DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder officially kicked off his bid for a second four-year term Monday with the first of several stops across the state.
The Republican governor declared his plans to seek a second term at automotive supplier James Group International in Detroit. He followed with appearances in Lansing and Grand Rapids and planned another round Tuesday in Traverse City, Frankenmuth and Farmington Hills.
"We've gotten a lot done ... but we should not be complacent nor content," Snyder said from a stage above the plant floor.
As Snyder spoke, a group of about 50 protesters walked outside. Laborers and teachers denounced several of his first-term moves, including shepherding through union-limiting right-to-work legislation and taxing public pensions.
Jim Pearson, a retired teacher, said Snyder changed the terms of a long-promised benefit when he taxed pensions. Pearson said he now pays $1,400 a year on his pension. Snyder said the tax was imposed out of fairness and it didn't affect those who were retired at the time the change was made.
"As a businessman, I'm surprised he's reneging on the deal," Pearson said, adding it was a blow to him after teaching for 40 years.
Inside, Snyder and others, including Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, were promoting progress and accomplishments during the governor's first term, including adding 220,000 private-sector jobs and the state's improved credit ratings.
Richardville also sought to portray Snyder less as "one tough nerd" — a moniker embraced by the accountant-and business executive-turned governor — and more as a "passionate, caring man running the state."
Snyder's likely Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, dubbed the re-election launch a "rebranding tour."
Snyder's campaign unofficially began in the fall when he ran a TV ad and all but declared his candidacy to Republicans on Mackinac Island. He ran a second ad during Sunday's Super Bowl, which called him Michigan's "comeback kid."
Also Monday, Schauer and state Board of Education President John Austin, a Democrat, reacted to the K-12 spending plan Snyder will unveil Wednesday, details of which were first reported by The Associated Press. Snyder will seek a 3 percent funding increase, which mostly would cover districts' employee retirement costs that have ballooned in recent years. The plan also would include an average $100 increase in Michigan's per-pupil grant, with the lowest-funded districts receiving $111 more and better-funded districts getting an extra $83.
Schauer said teachers have endured pay cuts and cited the closure of Albion High School in south-central Michigan as a consequence of Snyder's education cuts.
The state's K-12 spending — excluding federal, preschool and adult education funding — has increased every year of his term. Superintendents have complained there is not much left for the classroom, and districts are receiving less given declining enrollment and lower traditional per-pupil payments. Snyder contends they are better off due to a school employee pension and health care overhaul he and lawmakers enacted in 2012.
"The reality is school districts are in financial distress," Schauer said during a conference call with reporters. "This is coming to a school district near you. The public understands it. Our children understand it. Gov. Snyder's contentions show just a real disconnect with ... reality and how out of touch he is."
Associated Press reporter David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.