After being rejected last year by the GOP-led legislature on a gas tax plan to fix Michigan’s roads, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last night took a different tack, announcing a plan that doesn’t require legislative approval.
During her State of the State address, the Democrat rolled out a $3.5-billion borrowing plan to fix Michigan’s crumbling road system. But it drew criticism for ignoring local roads and for increasing the state’s debt. Under the plan, 122 major road projects would be either expanded or added on to. Calling impatience a virtue, the Democrat says the plan will enable the state to do about twice as much construction on I-, U.S.- and M-numbered routes as it can now. “Our roads are dangerous, and the longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to fix them. That’s why I’m taking action now to fix the damn roads and keep Michiganders safe. My Rebuild Michigan plan will ensure we start moving dirt this spring and save us money in the long run. But if we’re going to fix all the dangerous roads in Michigan, Republicans need to step up and get serious about finding a long-term road funding solution for our local roads and bridges. I’ll work with them when they’re ready, but in the meantime, I’m going to get to work fixing our state roads on my own.”
Whitmer says the money will be used to reconstruct, rather than resurface, roads in high-traffic areas with the greatest need. Republicans decried the plan for increasing debt and ignoring local roads. However, the proposal received a positive reception from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Whitmer also requested legislation to consolidate parts of the Affordable Care Act into state law, including banning insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Also announced were initiatives to expand health coverage for women who recently had babies and to expand preschool access.
Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier issued a response to the speech, saying Gov. Whitmer showed, “she is serious about taking on Michigan’s problems even if Republican lawmakers aren’t. The agenda she laid out is a people-centered agenda that can make a real difference in the everyday lives of Michigan residents. When we talk to voters during our phone banking and door-to-door canvasses, health care, prescription drugs, better education, and stagnating wages are the issues they mention time and again so I applaud the governor for wanting to do something about those problems. But it remains to be seen whether Republicans will want to do anything about any of these. Whitmer’s plan to forge ahead on a $3.5 billion bonding plan for Michigan road repairs is a serious attempt to do something about a problem that has grown worse and worse due to years of Republican inaction. She wants to do something about the roads. The Republicans don’t. The governor wants to do something about high prescription drug prices. She wants to do something about improving the reading skills of young children. She wants to do something about stagnating incomes by guaranteeing overtime for tens of thousands of more workers. She wants to do something to guarantee health coverage for pre-existing conditions. It’s long past time time for Republicans to meet the governor halfway and do something so she doesn’t have to act alone. The people will be watching closely if they don’t.”
Meghan Reckling, Chair of the Livingston County Republican Party also issued a statement following the address. “Tonight, the Governor wanted us to pay attention to what she was saying, and I think all of Michigan heard her loud and clear. Besides her refusal to give credit to Republicans for the long list of legislative accomplishments she highlighted, or the President for our strong economy which she also touted – she instead chose to shame the legislature for their refusal to grant her extreme gas tax hike or follow her lead in slashing funding to veterans, students, seniors, local law enforcement, and Michiganders in need. Governor Whitmer ended her address by preaching the virtues of impatience and her intentions to double-down on her go-it-alone approach from last year, instead promising to drive up debt against the will of Michigan’s hard-working taxpayers.”
(JK) (AP Photo/Al Goldis)