Gov. Whitmer celebrates achievements, lays out plans in 2023 State of the State

‘Let’s show everyone that the cure for cynicism is competence.’
Whitmer said her priorities were tackling the challenges people are currently facing and making Michigan more competitive.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:16 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:10 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her fifth State of The State address Wednesday night.

It was the first time since 2020 that Whitmer delivered her address in the House Chamber.

“This is our future.”

Whitmer opened her speech by acknowledging the difficulties many are facing with inflation, the cost of medical care and education, safety and job security.

“Let’s talk about what we can do and where we’re going, together,” Whitmer said. “We are eager to chase our bright future with hustle and grit.”

Whitmer said her priorities were tackling the challenges people are currently facing and making Michigan more competitive.

“This is our future,” Whitmer said. “But policies alone mean nothing, it’s about the people they impact.”

The governor then announced “Lowering MI Costs,” a three-part plan that aims to offer immediate relief.

“First: let’s roll back the retirement tax, saving half a million households $1,000 a year,” Whitmer said. “Second: let’s expand the Working Families Tax Credit, delivering at least $3,000 refunds to 700,000 families. And third: Pre-K for All to save families an average of $10,000 a year and ensure every 4-year-old in Michigan gets a great start.”

Whitmer said repealing the retirement tax will impact seniors, saving them money that could be used “for prescriptions, groceries, gas or gifts for grandkids.”

She said boosting the Working Families Tax Credit would deliver an average refund of $3,000 to 700,000 families and would close health and wealth gaps.

“As we work together to build a brighter future, we need to lower costs and support every kind of family: those who have kids and those who do not,” Whitmer said. “The Working Families Tax Credit benefits all kinds of families, and it directly impacts nearly 1 million children - almost half the kids in Michigan.”

Pre-k for all

Whitmer said an early start is critical to a child’s future, but that affordable preschools are hard to find. She called for the expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program to provide access to free public preschool education to every 4-year-old in the state by the end of her second term.

“Data shows that children who go to preschool are: more likely to graduate, earn a certificate or degree, and get a good-paying job,” Whitmer said. “Preschool helps employers too, which is why so many business groups support it.”

She said pre-k for all would make sure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, and would provide parents the ability to go back to work and support thousands of jobs.

“Make it in Michigan”

The governor then turned to Michiganders that recently graduated from high school or college. In an effort to keep young Michiganders and attract talent to the state, Whitmer announced “Make it in Michigan.”

“Ambitious young people have a lot of options when they graduate,” Whitmer said. “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.”

The “Make it in Michigan” proposal aims to grow talent, make communities better places to live and help the state become a place where anyone can thrive.

“If we get this done, we can move faster year-round to compete and win cutting-edge manufacturing projects and bring more supply chains home,” Whitmer said. “We can create opportunity for you and your family and support local economies and small businesses across our state. Businesses know that we must compete to grow, and when we do, we all win.”

Whitmer called attention to how economic surprises in China and Ukraine has an impact on Michigan and the country’s national security. She said she spent the beginning of 2023 meeting with business leaders across the world to sell them on Michigan.

“I told them what Michigan has to offer: Friendly, hardworking people, unbeatable natural resources, a great quality of life at a good cost of living,” Whitmer said. “But most of all, I told them that we will do what it takes to bring them to Michigan because our young people deserve the best opportunities in the world.”

She aims to expand and support Michigan’s manufacturing industries, calling them “the building blocks of the future in Michigan.”

“Let’s keep bringing supply chains of cars and chips home,” Whitmer said. “And let’s increase domestic clean energy production, like wind and solar, so we can produce more energy in America instead of overseas.”

Expanding education programs

To help younger Michiganders get jobs and support talent development, she said she aims to have 60% of Michiganders to have a degree or skills certificate by 2030.

She called attention to the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, which allows eligible students who are graduating in 2023 or later to receive thousands of dollars to help with the cost of colleges and universities.

“Let’s fund apprenticeships and initiatives that are putting nearly 200,000 Michiganders on tuition-free paths to higher education or skills training, helping them land good-paying, union jobs,” Whitmer said. “To help even more people ‘Make it in Michigan,’ let’s take steps to lower the age for Michigan Reconnect from 25 to 21.”

Michigan Reconnect is a program that offers people a tuition-free associate’s degree or skills training. The governor said more than 113,000 people have been accepted into the program and that number will grow.

“Bigotry is bad for business”

“The other half of attracting and retaining young people is standing up for their freedoms,” Whitmer said. “Just a few months ago, Michiganders told us that people should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies. Let’s get to work.”

Whitmer said the state should repeal its 1931 law that bans abortion and other laws that limit reproductive health care and restrict who Michiganders can marry. She also called for the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

“Protecting these freedoms is the right thing to do and it’s just good economics,” Whitmer said. “States with extreme laws are losing talent and investment because bigotry is bad for business. We should build on our reputation as a welcoming beacon of opportunity where anyone can succeed.”

