LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder announced a plan Thursday to make Michigan more welcoming to immigrants and enticing for foreign investment, and he also pledged to free up more preschool slots for disadvantaged 4-year-olds during his fourth annual State of the State address.
The initiatives — along with a pilot project for moving some low-performing public schools to a year-round calendar and helping school districts and municipalities detect financial troubles before they need state intervention — were among the highlights of the Republican governor's speech.
Snyder, who is up for re-election in November, touted Michigan's "comeback" during the hour-long address to a joint session of the Legislature in the Capitol, mentioning the auto industry's continued resurgence, a drop in violent crime, the state's budget surplus and two consecutive years of population growth for the first time in a decade.
"People are staying again in Michigan, and we should be proud of that," he said.
Snyder committed to seeking an additional $65 million for the Great Start Readiness program so low-income children no longer have to be on a waiting list for financial help to attend preschool. A recent report showed Michigan led the U.S. last year with the biggest spending increase on early childhood programs, both on a percentage and dollar-amount basis, he said.
"We shouldn't have a wait for preschool," the governor said. "We're going to make it a no-wait state for early childhood education."
Snyder also will soon issue an executive order creating the Office for New Americans, joining two other states with immigration services based under one roof in the governor's office.
His administration also has applied to make Michigan the second state government to run a regional center for the EB-5 visa program, with the goal of attracting talented immigrant entrepreneurs. The EB-5 program designates businesses to recruit foreign investors for development projects. The investors get permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their families.