Since Governor Gretchen Whitmer took office, it’s been a lingering question whether the Republican-led Legislature can work with a Democratic governor to solve the state’s problems. During her first State of the State address, Whitmer made bipartisanship a central theme.
“The enemy is not the person across the aisle,” she said. “The enemy is apathy. The enemy is extreme partisanship.”
Republicans didn’t always join Democrats in giving Governor Whitmer a standing ovation during various parts of her speech. But they did for calls to improve the state’s car insurance laws. Whitmer says both parties need to put partisanship aside in order to solve major problems in the state – like crumbling roads and clean drinking water.
Republicans say they are open to working with the Democratic governor. But there are some areas – like expanding the state’s civil rights law to include LGBTQ people – that they are unlikely to budge on.
During her address, Whitmer also said the state is failing its students and teachers. She said there is a, “funding crisis” that undermines the state’s teachers and hurts kids.
“Our students are not broken. Our teachers are not broken,” Whitmer said. “It’s our system that has been broken. And while we can’t fix it overnight, and greater investment alone won’t be enough, we are going to do it.”
Although Whitmer did not roll out any concrete plans to improve K-12 education, she did say she wants to start the MI Opportunity Scholarship – it would guarantee two years of community college for all high school students who meet certain criteria. That scholarship would also provide two years of tuition assistance at a four-year college or university.
Whitmer appealed to the social media savvy listeners of her speech. She called for Michigan residents to take a picture of the damage Michigan’s roads have done to their cars. Then post it to social media with #FTDR for “Fix the Damn Roads” – an often used slogan during her campaign.
Whitmer says the photos will remind the Legislature that roads need to be a funding priority, Michigan residents are paying hundreds of dollars a year in car damage because of the roads.
“That is money that could go toward child care, rent, college tuition, retirement savings,” she said. “We are fixing our cars and paying a road tax that doesn’t even fix the damn roads.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey agrees with the governor, but questions where the money will come from.
“We have underinvested in infrastructure in Michigan for four or five decades,” he says. “I wouldn’t call it a crisis. I would call it a high responsibility of us to invest in it in a very real and sustainable way.”
Whitmer didn’t delve into specifics about how she plans to fix the roads. The details of Whitmer’s roads plan will likely be revealed during her budget presentation in March.