WASHINGTON – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday questioned the approach of his fellow GOP governors in the upper Midwest, saying in an interview with The Associated Press that their efforts to push divisive legislation may make governing more difficult in the long run.
"I think it's unfortunate that they've gotten to that, I don't want to see that happen," Snyder said of the high profile fights and protests in neighboring states like Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. "If you want to draw it as a contrast, you look at now that they've had those things happen, do they have a productive environment to solve problems? Not necessarily. They're still overcoming the divisiveness, the hard feelings from all of that."
Snyder said he preferred a consensus approach and would continue to resist what he viewed as divisive legislation.
"There's so many things we can agree on and let's get them done," he said.
Snyder's comments, which came after he testified before a congressional committee on job creation, underscored the differences among Republican governors over how they should use the power they won in their 2010 midterm election landslide.
Snyder reiterated that he has no plans to push so-called right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit labor contracts from requiring workers to pay union representation fees. Democrats in union-heavy Michigan would fiercely oppose any such move. But Republicans in Michigan's GOP-dominated Legislature have pushed Snyder to take up the legislation.
Governors in other GOP-controlled states in the Midwest have advanced a series of anti-union laws that have sparked large protests and repeal efforts.
On Wednesday, amid large protests, Indiana's Legislature passed right-to-work legislation championed by Gov. Mitch Daniels that will make it the first state in the Rust Belt with that law on its books. Last year, the state capitol in Wisconsin was the site of massive protests and a walk-out by Democratic state senators when Gov. Scott Walker pushed through a measure that stripped nearly all of the collective bargaining rights from public sector unions. And in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers passed a law to limit unions' collective bargaining rights only to see it repealed by Ohio voters in November.
Speaking with the AP, Snyder did not criticize his fellow governors directly but portrayed his own approach as a "model."
"I think I'm fairly unique around the country," he said. "I call my approach relentless positive action and it's worked well; we're showing great results."
Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has taken advantage of a Republican-dominated legislature to push through an agenda that's included an overhaul of Michigan's tax code, changes to the state's education policy that included cuts in funding and legislation giving financial managers more power to deal with failing cities and school districts.
Democrats have strongly objected to many of Snyder's priorities. But that hasn't resulted in large-scale protests.
Snyder has also reached out to Democrats in ways other governors who swept to power in the GOP's 2010 wave have not: He appointed a high-profile Democrat to be his state treasurer and carefully handled negotiations with the United Autoworkers Union.
Democrats are still routinely critical of the governor. And it his approach has also angered some Republicans in Lansing who believe Snyder is squandering an opportunity to push a conservative agenda. But Snyder said he plans to stick to his less confrontational approach.
In his testimony before the House's committee on Education and the Workforce, he called for granting more visas for foreign workers, an idea that President Barack Obama has also supported.
"It's just one common sense thing," Snyder said. "If someone has a PHD in science and engineering and we put them through an American university, why wouldn't we want them here? Let's keep these people in the U.S. and put them to work. They're going to create jobs," he said.