Whitmer focuses on aging roads, lagging education

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says there are two major crises Michigan must confront now — aging infrastructure and a lagging education system — or else it will become a tougher place to live, work and run a business.

“We must work together because we’ve got a lot to do. As I’ve said before, Michigan’s problems are not partisan problems,” Whitmer said.

The Democrat, delivering her first State of the State address Tuesday night, pointed to deteriorating roads, contaminated drinking water and the worst decline in childhood literacy among states measured every year since 2014.

She says “generations of leadership” have failed Michigan schoolchildren. She adds that just 18 percent of roads are in “good condition.”

Detailed proposals will likely wait until Whitmer proposes her initial budget to lawmakers in March.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is proposing a scholarship program that would provide college tuition assistance to many Michigan high school graduates.

The Michigan Opportunity Scholarship was unveiled in her State of the State speech Tuesday night. It would give graduates two years of tuition-free education at a community college or cover tuition for the first two for students attending a four-year college.

Students going to a four-year college would not qualify if their household income is above $80,000 or they do not have a 3.0 GPA. Whitmer also wants to help older adults with tuition if they are seeking an in-demand job in a second career.

Reaction to Whitmer’s speech is pouring in. Republican lawmakers say while they did not expect specifics from her speech, as to how she’ll accomplish her goals, they said they would not be in favor of raising taxes.

“I’m expecting to see a lot of surprises in how we’re gonna find all this money for all these new programs. Can’t wait,” State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said. “Often times the easiest solution is not the best solution, and seldom is the best solution the most popular, and so we’ve got a lot of ways to go here.”

State Senator Tom Barrett, who represents the Potterville area, said he’ll take a wait and see approach.

“I’m gonna wait to see what the governor proposes here in the next few weeks. I want to give her the opportunity to present her budget priorities to us in the legislature,” he said. “We’ll receive those, we’ll defintely vet those out thoroughly and see where we can find common ground and certainly where we need to negotiate.”

Local Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, echoed Whitmer’s focus on roads and education.

“I think she did a great job of laying out the problems ahead of us,” State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. said. “Our roads are still crumbling in Michigan, we need to invest in education and invest in Michigan’s future. And she said she’s willing to work with both sides of the aisle in order to get that done and that’s what needs to happen.”

“We got there by neglect. And the governor recognizes that, understands the tax problems that contributed to the problems we’re having, and is gonna find a way to get us out of this mess,” State Representative Julie Brixie said.

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