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State and local leaders react to State of the State address

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 22:04:25-05

MICHIGAN — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held her fourth State of the State address on Wednesday, reflecting on her administration's achievements over the past year and highlighting what she hopes to get done in 2022.

State and local leaders issued statements following the address's conclusion.

Sen. Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids) says she looks forward to helping the governor out money back in Michiganders' pockets, while also noting the achievements they've made together so far.

Brinks's full statement reads:

“Governor Whitmer demonstrated her commitment to putting money back in the pockets of hardworking Michiganders. Whether it’s her plan to repeal the retirement tax, triple the Earned Income Tax Credit, or lower the cost of insulin, the governor’s proposals put hundreds of millions of dollars back in the hands of Michigan families to spend on the things they need. At a time when Michigan is seeing a historic boost in revenue while continuing to fight the pandemic, there’s never been a better opportunity to invest in families in our communities. I look forward to working with Governor Whitmer and my colleagues in the legislature on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and advance these solutions.

“The governor and I have made good on our shared commitment to ending the discriminatory ‘Tampon Tax,’ making childcare more affordable, investing in our students and their education, and building state-of-the-art homes for veterans in Grand Rapids and throughout the state. I am proud of the work that has been done thus far during the 101st Legislative Session, and I look forward to continuing to build a more prosperous state for our constituents in the months to come.”

Sen. Mark Huizenga (R–Walker) says he looks forward to continue working with Governor Whitmer after passing a $3.3 billion PFAS plan, bringing auto insurance reform and working to bolster the state's water infrastructure.

Huizenga's full statement reads:

“We have a divided government, yet the Michigan people expect us to overcome our differences and find common ground on the critical issues facing our state and that are affecting their lives.

“I am proud that Republicans have led the way in helping Michigan families and preparing our state for a brighter future, and I am looking forward to having the governor join us in improving our state and people’s lives.

“We’ve enacted historic auto insurance reform; provided record school funding to ensure our kids could return to their classrooms safely; and passed a $3.3 billion plan to clean up PFAS, improve our aging water infrastructure, and ensure families have access to clean drinking water.

“While we have achieved much, we still have much to do to help our families and communities recover from the pandemic and help build a stronger Michigan.”

Rep. Jim Haadsma (D–Battle Creek) also says he looks forward to working alongside the governor in continuing the work that has been laid out soar.

Haadsma's full statement reads:

“A strong economy is dependent on Michigan workers earning a fair wage. We can’t continue to improve the state’s economy if Michigan families are living paycheck to paycheck. We need to encourage more companies like General Motors to make large investments in Michigan communities that provide good wages and benefits. We also need to continue addressing the issues public schools are facing, like teacher and staff shortages and safety concerns. The historic investment in preK-12 schools we made last year was an excellent start to begin repairing decades of underfunding. I look forward to continuing this work knowing that the governor is in full agreement.”

Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R–Lawton) says he hopes Governor Whitmer will continue to work with lawmakers on bringing tax relief to Michigan's residents.

Nesbitt's full statement reads:

“The governor spoke about the issue of taxes, but we’ll see if that includes relief for all the families and business in Michigan. Struggling families and small businesses are being hit hard by inflation while the state budget is bringing in more revenue than estimates project. That is why I introduced Senate Bill 768 [], which was approved by the Senate Finance Committee earlier today for consideration by the full Senate.

“Our historic tax relief will lower income taxes on hardworking families, provide a $500 per child tax credit, and reduce Michigan’s business tax rate to the lowest in the Midwest. People are capable of spending their own money far more effectively and wisely than the government — leaving more resources with families and small businesses, expanding freedom, and encouraging hard work and investment that are the cornerstones of a healthy economy.

“I am hopeful that Gov. Whitmer will follow through and work with Senate Republicans and other legislative leaders to provide tax relief for not only some Michiganders, but for all of the hardworking men and women of this great state.

“It is important that we continue to work together to responsibly invest in initiatives that will benefit our state for generations to come, such as the $3.3 billion Protect MI Water plan to make sure our drinking water and natural resources are safe and protected and the $1.3 billion MI Safe Drive plan to repair bridges in severe condition across our state without raising taxes, which have each passed the Senate and moved on to the House.

