LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Cleaning up contaminated drinking water and smoothing deteriorating roads will top the agenda for Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, who said Wednesday she hopes to find bipartisan consensus with the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Addressing a news conference in Detroit, Whitmer insisted that Republicans, independents and first-time voters helped her defeat Republican Bill Schuette because she made infrastructure a campaign focus.
“People really sent a very clear message: They want us to fix the damn roads,” she said.
Whitmer reiterated that if lawmakers are unwilling to support higher fuel taxes or other revenue-boosting options, she will ask voters to approve billions of dollars in borrowing to upgrade roads, bridges, water systems and other priorities. Michigan has been dealing with the consequences of elevated levels of lead in water — in the city of Flint and at Detroit public schools — along with long-lasting industrial chemicals that have tainted tap water in various communities.
While more is already being spent on road work under laws that will not fully be phased in until 2021, a state infrastructure commission has warned that without more investment, road and bridge conditions will continue to worsen. It has called for an additional $2.2 billion to be allocated each year.
Whitmer was scheduled to be in Lansing later in the day for a private meeting with Gov. Rick Snyder, who is term-limited. She said she would like to meet next week with the next crop of legislative leaders after they are chosen by rank-and-file legislators on Thursday.
Snyder said he looked forward to working with Whitmer and her team to ensure a smooth transition. She planned to announce her transition leaders later Wednesday.
“Governor-elect Whitmer’s success means Michigan’s success,” Snyder said in a statement. “I urge all Michiganders to join me in committing to a spirit of civility, unity, collaboration and teamwork to ensure Michigan continues on the right path toward our promising future.”
Democrats made electoral gains in the Legislature but not enough to break the GOP’s majorities. They netted five seats in both chambers, narrowing Republicans’ edge to 22-16 in the Senate and 58-52 in the House.