By Andrew Nemeth
Michigan’s new Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, addressed the state for the first time on Tuesday in her State of the State address. She took the opportunity to lay out her plans for her term as governor.
Whitmer began her speech with promises to improve Michigan’s infrastructure, including her long standing campaign promise to “fix the damn roads.”
Although she did not put forth a plan to fix Michigan’s deteriorating roadways within her speech, she promised “a real solution to fixing our roads and rebuilding our infrastructure” in her budget which will be proposed next month.
Much of the address was dedicated to educational issues, and her proposed solutions to them.
Whitmer proposed a new scholarship called the MI Opportunity Scholarship. This scholarship would provide two years of free community college for all graduating high school students that qualify. If funding for the scholarship is approved as part of the governor’s budget proposal, the scholarship would launch this spring and be available the fall of 2020.
The scholarship would also provide tuition assistance for the first two years of college for those who wish to go directly to a four-year university, so long as students graduate from high school with at least a B average.
Also announced was a statewide goal to increase post secondary credentials for Michiganders between the ages of 16 and 64 from the current 44 percent to 60 percent by 2030.
Along with education for those that are just starting college, Whitmer hopes to retrain those currently in the workforce and connect them with employers with a program called Michigan Reconnect.
She also highlighted a number of executive directives she made in her previous month in office which dealt with government transparency and civil rights issues.
Whitmer talked about expanding government transparency and the Freedom of Information Act to every government office in Michigan and signed the directive, which included banning the use of personal email accounts in her own office, on Feb. 1 during the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference.
Another executive directive signed earlier this month will prohibit government employers from asking women about salary history. The intent is to reduce pay inequality by forcing employers to give equal pay raises unbiased from past earnings.
Future efforts to expand the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act were also mentioned. The act is a Michigan law that prevents discriminatory practices based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight and familial or marital status, but does not yet cover sexual orientation. Whitmer hopes to add sexual orientation protection to the act in her tenure.
Whitmer finished her speech with a call for an end to partisan politics, and a hope for cooperation in the Michigan legislature despite the current political climate.
“It’s important for us to remember that the enemy is not the person across the aisle,” Whitmer said. “The enemy is apathy. The enemy is extreme partisanship. The enemy is self-interest.”
A full transcript of the speech can be found here while a video of the speech can be found here.