“Finally, I again urge the governor to work with the Legislature and help connect more families to reliable internet service by expanding broadband access to smaller communities throughout the state. We must find a way to close this digital gap.”

Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart praised Whitmer's goal of eliminating the retirement tax and improving education in the state.

Herbart's full statement reads:

“The Michigan Education Association strongly supports Governor Whitmer’s proposal to finally eliminate Michigan’s unfair retirement tax. Michigan seniors cannot continue shouldering such a heavy burden while corporate special interests enjoy disproportionately low tax bills. We need real tax reform that levels the playing field for Michigan families and properly funds our children’s schools. Eliminating the unfair retirement tax on seniors is a step in the right direction.

“Governor Whitmer continues to show she is listening to the voices of educators and is committed to solving Michigan’s acute educator shortage. For the sake of our children’s future, Michigan leaders must do more to attract and retain talented educators and school support staff — and that means increasing wages for starting and veteran educators, reducing our state’s overreliance on standardized testing and respecting educators for the professionals they are.”

Dr. Farhan Bhatti with the Michigan State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care applauded the governor's intention to lower drug costs and addressing mental health in the state.

Dr. Bhatti's full statement reads:

“As a family physician, I’ve seen too many times what happens to people when they can’t afford the insulin or prescription drugs they need, so I’m thankful that Governor Whitmer is working to tackle these critical issues for Michiganders. The ongoing pandemic has only highlighted the need to make prescriptions more affordable so that people can stay healthy and take care of their families regardless of their income. At the same time, access to mental health care has never been more important because of its great impact on overall health outcomes. Holding drug manufacturers accountable to lower skyrocketing drug and insulin costs, as well as expanding our mental health workforce and rethinking how mental health care services are reimbursed, will help individuals better access the care they need to live, learn, work, and give back to our communities – regardless of what county or zip code they reside in. I commend Gov. Whitmer for taking this step to help individuals thrive and to strengthen our state.”

Sen. Jim Stamas (R–Midland) says the Senate will continue to follow up on 2021's bipartisan state budget to improve Michiganders' lives.

Stamas's full statement reads:

“The governor has called for several tax cuts. I’ve always supported putting money back into the pockets of taxpayers. The focus is to find a way to responsibly provide relief, knowing that our current level of revenue is not sustainable with much being one-time federal funding.

“My hope is that this address signals a new commitment from Gov. Whitmer to work with the Legislature to effectively meet the needs of the Michigan people and build a brighter future in every community of our state.

“We have learned a lot over the last two years. There needs to be a balance, and our priorities will be on fixing our economy, meeting the needs of the Michigan people, helping improve the health of our state, and ensuring our students can safely return to the classroom and recover academically and emotionally.

“The Senate is dedicated to building on last year’s bipartisan budget framework to help improve the lives of Michigan families and small business owners, many of whom are struggling with rising costs and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”

Rep. Rachel Hood (D–Grand Rapids) says the pension tax has been a hindrance on Michigan families and seniors, adding she looks forward to working with the governor to repeal it.

Hood's full statement reads:

“Our families and seniors have enough to worry about as we work to recover and stay safe through this pandemic. It’s absolutely unacceptable that thousands of pensioners and retirees on a fixed income suddenly had to face additional taxation from Michigan; I’m so proud to be a part of a legislature that can repeal that tax. And in this time when families are pressured to do more with less, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit means families will get the resources they need now and protect the ones they’ll need later. This type of bold, people-first approach will uplift communities and secure the futures of Michiganders all across the state.”

Sen. Lana Theis (R–Brighton) applauds the governor's "newfound Republicanism" and hopes she will use it to give Michiganders additional tax refunds to combat the rise of inflation.

Theis's full statement reads:

“The state of our state is strong, in no small part because of the resilient and hardworking men and women of Michigan who, in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past two years, have endured and driven our state forward. We see it with continued reductions in unemployment. We see it with new and expanding business opportunities. We see it with unexpected state revenues. These accomplishments have had little, if nothing, to do with government. In fact, much of our state’s success during this time came despite government mandates and restrictions that have worked against our progress.

“That is why I viewed Gov. Whitmer’s state of the state address with cautious optimism, if not suspicion. It was nice to hear that the governor has discovered the wisdom of reducing taxes, and I am hopeful that she will live up to her word and work with the Legislature to do so. I encourage the governor to embrace her newfound republicanism and support giving the people tax refunds to help deal with hyperinflation.

“And in the spirit of bipartisanship, we simply must prioritize our children’s education and do all we can to get them back into their classrooms full-time. Now beginning our third year of what has become a globally endemic virus, we don’t need more time to figure it out. This has created a crisis in our education system. Too many students are falling behind academically as they disengage from internet-based learning. Worse, they are suffering from mental health issues that are impacting not just their education, but their overall well-being. It is a problem everyone sees and that too many are feeling. The time for talking and hand-wringing is over.

“It’s not just taxes and education — there are far too many things we should be working together to fix, including the supply chain, critical infrastructure, and water resources. I hope the governor’s appeal to bipartisanship is more than a picture show. I hope she will put down her veto pen and pick up the proverbial shovel, so we can get to work making our state even stronger.”

Sen. Rick Outman (R–Six Lakes) criticized Governor Whitmer's actions despite her calls for bipartisanship, but says he looks forward to working alongside her to repair Michigan's infrastructure.

Outman's full statement reads:

“Tonight, the governor laid out her priorities for the upcoming year, and her outlook for the state’s future.

“The governor’s words about bipartisanship and calls for working together haven’t always been followed up by her actions. For the third year in a row, the governor called on everyone to work together, and like many others listening tonight, her words left me feeling skeptical.

“Time and again, she has yanked the football from in front of lawmakers who worked on bipartisan legislation to address the priorities of struggling Michigan families. Of the countless bills that have made it to the governor’s desk in recent years, she has vetoed nearly 100 bipartisan bills aimed at helping struggling families and businesses.

“I do, however, agree that we have shown the success we can build when we work together. We’ve worked to train more workers, attract talent and bring new industries to the state. General Motors just announced a groundbreaking investment to bring thousands of new jobs and retain even more.

“A few months ago, we finalized a responsible budget that uses federal resources to fund priorities and finally level the playing field for schools across the state.

“I hope we can take her up on the bipartisan promises made tonight and continue making a difference for Michiganders. I look forward to her working with us on pending legislation to fix the roads and bridges and make sure everyone has access to safe drinking water signed into law. These are priorities people have been calling for and we have been working on.

“In the meantime, our immediate focus should remain on helping the families and businesses who have been trying to survive the burdensome government restrictions and mandates that still plague us two years into this pandemic.

“I always look forward to hearing the governor’s plans, but whether or not her actions will live up to tonight’s promises remain to be seen.”

Sen. Jon Bumstead (R–Newaygo) expressed his support of the governor's endeavors to bring tax relief to Michiganders and close the gap in Michigan's skilled-trade jobs.

Bumstead's full statement reads:

“I appreciated hearing the governor’s thoughts on many of the issues directly impacting Michigan’s future this evening.

“I’m glad to hear of the governor’s support for rebuilding water infrastructure across our state. I believe we should actively protect the water in our lakes and rivers, as well as the drinking water entering the pipes of our homes. I introduced Senate Bill 565 [] to invest $3.3 billion to preserve and protect Michigan’s water quality, infrastructure, and vital natural resources.

“The Michigan Senate took action toward ensuring our state’s water infrastructure will undergo significant improvements by passing Senate Bill 565 unanimously. I look forward to the governor endorsing my bill, so we can get to work making transformational changes around the state.

“As budget subcommittee chair for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, I will continue working with stakeholders and my colleagues in the Legislature to develop a budget that effectively invests state dollars to improve the safety and reliability of our state’s water infrastructure.

“The governor proposed a rollback of Michigan's retirement tax. I am very supportive of providing tax relief for everyone in Michigan. If those that have a public pension deserve a tax cut, then I would support everyone that receives retirement income be given the same reduction. Additionally, there are those of retirement age that still have to work to make ends meet, and those seniors should also be given relief.