Whitmer said she would go on “the offense” and visit states that have restrictive laws and win over their businesses.

“Every parent - Republican, Democrat, or Independent - wants our kids to stay in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “Let’s give them reasons to stay beyond the promise of a home-cooked meal or free laundry facilities. Let’s expand economic opportunity and protect fundamental freedoms.”

“The littlest Michiganders”

Whitmer said people born this year could live past 2100 and a lot will change by the time we reach that year.

“What will they see in that time? More Stanley Cups for the Wings? A Super Bowl for the Lions? More World Series for the Tigers? Hey, we can dream. All I know is that Izzo will still be coaching,” Whitmer said.

The governor said while it’s unclear what children born today will live through, the state can set them up for success.

“A lot will change by the year 2100, but what every child needs to succeed will not,” Whitmer said. “Tonight, I’m proposing bold investments in public safety and education to make sure a child born today lives in a safe neighborhood and can get a great public education.”

She called attention to the investments the state has made in schools and said student investment is at an all-time-high.

“We made a generational investment to build new libraries and labs and improve air in classrooms and water from drinking fountains. We funded mental health and campus safety at record levels,” Whitmer said. “We set up fellowships and started paying our student teachers.”

Whitmer promised a strong education budget, but said the state can do more and should fund the MI Kids Back on Track program, which offers educational support to children to ensure long-term success.

“When a child gets a great start, learns to read, and graduates high school, they are on track to land a good-paying job or pursue higher education,” Whitmer said. “Unfortunately, the last few years have disrupted regular learning patterns. In-class instruction alone is not enough—our children need more support to master the skills we know they need most.”

“The time for only thoughts and prayers is over.”

Whitmer called for increased funding for law enforcement to pay for better training, oversight and access to mental health resources. She said police officers and state troopers have dangerous jobs and the state can help them keep communities safe.

She called attention to a rise in break-ins at gun stores, straw purchases and 3D printed technology that make guns more dangerous.

“That’s why we launched Operation Safe Neighborhoods, taking hundreds of illegal firearms off the street before they could be used in the commission of a crime,” Whitmer said. “But we must do more so the world our kids inherit is not more violent than the one we inhabit now.”

She called for action to reduce gun violence, universal background checks, safe storage laws and extreme risk protection orders.

“And I want to be very clear, I’m not talking about law-abiding citizens,” Whitmer said. “Hunters and responsible gun owners from both sides of the aisle know that we need to get these commonsense gun safety proposals across the finish line.”

“I will continue finding ways to keep fixing the damn roads.”

Whitmer said the state has fixed 16,000 lane miles and 1,200 bridges since she took office, which supported nearly 90,000 jobs. For her second term, she said she plans to build “the most innovative transportation systems in the country.”

“With new smart road technology, we can avert hundreds of crashes and get the next generation of made-in-Michigan vehicles on the road,” Whitmer said.

She said the creation of the Michigan Infrastructure Office was to help invest resources as efficiently as possible and that in 2023, it will help build up roads, internet, lead-free pipes and clean energy.

“It is our shared duty to face climate change head-on and protect our land and water,” Whitmer said. “We must pursue climate action while creating jobs, lowering costs, and becoming a hub of clean energy production. Last year, we unveiled the MI Healthy Climate Plan, and this year, we should make bold investments in climate action to deliver on its targets. Let’s get it done.”

“The American Superpower.”

Whitmer closed her state of the state by bringing up what she called the “American Superpower,” and called attention to the challenges the world has seen over the last four years.

“I’ve always been a hopeful person. I believe in our bright future,” Whitmer said. “Don’t get me wrong - I’m not naïve. Over the last 4 years, we’ve faced historic challenges and seen the visceral consequences of political division. But the prevailing take now seems to be that things will get worse. Fatalism is in vogue as people wonder aloud whether America’s best days are behind her. I reject that.”

Whitmer said Michiganders should not confuse pessimism for intelligence and that the state has seen progress because of its “unbreakable, hopeful spirit.”

“As the world grapples with big challenges and asks itself tough questions, our responsibility as Michiganders is to roll up our sleeves and do the work,” Whitmer said.

She finished her state of the state address by bringing up a speech President Teddy Roosevelt gave at Michigan State University in 1907.

“He said, ‘I believe in the happiness that comes from the performance of duty, not the avoidance of duty. But I also believe in trying, each of us, as strength is given us, to bear one another’s burdens.’ Michigan, let’s embrace our duty,” Whitmer said. “Let’s show everyone that the cure for cynicism is competence. Let’s lead by example as a state of hardworking, happy warriors.”

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