LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The fifth State of the State Address from Governor Gretchen Whitmer revealed many immediate priorities, and those that will phase in gradually during her second term.
Her 45 minute address spanned expected topics such as abortion and further gun control, the retirement tax, and even some things that Republicans had hoped for before the speech. She opened with advocating for repealing the retirement tax, something that would save half a million households an average of $1,000 a year according to the governor.
In addition to saving parents and retirees money, Governor Whitmer advocated for the “littlest Michiganders” as she revealed her plans to expand the Great Start Readiness Program by encompassing families of all income levels.
“So every 4-year-old in Michigan can access a free, public preschool education by the end of my second term,” she said.
But those identified in the “young people about to graduate” category occupied the majority of the governor’s state address.
“As they decide where to live, we must make sure Michigan is the answer—not just for a few years but for the rest of their lives—by creating opportunity that lasts for decades,” Whitmer said.
Some areas of recent growth according to Whitmer include manufacturing investments such as the GM battery plant, bringing supply chains of cars and chips back from foreign countries, and increasing the number of working age people in the workforce. She also advocated for reducing the minimum age to enter the Michigan Reconnect Program from 25 to 21, to also help accomplish the 60 by 30 goal to have 60% of Michiganders earn a degree or skills certificate by 2030.
Boosting the economy by attracting a young labor force because of job opportunities was not the only way to get young folks to stay in Michigan.
“The other half of attracting and retaining young people is standing up for their freedoms,” Governor Whitmer said, “Just a few months ago, Michiganders told us that people should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies.”
These “freedoms” that she referenced included repealing the 1931 law banning abortion, expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and passing more gun legislation.
“Right now there is a flood of illegal guns on our streets, there has also been a rise of break ins at gun dealerships, and straw purchases,” Whitmer said, “Let’s enact universal background checks for people who want to buy firearms, let’s enact safe storage laws so we can make sure firearms are stored safely at home, and let’s enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders so we can keep guns out of the hands out of those who might represent a danger to themselves or others.”
“If Indiana and Florida can get this done, we sure as heck can, right?” she added.
As she was concluding her address, Whitmer took a few moments to briefly outline her future plans for the roads and infrastructure of Michigan – something the Republican Minority had hoped that she would do.
“Since I took office, we’ve fixed 16,000 lane miles, 1,200 bridges, and supported 89,000 good paying jobs in the process,” Whitmer said, “Throughout my second term we will continue finding ways to keep fixing the damn roads. And as we fix them, let’s build the most innovative transportation systems in the country, with new smart road technology.”
Despite mentioning several of the points that Republicans had hoped for, several members of the Republican Caucus thought the governor’s plans were lacking in depth.
“Overall I thought it was essentially unserious about our economic position,” Representative Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) said, “I don’t know how much money she promised to spend on a variety of programs with no explanation for where the money is going to come,” he said. Representative Fink also called many of the new proposals “all ideas for new entitlements with no conversation whatsoever about where the money is going to come from.”
House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) also criticized the governor for not offering the people a better infrastructure plan.
“After four years in office, Gov. Whitmer barely mentioned what used to be her signature issue. She still has no real plan to fix the roads,” Leader Hall said in a statement, “Michigan has a multibillion-dollar surplus, and we should be using those resources to provide people relief and make one-time investments — including to repair and expand crumbling infrastructure to meet the needs of the people of Michigan and make economic development possible.”