“The governor also proposed tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal credit to help low-to-moderate income families. I’ve consistently supported lowering the tax rates on both families and businesses in our state, so I am excited to hear the governor is finally getting on board.

“I introduced legislation to lower the income tax rate on businesses to improve the economy and create more high paying jobs to assist families across the state. I also voted in favor of legislation to lower the individual income tax rate to 3.9% and provide a child tax credit to families with children 19 years of age and younger. These bills will provide immediate tax relief to low- and moderate-income families, and I look forward to the governor supporting these commonsense solutions.

“I am also in favor of the idea to encourage more residents to pursue job training programs to help close the skilled trades gap. There are thousands of unfilled jobs in our state, and we need to promote skilled trades education and job training programs to help fill these high-paying opportunities.

“As vice chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I look forward to the governor’s upcoming budget presentation and working with her administration to ensure Michigan passes a balanced, responsible budget that funds critical priorities like water infrastructure, skilled trades education, tax relief for families and seniors, and continuing to pay down our long-term debt.

“As we move forward into 2022, I hope to work together with my colleagues in the Legislature and the governor to wisely invest in the future of our state to build a better Michigan.”

AARP Michigan Director Paula D. Cunningham responded favorably to Governor Whitmer's plan to repeal the pension tax, noting the adverse effects it has had on Michiganders since 2011.

Cunningham's full statement reads:

“When the pension tax passed in 2011, it changed the effective value of pension benefits for a large swath of Michiganders already on fixed incomes and continues to this day to impact new waves of retirees, including the current surge of COVID-19 retirees. Our state did a shameful thing when it pulled the rug out from under these workers. AARP Michigan has long sought to have this law repealed and supports the governor’s current call to phase it out. Michiganders who have worked hard, played by the rules and paid their dues deserve to retire with dignity, but too many have been forced to go back to work to pay the bills. AARP fought against this bad legislation in 2011 and will continue to fight it today. We urge state legislators to do the right thing by repealing this law and helping build Michigan’s reputation as the first ‘age-friendly’ state in the Midwest.”

Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans Dominick Pallone commended the governor for her intention to improve access to mental health and lower drug prices.

Pallone's full statement reads:

“The Michigan Association of Health Plans is leading efforts in Michigan to improve healthcare accessibility, affordability and equity in Michigan. We applaud the Governor’s attention toward mental health access and prescription drug costs. As we await the details of her legislative proposals, we will continue to advocate for legislation (SB 597 & 598) that would improve mental health services to our most vulnerable populations. Michigan is one of just a dozen states that has failed to integrate physical and mental health services under its Medicaid program. Doing so will improve mental health services and choice for those who need it the most.”

Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D–Scio Township) says she looks forward to continue working with the governor to help improve the lives of all Michiganders.

Lasinski's full statement reads:

“House Democrats are proud to stand with Gov. Whitmer on our shared priorities. Working together over the past three years, House Democrats have delivered record-breaking investments in Michigan schools, finally closing the decades-long gap in per-pupil funding. We’ve stood side by side with the governor to keep people safe during the pandemic as we ramped up testing, treatment and vaccines for millions across the state. Looking to the future, we will fight to bring more good-paying manufacturing jobs back to Michigan and secure critical investments in Michigan’s future like the ones General Motors announced just yesterday. We will continue to put Michigan families first by providing real tax relief for working people and lowering the costs of everyday needs like prescription drugs. And we will work hand in hand to put billions in federal infrastructure to work in our communities to ensure safe water in every tap and reliable roads and bridges under every Michigan driver. I am looking forward to partnering with Gov. Whitmer on these transformational opportunities for Michigan and am excited about all of the great things in store for us.”

Michigan Virtual President & CEO Jamey Fitzpatrick says funding for Michigan's schools have been beneficial under Governor Whitmer's leadership, saying that funding is instrumental in helping students become successful.

Fitzpatrick's full statement reads:

“If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s this: the future success of Michigan’s education system is absolutely dependent on innovation with a focus on personalized learning approaches for all students. For the fourth year in a row, Michigan teachers and students have benefited from a call for historic levels of funding from Governor Gretchen Whitmer – at a time when our education system is experiencing an unprecedented and daunting challenge. No longer can we rely on the emergency remote learning which was implemented as a pandemic response with little advanced planning and preparation. Years of continued increased educational funding is helping to ensure high quality flexible learning environments with proper supports to ensure successful student outcomes.

