LANSING, Mich. — Saying he's "chomping at the bit" to get his administration under way, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder reminded senior staff members Monday that he wants to move fast now that he's officially on the job.
"We've all prepared for this for months," he said. "This is our opportunity to really roll up our sleeves and get to work."
Among the more than a dozen senior advisers at the meeting was Jeff Barnes, Snyder's former campaign manager and now deputy chief of staff. Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, director of strategy William Rustem and legislative affairs adviser Dick Posthumus also attended.
Snyder met separately with budget director John Nixon and Michael Finney, the new head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Later in the afternoon, his administration announced the appointment of Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais as military and veterans affairs director. Vadnais joined the Michigan Army National Guard in 1970 and retired in 2005 as commander of the Indiana Army National Guard's 38th Infantry Division. Snyder recalled him from retirement, and Vadnais will replace Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, who was appointed adjutant general by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2003.
Snyder has said he'll move up the annual State of the State address by at least a week this month and aim to have most of his policies in place within six months. He has set a July 1 deadline for lawmakers to pass a two-year budget and reminded those at the morning meeting that he's in a hurry to take steps he says will lead to more jobs and a balanced budget.
The state general fund has a projected $1.85 billion deficit for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, and that amount will grow if Snyder gets his way and business taxes are reduced in the next budget. Snyder and lawmakers will need to come up with spending cuts or some other way to offset the loss of business taxes.
The new governor has not laid out any specifics for what his budget plan will look like but said he's examining tax exemptions to see if some should be eliminated. He also has said repeatedly that public employees will have to make sacrifices, likely by paying a larger share of their health care costs or by seeing benefits reduced.
The independently wealthy Republican still isn't saying how much he plans to take in salary. He told reporters Monday that the amount will be less than $159,300 salary set in 2009 after the State Officers Compensation Committee cut of the pay for top elected officials and legislators by 10 percent. He'll announce the amount "at an appropriate time," he said.
Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm voluntarily gave back 5 percent of her $177,000 annual salary until the 10 percent cut took effect in 2009.
Snyder declined to say Monday whether he's considering naming Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the state Department of Human Services. Corrigan's has been one of several names floated as permanent DHS director. Snyder named former state budget director Duane Berger as acting director last week.
If Snyder names Corrigan to head DHS, he would then be able to appoint a new justice to the court, which returned to a 4-3 GOP majority when Justices Robert Young and Mary Beth Kelly were sworn in during Saturday's inauguration.
Snyder and many of his senior staff members spent Sunday moving into their new offices.
The governor said he has several executive orders "in the pipeline" that he'll issue this week, including ones formalizing some of his organizational moves such as splitting the departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality.