Governor candidate running hard way

Craig Peterson/Daily Mining Gazette Independent candidate for governor Todd Schleiger sat down for an interview Friday at the Daily Mining Gazette.

HOUGHTON — An independent candidate for governor visited Houghton Friday, vowing to be more responsive to the public. 

Todd Schleiger, from the Detroit suburb of Lake Orion, has spent 35 years in the transportation industry. While he was reluctant to get into politics, he said, he became involved when he saw what he viewed as the mismanagement of the Flint water crisis. 

“That was the final straw,” he said. “I decided it was time somebody did something that would really help the people of Michigan.”

He’s running as an independent, he said, because he feels both parties have lost touch with the people of Michigan.

“I realize it’s harder to run as an independent,” he said. “When we get on the ballot in July, we’re going to make history, because there’s never been an independent on the ballot for gubernatorial. I’ve never done anything the easy way.”

Schleiger said he would thoroughly restructure Michigan’s tax system. To improve roads, he said, he would work to make sure more of the state’s gas tax money is put towards road work. State gas and diesel taxes are constitutionally earmarked for roads. More than 80 percent of sales tax on gas is set aside for schools and revenue sharing. 

“Michigan’s not by any means a poor state,” he said. “We’re one of the highest-taxed states in the country as far as gas tax collected. … It’s one of my pet peeves, being in the transportation industry like I have been all these years.”

One of Schleiger’s top priorities will be accountability, such as a proposed bill in which he pledged to bring independence to the grand jury. He would set up an office, which he likened to a civilian oversight committee, in all 83 counties. These offices would have the power to remove elected officials, he said. He criticized revamps to the recall process making it more difficult to remove officials.

“In Flint, when the petitioners got close to getting the number of signatures to recall (Snyder), they changed the law … we need to be able to hold them accountable,” he said. 

Schleiger criticized Snyder for turning down out-of-state help in Flint, including a California company willing to donate $60 million in PVC pipes to replace lead pipes in the city. 

“Rick turned it down, saying he would rather give it to the people of Michigan,” he said. “Karen Weaver, her first year, even knowing the money was there, only got a little over 1,100 lines replaced. If that had been me, I would’ve been putting ads in local newspapers, been on local TV, telling the community, ‘If you want to make $15 an hour, bring your shovels, let’s get these lines out.”

Schleiger said he had been through the Upper Peninsula numerous times as a truck driver. He pledged to spend as little time in Lansing as possible while governor, instead visiting constituents.

Discussing the opioid issue, Schleiger would approach it on multiple fronts. He would work to make sure more insurance programs covered mental health treatment, which he said has been viewed as a “redheaded stepchild.”

He also supports legalizing marijuana. He pointed to possible benefits from the legalization in Colorado; a study last year showed a 6 percent drop in opioid deaths in the first two years after legalization.  

Schleiger said he would also look into remedies such as CBD, or cannabidiol — a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana believed to be a factor in relieving anxiety. 

“Big Pharma doesn’t want them in there because it’s going to take from some of their money, too,” he said. “I don’t want Big Pharma coming in and opening factories for the CBDs or the growing operations or anything like that. I want it all Michigan. It’s Michigan that wants to legalize it, it’s Michigan that should be profiting off it with the jobs it should create, taxes it should create.”

He believed the state should look to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, as well as doctors who over prescribed the drugs. 

Snyder’s budget calling for increased foundation grants to schools was “the only thing he’s ever done right as governor,” Schleiger said. However, he said, that money could be better allocated. He said salaries should be lower for administration and higher for teachers — $60,000 at minimum.

“You get teachers who are pulling money out of their own checks to buy supplies for their classrooms,” he said. “That’s wrong. That should never be happening.”

He said districts would also save money by refurbishing existing school buildings rather than building a new one. Closed school building could also be reused for Boys & Girls Clubs or senior centers, he said.

“Bring them back into function, bring them back into communities, have a place for the kids to go,” he said.

He said while he understood the rationale for Common Core, forcing it onto teachers stripped them of their creativity. He favored an emphasis on “STEAM” — science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with arts thrown in.

“With all the new technologies coming around, it’s more aimed at that than the Common Core is,” he said.