“After more than two years of learning from home and in hybrid classrooms, parents across Michigan can agree that each of our children’s unique learning styles are varied, and tailored programs for their individual needs are vital. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature in once again strengthening resources for Michigan’s K-12 system so that we can ensure parents have the support they need, educators have the right tools to do their job, and students have the ability to succeed. To echo Gov. Whitmer: we at Michigan Virtual absolutely believe in Michigan and the strength and resiliency of our families, and look forward to working together in 2022.”

Grand Rapids Chamber President & CEO Rick Baker says the plans Governor Whitmer outlined during her address would be favorable to West Michigan and small businesses.

Baker's full statement reads:

“Tonight, Governor Whitmer’s State of the State address highlighted several initiatives the Grand Rapids Chamber has championed, which are wins for West Michigan’s business community. These accomplishments include stronger infrastructure, access to childcare, criminal justice reform and investments in talent. Governor Whitmer also highlighted an initiative that aligns with our goal of creating a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for all, increasing the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit.

“The Chamber will continue to work with the Governor and legislators to create an environment that supports business success and an equitable, growth-oriented future. In particular, we hope to see more support for small businesses in the face of rising costs and a severe talent shortage. We also call for urgent action to support housing supply and attainability. With our allies at Housing Michigan, we are working to address this need and urge the Governor to support workforce housing legislation that sits in the Michigan House.”

Mothering Justice Child Care Organizer Oriana Powell says the state's investments in child care helped greatly, but more focus is needed on Michigan's informal providers.

Powell's full statement reads:

“Expanding options for child care and increasing the earned income tax credit are beneficial policies that support Michigan’s working parents. Michigan’s historic investment in child care provided necessary stabilization grants for providers desperate to hire more teachers to be in the position to serve as many families as they can. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Mothering Justice will continue to advocate for the state to recognize the value of our informal care providers which includes, friends, family, and neighbors who care for our children. They are the rapid responders who come to the aid of parents in need every day.”

Insurance Alliance of Michigan Executive Director Erin McDonough says Michigan is no longer the most expensive state in the nation when it comes to auto insurance thanks to auto reforms now in effect.

McDonough's full statement reads:

“The $400 refund checks from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association are just one more way more than 7 million Michigan drivers are benefitting from the bipartisan auto no-fault reforms. On many fronts, we can see these reforms are working: Our state is no longer the most expensive state to purchase auto insurance, more drivers are buying car insurance for the first time ever or for the first time in a while now that it’s more affordable, and more companies continue entering the Michigan market, increasing competition and further lowering the cost of auto insurance.”

Michigan Environmental Council Chief Policy Officer Charlotte Jameson says she anticipates working to lead Michigan to an electric future alongside Governor Whitmer.

Jameson's full statement reads:

"Gov. Whitmer illustrated that EVs are not only good for Michigan’s environment, but they’re also good for its people and its economy. Increasing access to EVs is a significant step in combating climate change and reducing harmful air pollution in our communities. The future of transportation is fully electric. We look forward to working with Gov. Whitmer and the legislature to secure the policies and funding needed to move Michigan in this direction and to expand the public and non-motorized transit options that make our communities vibrant and healthy."

Michigan Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jim Holcomb applauds the governor's attention on Michigan's businesses and economy.

Holcomb's full statement reads:

“The Michigan Chamber appreciates the focus Governor Whitmer placed on the importance of reinvigorating our state’s economy and growing businesses and jobs in this year’s State of the State. We know all too well that Michigan businesses are facing unprecedented challenges – from navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation and supply chain chaos to the continuing workforce crisis. Finding solutions to these pressing issues is a top priority for the Michigan Chamber because they will help our state, communities and families succeed and allow our economy grow. We urge the Governor to work collaboratively across the aisle with legislative leaders and lawmakers to find the bipartisan, pragmatic solutions our members and businesses need and count on. The Michigan Chamber is committed to being active participants in that process.”

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