One of the disturbing things about Rick Snyder's budget for Michigan is his decision to gut the incentives for the film industry, allowing just $25 million this year.
Chasing thousands of jobs out of the state and ending hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic activity would be bad enough, but now it appears Snyder wasn't honest about it.
That would be bad enough but two separate individuals have now said publicly that Snyder told them in advance of the budget's release that he was not planning to drastically cut the program.
Jeff Daniels, the Chelsea-based actor, was the first to go public. The Detroit Free Press on Thursday (Feb.17, 2011) reported:
"'It's really disheartening,' Daniels said of Snyder's budget plan. 'It's not what he told me privately, so to be honest, I guess he's a politician after all. Say one thing, do another.'"
Then on Sunday, Free Press columnist Mitch Albom reported a similar conversation with Snyder. Albom wrote:
"As a person who helped create the film credits program, I asked for months to meet with Snyder to show they could be tightened but kept going. I finally was granted that meeting two weeks ago. Snyder told me, to my face, he planned to honor the commitments already made and allocate $100 million annually to the program -- a drop in the bucket of a $47-billion state budget. While this new cap represented a slowdown, I thought, in desperate times, it was almost enough to keep the new studios and work force going.
"Then, on Thursday, he announced his actual allocation to the film program: $25 million."
Albom also reported hearing from several others who were also told by Snyder that he did not intend to kill the program.
Albom and Daniels probably aren't lying. Two people who have separate conversations with Snyder and come away with the same impression amounts to pretty reliable evidence.
So we are left wondering what happened. Did Snyder intend to do what he told Daniels and Albom and then get talked out of by his recruits from the Gov. John Engler administration? If so, who's really in charge? Did he just make a mistake and have his figures wrong when he talked to Albom and Daniels? If so, he's not as great with numbers as he wants us to believe. Or did he hide the truth because he didn't want to have the uncomfortable task of admitting he was killing thousands of jobs? If so, he lacks the ourage of his convictions.
None of these scenarios -- and there probably are more -- is very comforting. Snyder needs to explain what happened if people are going to ever trust his word again.