“My mission,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the residents of the state of Michigan last Wednesday evening, “is to find common ground so we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.” In her third State of the State Address, Governor Whitmer urged Michiganders to focus on working together in order to “fix the damn road ahead,” referencing her memorable campaign catchphrase. In the 24-minute speech, the governor reflected on the past year’s events, acknowledging 2020 as “a year of horribles,” with historic converging crises that have created deep division. She also recognized Michigan’s achievements, from the bipartisan Michigan Reconnect Program—which provides grants and scholarships to adults seeking a postsecondary education—to the 800,000 vaccines already administered. “The state of our state,” said Whitmer, “is resilient.”
The governor then detailed her goals for the future, including battling COVID-19. She aims to vaccinate 50,000 people a day to reach her larger target of immunizing 70% of people ages 16 and up. “Every eligible Michigander who wants a vaccine will get one,” she promised, explaining that the process will get “faster and smoother as we go.” In terms of pandemic relief, she urged the Michigan legislature to immediately authorize her $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief plan. This plan would expand vaccine distribution as well as COVID-19 testing, tracing and lab capacities. Also on the governor’s agenda is building up Michigan’s damaged economy. “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,” said Whitmer.
Along with these goals, Whitmer discussed the efforts of the Prescription Drug Task Force to address the high cost of prescription drugs. “Prices for life-saving prescriptions have skyrocketed,” she explained, “forcing people to choose between getting their medicine, paying rent or buying food.” She appealed to the Michigan legislature to prioritize the task force’s recommendations to make medications more affordable.
Lastly, Governor Whitmer stated her commitment to improving Michigan’s infrastructure. “The long infrastructure saga in Michigan impacts our ability to safely navigate our roads without spending hundreds of dollars each year in vehicle repairs,” she said. “We’re going to forge ahead rebuilding our roads in 2021 to protect our families and keep more money in Michiganders’ pockets.” According to the Associated Press, Michigan is one of very few states that has a restrictive local road-funding structure. For water infrastructure, too, Whitmer prompted legislators to support her $500 million plan to ensure that “every family in Michigan has clean, safe water.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R) both spoke positively about Whitmer’s address but asserted that her words “lacked content” or a clear outline, according to the Detroit Free Press. On the whole, Republican legislators appear frustrated by her speech. State Representative Mark Huizenga stated that despite Whitmer’s goals for bipartisanship, she has chosen “to go it alone,” and State Senator Aric Nesbitt referenced Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as “a complete failure.” Democrats’ opinions on the governor’s speech appear more optimistic. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich applauded Whitmer’s ability to “put in place actionable things.” He reflected, “That’s one of the things about [her] I appreciate the most.”
On Hope’s campus, some students have responded positively. “I’m glad that we have a governor who is taking the challenge seriously and has a legitimate plan to take action,” said one student. “I don’t know what I would do in a position like [Governor Whitmer’s] in a time like this, with the amount of pressure and eyes that are on you constantly,” said another. “I’m sure she’s just doing what she believes is best for people.”