LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — During Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's third State of the State address, she talked about getting Michiganders back to work amid the pandemic, increasing the state's vaccine supply to reach a daily goal and even revisited "fixing the damn roads."
This year, Whitmer's speech was a bit different from years before. It didn't take place in the House Chamber inside the Michigan Capitol with hundreds of people surrounding the governor. Instead, Whitmer gave her speech in a much more intimate setting – her Capitol office. All of this, of course, for safety reasons.
"2020 was a tough year. Despite incredibly hard decisions and dangerous threats, I know my burden has been lighter than many," Whitmer said near the opening of her speech, while remembering many who died from COVID-19 in the state. That number now over 14,000.
The pandemic, which entered the United States a year ago this January, has brought devastating losses. On top of the staggering loss of lives, many workers lost their jobs, creating more economic insecurity. Whitmer touched on how those job losses will be addressed in the new year by announcing the Michigan Back to Work plan aimed at growing the economy and getting workers back on their feet.
"We will leverage all of the resources of state government to rebuild our economy back better," Whitmer said. "Working with leaders in state and federal government, business, and beyond to grow good-paying Michigan jobs. Over the next year, we will announce initiatives and projects big and small – from tech, mobility and manufacturing growth, to clean energy and road construction. This will protect, grow, and create more good-paying jobs."
Whitmer also called on the Michigan Legislature to "take action" on jobs for Michigan, while giving kudos to drug manufacturer Pfizer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which created 450 jobs amid the pandemic.
The governor tied together economic growth along with focusing on the state's infrastructure, which segued her speech to a topic that hasn't lost much steam since she was elected, and that "fixing the damn roads."
In 2020, Whitmer's administration announced the Rebuilding Michigan bonding plan that would give billions of dollars to fixing some of Michigan's roads.
The I-496 Rebuilding Michigan project followed, with projects aimed toward sections of I-96 in Oakland County impacting metro Detroit drivers, as well as other projects.
"We're going to forge ahead rebuilding our roads in 2021 to protect our families and keep more money in Michiganders’ pockets," Whitmer said.
Whitmer also talked about the state's response to vaccination efforts. The state's goal is to administer 50,000 shots a day. As it stands, over 800,000 vaccines have been administered, making Michigan 6th in the nation for vaccine distribution. However, there are some hurdles with supply shortages in cities across the state.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan saying just last week that the city received much fewer vaccines than expected. Also, Wayne County recently having to shuffle around scheduled vaccinations due to the state notifying of a switch from Pfizer to Moderna, which caused some delays in administering doses.
However, Whitmer is positive that the state is heading in the right direction, especially after the Biden administration announced this week the purchase of 200 million more doses of approved COVID vaccines.
The goal now is to have at least 70% of the Michigan population age 16 and up vaccinated as soon as possible, Whitmer said during her state address.
"Every eligible Michigander who wants a vaccine will get one," she said. "This process is like a locomotive – it will be cumbersome and slow in the beginning, but it will get faster and smoother as we go. I just ask for patience as our frontline workers work around the clock to get shots in arms."
The state is now offering a website to let residents know of distribution locations and other facts surrounding vaccination efforts in the state.
Much of the governor's speech reflected the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan announced recently, which outlines vaccination distribution efforts, education during the pandemic, economy and small business support. For more on that plan, click here.
For more information on Whitmer's plans outlined in her State of the State address, click here for fact sheets.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox responded to the State of the State address with the below statement:
“Over the past year, Governor Whitmer has left our state in disarray due to her failed leadership. Governor Whitmer has spent the last year ignoring the people’s representatives in government by refusing to work with the state legislature, implementing deadly policies like her nursing home strategy, and betraying the trust of voters with her administration’s lack of transparency. The only thing we need to hear from Governor Whitmer tonight is an apology.”