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Will Republicans blow their opportunity?

The Republican sweep on Tuesday gives the party firm control of all branches of Michigan's government, but may also set the stage for disastrous infighting than benefits no one.

There are plenty of minefields out there when Governor-elect Rick Snyder is more moderate than the conservative-dominated and highly partisan Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature. When we add to this Snyder's total lack of experience in elected office and his previous failure to turn around Gateway while interim CEO, it is unclear whether he has the skills to "reinvent" Michigan, let alone keep his fellow Republicans in line.

With the state facing a $1.6 billion deficit and the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, Snyder's immediate priorities will be to balance the budget and spur job creation. On the revenue side, many in the legislative Republican caucuses take a hardline anti-tax stand, but if Michigan is to attract businesses for its long overdue and way too slow economic diversification, its educational system and infrastructure must be properly maintained.

Snyder favors value for money budgeting, but where would spending be cut? Public employee compensation and benefits appears to be the low-hanging fruit. Cuts in Medicaid would be heartless and cost the state matching federal funds. In a state that jails people longer than any other in the Midwest, closing prisons could save a lot of money, but Snyder would face fierce opposition from Attorney General-elect Bill Schuette and most Republican legislators.

With large Republican majorities of 26-12 in the Senate and 63-47 in the House, right wing extremists may see a chance to push legislation on hot button social issues such as abortion and gay rights, which Snyder has no interest in pursuing. At the same time, Snyder's support for environmental protection and ethics reform may have more appeal to Democratic legislators.

All told, Snyder comes to office with a lot of unanswered questions. If the Republicans can't get their act together, there's always the next election.


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