Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 8, 2014

Fact Check: Technical foul on Snyder

By Bridge Magazine
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Who: Rick Snyder for Michigan

What: “Michigan’s Comeback Kid,” a television ad first aired during the Super Bowl promoting Rick Snyder for governor.

The call: Technical Foul

The 60-second ad kicks off Gov. Rick Snyder’s re-election campaign during the Super Bowl, the same venue in which Snyder first made a splash four years ago when he ran an ad in which he called himself “one tough nerd.” Four years later, Snyder calls himself the “Comeback Kid.”

The ad is taken in large part from a five-minute web ad introduced in September.

It begins with Snyder underwater in snorkeling gear, and proceeds through various images of Michigan, pushing a theme that the state is in better shape now than before Snyder took office.

Statements under review:

“Gov. Rick Snyder killed job-killing taxes”

Though the ad doesn’t specify the tax, Snyder has in the past referred to the Michigan Business Tax as “job killing.” Snyder and the Legislature repealed the MBT in May 2011, replacing it with a 6 percent corporate income tax that cut taxes by $1.7 billion. Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped 2.2 percent since May 2011, but had also been dropping before the MBT repeal. More than 2½ years after the MBT repeal, Michigan is ranked 47th among the 50 states in unemployment rate.

“Michigan gained 220,000 private sector jobs”

The statement is based on a University of Michigan economic forecast that is not available to the public. Depending on how it is sliced, Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate job growth since Snyder took office ranging from 182,000 to 291,000. The ad does not offer viewers a full perspective on the jobs figure. While jobs are increasing, there are still about a half million fewer jobs in Michigan today than in 2003.

Since Snyder took office in January 2011, the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.7 percent to 8.4 percent; but the state has also fallen even further nationally in unemployment rankings. Michigan ranked 46th in unemployment rate in January 2011, and ranked 47th in December 2013.

“We’re No. 1 in states that have recovered the most from the great recession”

The ad cites a 24/7 Wall St. article from Jan. 3, 2013 that ranks states by how much their unemployment rate has dropped from its peak in the recession. Michigan’s unemployment rate peaked at 14.2 percent in August 2009, 17 months before Snyder took office. In those same months before Snyder actually became governor, the state’s unemployment rate dropped 3.5 percent from its peak. Since Snyder took office, the unemployment rate has dropped another 2.3 percent. So more than half of the percentage point drop in unemployment took place before Snyder became governor.

“Education funding is up”

There is enough gray area on this subject that Snyder can accurately claim education funding is up, while Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer can just as accurately claim school funding is down.

Snyder claimed in his State of the State address, though not in the Super Bowl ad, that K-12 spending had increased by $660 per student since he took office. That number reflects total appropriations, which have indeed risen from $12.98 billion in fiscal year 2011 to $13.36 billion appropriated for the current fiscal year, while the number of students has declined.

A lot of that increase has gone toward teacher pension liabilities, which is funding that may or may not be prudent but is not money that is flowing into classrooms. The state’s basic per-pupil foundation allowance is down since Snyder took office, from $7,316 in 2010-11 to $7,076 in 2013-14.

(For a detailed breakdown on the school funding debate, see former director of the Michigan House Fiscal Agency Mitch Bean’s analysis)

The call: Technical Foul

This spot rates a technical foul for touting job numbers that weren’t entirely earned on Snyder’s watch. The ad takes credit for Michigan being No. 1 in recovery from the recession based partly on a recovery that had begun before he took office, and cites jobs growth while Michigan continues to trail the pack in unemployment rankings among states.

Bridge Magazine