EDITORIAL: Gov. Rick Snyder is leaving behind a legacy of environmental, educational wreckage — but we can fix it

Governor Rick Snyder delivers his final State of the State address on Jan. 23 in the Michigan State Capitol building.

State of the State speeches often come off as disingenuous, but Gov. Rick Snyder seemed even more tone-deaf than usual Tuesday. In his final address, Snyder tried to shape his "legacy" by lauding infrastructure and job creation accomplishments.

He made comment on the state of Michigan's natural resources – if Washington won't help protect the Great Lakes, then it's time for Michiganders to step up and do it ourselves. We're woefully behind on our recycling game, Snyder added, saying we can, and must, do better to create a more sustainable Michigan for future generations.

What he didn't mention speaks volumes. So we will remind readers of Snyder's gross negligence in having no vision for, and providing little support to, higher education in Michigan.

Even the Flint water crisis – a government failure that happened on his watch that can be measured in human casualties – received two or three sentences out of a roughly 53-minute speech. 

Snyder doled out praise for winemakers and auto manufacturers, but on the state of higher education, he was silent. One of the great disappointments of the past eight years is that the self-proclaimed "nerd" seems so uninterested in the role that higher education – institutions besides the University of Michigan – could have played in what he likes to call Michigan's comeback. 

Department of Education Superintendent Brian Whiston said Michigan is now focused on aiding K-12 programs and expanding advance placement offerings in high schools that would allow students to earn college credits before they arrive on campus. It's a great idea. However, there is nothing under discussion, he said, that would help today's students mitigate the ever-increasing cost of college. 

While Whiston acknowledged Snyder had little to say on the state of higher education, he did acknowledge, "We have to start somewhere." 

We hope you find this as unacceptable as we do. We, the people paying tuition to earn these degrees today, have been left out to dry. We will incur thousands of dollars in student loan debt that's on track to only get more expensive for future generations.

Snyder should have talked about the "brain drain" that Michigan has struggled with over the past decade and the role that it might have played in Amazon looking elsewhere to establish its new headquarters. He should have appealed to the thousands of college graduates armed with degrees in communications, business, technology and other disciplines to stay in Michigan to continue the comeback. 

"One thing we don’t think about often enough in this political world is not just the consequences on us today, but shouldn’t we always be asking the question: How do we make it so future generations are better off, not worse off because of debt we burdened them with?" Synder said during his speech. 

That is a pretty hypocritical statement coming from the governor who has spent almost a decade underfunding Michigan universities. Who did he think was going to make up those dollars? Of course it was going to be us, the students. 

In November, Michigan will elect a new governor. In the state Senate and House of Representatives, 147 seats will also be up for election. According to Bridge Magazine, this is the first time this has happened since 2010.

If you are not a fan of Gov. Snyder, if you think the environment and students deserve more, you must vote. Political complacency results in nothing but losses for the future.

Educate yourself. Learn about who is running for office, what they can do for you and make an informed decision on election day.

The last day to register for the November election is Oct. 9. 

Mark it on your calendars. Make it a day you remember, along with Nov. 6 — the general election.

These are two of the most important dates this year — dates that could shape the state for the next decade.

If you care, vote.  

We hold the power to shape the future.