe source of energy.
Snyder: The governor signed a law in March that raises the state’s minimum wage to $9.20 per hour. Although the move was praised by supporters and critics of Snyder alike, including Schauer, the law was a compromise between the two parties to prevent a ballot initiative raising the wage from getting on the ballot this year and potentially driving more Democratic-leaning voters to the polls.
Schauer: Schauer praised Snyder for signing the minimum wage hike during the candidates’ town hall debate this year, though he noted that he was a proponent of raising the minimum wage far before the governor was. He had previously called for the state minimum wage to be raised to $9.25 per hour, in line with Snyder’s law but less than what Democratic and left-leaning activists had been aiming to get on the ballot ($10.10).
Snyder: After months of sidestepping the controversial issue during the beginning of his term in office, Snyder signed a right-to-work law in 2012 during a lame-duck legislative session allowing workers to opt out of paying dues to a union as a requirement of employment in a union workforce.
Snyder says the move gives Michigan workers the freedom to choose where their money goes, and he credits the right-to-work law for attracting employers to the state and lowering the state’s unemployment rate.
Schauer: Schauer and his allies have framed the law as the “right to work for less,” saying it greatly limits a union’s ability to fight for higher wages and benefits and only serves to attract low-paying, temporary jobs to the state.
He has promised to repeal the right-to-work law and said he would work closely with labor union leaders to do so.