LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Newly elected Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her first State of the State Address on February 12, 2019, about a year before the pandemic hit, and a little over a month after taking office. The theme was “Michigan: Home for Opportunity.”
Tonight’s address will be only the second one delivered live and in person from the Capitol with an audience in the Michigan House Chamber as the last three years the event was virtual due to COVID-19 concerns. It’ll be a sneak peek to see what Whitmer’s second term will look like with help from a Democratic legislature.
The annual address is a tradition that goes back before 1837 when Michigan became a state (our anniversary is tomorrow). In the 1835 Constitution, it was written that governors were required to “communicate by message” to the legislature the condition of the state.
In 2019, Whitmer said that Michigan had two major crises – failing infrastructure and a crisis in education and skills.
Whitmer pointed out that in 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Michigan’s infrastructure a grade of D+ and that the roads specifically got a D- listing only 18% of Michigan roads in “good” condition. She talked about crumbling bridges, vehicle damage from roads and asked everyone to share their stories about the failing infrastructure. She requested bipartisan help to “fix the damn roads.” She also discussed water infrastructure and talked about Flint and contamination from old pipes.
After that, she discussed how third graders in Michigan were ranking in the bottom ten in the country for reading and the decline in childhood literacy. She said “generations of leadership have failed them” with the lowest growth in the K-12 education spending of any state in the nation. She talked about a broken system that needs everyone’s support.
Whitmer also addressed the fact that Michigan needed a government that works for everyone and said “valid concerns about public health and welfare will be acted upon.” She discussed a government plagued by a lack of transparency and said she established stronger ethics rules for the executive branch.
Whitmer talked about wanting Michigan to be a “home for opportunity” with equal opportunity for women and a level playing field for small businesses no matter where they are located in Michigan with opportunity zones for “geographically disadvantaged communities.”
The governor pointed to wanting a stronger, healthier economy and ensuring that “every Michigander has opportunity through a path to skills that lead to a good job” with job training and the MI Opportunity Scholarships.
Whitmer added that she created a new department called “EGLE” (Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) that would be tasked to ensure that every Michigander had access to safe and clean drinking water by safeguarding the Great Lakes and taking action to protect the state from the harmful effects of climate change. She said the agency included the new offices of the Clean Water Public Advocate and the Environmental Justice Public Advocate. She also entered Michigan into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors from 20 state that are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
She said, “Two weeks ago we had wind chills: 50 below zero. Last week it was over 50 above. That’s a 100 degree swing – and a reminder that climate change and extreme weather are already putting Michiganders at risk.”
Whitmer concluded by discussing a commitment to quality health care accessibility, a budget she planned to propose to address Michigan’s problems, and a request to stay focused and work together in a bipartisan fashion to fix Michigan’s problems.
She ended the address by asking, “Do we have the wisdom to put partisanship aside and get the job done for the people we serve? I think we do. So let’s get to work.”
Whitmer is predicted to discuss gun violence during her speech tonight, red flag laws, tax reductions, education and tout her past achievements. The Detroit Free Press also reports that she will unveil a “Pre-K for All” plan to “expand access to state-funded preschool to more Michigan families and save them thousands each year.”
Whitmer’s 2023 State of the State Address will begin at 7 pm EST tonight and will be covered by Michigan News Source.