Midland politicians respond to Governor Whitmer’s state of affairs

Wealthy with excess state revenue, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday called for a series of targeted tax cuts while outlining her legislative agenda and touting bipartisan achievements ahead of her re-election.

Giving her second consecutive State of the State address virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she called for the tax exemption of retirement income – allowing 500,000 households to save an average of $500 a year. year – and the full restoration of credit for 730,000 low- and middle-wage earners. families who would receive an average of $350 more per year.

She offered a $2,500 state credit for the purchase of an electric vehicle and charging equipment on the heels of General Motors’ announced $7 billion investment in Michigan to convert a factory to manufacture electric vans and build a new battery cell factory.

Other new initiatives include adding hundreds of mental health care providers and reducing the cost of insulin.

“I believe that wherever possible, we should make taxes fairer for our seniors and our working families. The Michiganders should be able to keep more of what they’ve earned,” Whitmer said from auto supplier Detroit Diesel’s factory in Redford Township, flanked by all-electric vehicles, saying places like this are the where Michigan’s future will be forged.

Midland reactions

Midland-area Republicans seemed to appreciate some of Whitmer’s bipartisan appeals. State Senator for the 36th District, Jim Stamas, said he was satisfied with the tax cuts requested by the governor.

“The governor has called for several tax cuts. I’ve always supported putting money back in taxpayers’ pockets,” Stamas, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a press release. “The goal is to find a way to provide relief responsibly, knowing that our current level of revenue is unsustainable, most of which is one-time federal funding.

“I hope this address signals a renewed commitment from Governor Whitmer to work with the Legislature to effectively meet the needs of the people of Michigan and build a better future in every community in our state,” Stamas continued.

Republican State Representative for District 98 Annette Glenn was pleased with Whitmer’s proposed pension tax cuts.

“Seniors who have worked hard and paid income taxes for decades need and deserve relief in their retirement years,” Glenn said in a press release. “I am glad the governor is on board, and I will work with her to get economic changes for retirees enacted into state law. Especially now – with all the financial challenges posed by the COVID pandemic and rising inflation – people need this relief.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Representative for Michigan’s Fifth District, Dan Kildee, expressed support for the governor and the priorities she listed during her speech.

“Like Governor Whitmer, I am focused on the kitchen table issues that matter most to working people: lowering daily costs for families, lowering prescription drug costs, lowering taxes for the middle class and attracting high-paying jobs in Michigan,” Kildee said. “In Congress, I secured federal resources to rebuild our failing infrastructure, bolster national supply chains, and help schools and small businesses stay open during the pandemic.”

Jennifer Austin, chair of the Midland County Democrats, said her main takeaways were the governor’s calls for bipartisan support, promoting electric vehicles and lowering the cost of insulin.

“I really enjoyed listening to him point out all the ways we’ve come together as a state and the things we’ve done because of it,” Austin said. “(She was talking) about some things she wants to do, which I think in a lot of ways reflects issues that both sides of the aisle are concerned about.”

More details of Whitmer’s address

It was believed to be the first time a governor has delivered annual remarks outside of Lansing since it became the state capital 175 years ago. Governors began giving in-person speeches sometime in the 20th century, state archivist Mark Harvey said.

Whitmer had planned to address lawmakers again in a joint legislative session on Capitol Hill, as is tradition, until the omicron variant fueled a record number of reported infections and hospitalizations.

“While 2021 hasn’t been as miraculous as any of us would have liked, we have made progress,” she said of the pandemic during the 25-minute speech. “We’re stronger in large part because of science and life-saving vaccines. We’ve come a long way, and I’m encouraged by how far we’ve come.

The optimistic governor said that despite the coronavirus, she and the Republican-led Legislature have made progress in funding education, adding auto jobs, fixing roads and cutting employee bonuses. car insurance.

One of the goals, she said, is to increase the number of mental health workers. She proposed expanding a program whereby the state pays back up to $200,000 in student loans for those who work in nonprofit clinics in areas where there is a shortage of medical professionals. And she said she would propose another ‘bold investment’ in her budget to increase funding for mental health workers in schools, part of a plan that would mark the biggest increase in funding for education. in over 20 years.

Republican lawmakers also support a tax cut, though they may push for a broader cut. Earlier Wednesday, a Senate committee passed a bill that would cut state income and corporation taxes and restore a child tax credit. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said he would sit in the Senate while analysis and talks continue.

“I think all the options we can possibly have on the table to get the money back to citizens is a very good thing, and I can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get involved,” he said. to journalists.

Whitmer, whose handling of the pandemic faced fierce resistance from the GOP for more than a year until his administration lifted capacity restrictions and mask mandates when vaccines became widely available, said remembered the more than 30,000 residents who died from COVID-19. But she otherwise focused on the portfolio and other matters and avoided contentious issues except to briefly say she would veto any attempt to restrict abortion rights.

She asked, for example, that lawmakers give final approval to legislation passed by the House that would cap insulin costs at $50 a month.

The first-term governor faces voters more than nine months away, and it’s unclear how much common ground she and Republicans can find in an election year. But a $5.8 billion surplus and an unprecedented amount of discretionary federal pandemic aid provide opportunities for major infrastructure and other spending.

Whitmer’s bipartisan messaging hasn’t stopped the state’s GOP from questioning claims of progress and blaming her for unemployment and some school districts’ transition to virtual instruction amid the latest wave of coronavirus. She said remote learning is not as fulfilling or conducive to a child’s growth, pledging to do “everything we can” to keep children in school.

“I want to be perfectly clear: the students belong in the class,” she said.

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