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Schuette visits Michigan Tech, talks sex abuse case

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette pets the husky statue in the middle of Michigan Technological University's campus during a visit to campus Friday.

HOUGHTON — State Attorney General Bill Schuette visited the Michigan Technological University campus Friday afternoon as part of a two-day trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Schuette, also a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he intends to be “Michigan’s job governor.”

“Michigan needs to win again,” he said. “Michigan needs to be a state that we compete and win for people, jobs, paychecks. I’m tired of this kind of grudging acquiescence that Michigan’s best days are behind us. I think Michigan’s best days are ahead of us.”

As governor, he said, he would also seek to improve Michigan’s educational performance. The state’s 49th-place ranking in third-grade reading scores are “not worthy of our state,” he said.

“That means only a third of our students, when they finish the third grade, are proficient in reading,” he said. “We need to have big changes there.”

He said schools would be graded on a scale of A to F. Grants would be added as incentives for high-performing schools. Apprenticeships and the skilled trades would also have more emphasis.

“These are good paying jobs, valued jobs, in plumbing and welding and builders and electricians — important parts of the economy of the future,” he said.

He also called for transportation scholarships that would allow parents to take students with special challenges to a school with a better program.

Schuette would not say if he backed Snyder’s budget proposal for a $312 million increase in the state’s K-12 foundation allowance. That would raise the amount given to each district by $120 to $240 per student, with an eye towards closing the gaps between higher- and lower-funded districts.

“I appreciate this process that’s going on with the governor and the Legislature,” Schuette said. “I’ll review that and be part of the process.”

Asked how a budget from the first year of a Schuette term would differ from Snyder’s latest budget, Schuette said his first choice would be eliminating the income tax increase put into place under Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2007. That increase, billed as temporary, brought the tax from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. It was reduced slightly under Snyder to 4.25 percent in 2011.

“We need to get to business, cut taxes in Michigan, and give Michigan families a pay raise by cutting taxes so they get to keep more of what they earn and the government takes less of what you make,” he said.

He also favors reducing the state’s auto insurance rates. Michigan has had the most expensive car insurance in the country for the past four years, according to a list by insure.com.

“You sit around a kitchen table and Michigan families are trying to determine how far does their paycheck stretch,” Schuette said. “When you’re paying all these outrageous auto insurance premiums, we need to make real changes.”

As attorney general, Schuette said, some of his top priorities were combatting human trafficking, and providing more funds for sexual assault kits for victims.

Michigan State University announced Friday it had turned over 45,000 pages of pages of documents to Schuette’s office to meet a deadline for requests for documents regarding the university’s employment of doctor Larry Nassar. More than 150 women have said Nassar abused them despite university staff having received numerous complaints about him.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in two state cases for criminal sexual conduct. That will be served after a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography.

Schuette said he had made the decision allowing all the victims, not just those named in the suit, to make statements in court or in writing.

“Each and every one of those young women who stepped forward, those were profiles in courage, almost Kennedyesque,” he said. “What they did is empower other women to come forward too … the lesson here for governance and responsibility is a lesson for every school in Michigan and across the country.”

Schuette praised Bill Forsyth, who he appointed special prosecutor in the case last month, who he said has an “impeccable reputation.”

“It’s his job to make all these determinations, and I have every confidence he’ll have a thorough and open and complete investigation, and when we’re done, issue a report and recommendations,” he said.

Schuette began his visit with stops in Escanaba and Gladstone. Schuette also planned to meet with leaders from the MTEC SmartZone Friday, as well as have dinner at Shute’s in Calumet.

“I’m the only candidate for governor who’s got a bar named after him,” he said. “They spell the name wrong, but they pronounce it right.”

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