Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her fifth State of the State address tonight to tout her first term accomplishments and unveiled her plans for moving Michigan forward. Republicans, on the other hand, were left with many questions on how she intends to roll out these seemingly large investments.
Republican leadership spoke to media afterwards in which they expressed how they believed Whitmer’s speech was absent of any details regarding how she would roll out her new plans, which include K-12 tutoring investments, building the workforce and social justice issues like abortion and civil rights.
“We didn’t see any specifics of what Governor Whitmer was going to do,” said House Minority Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township.
And when it came to the Governor’s headlining issues — the tax cut on retirement income and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit already in the legislature — they had several complaints. Namely that the policies being pushed by Democrats are too small, too slow and for too few people.
“I think they’re they have some concerns on immediate relief,” Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township said. “And it also only provides relief for about a third of seniors. I’d like to see a relief for all seniors.”
Republicans are in the minority seat in the Michigan Legislature for the first time since Whitmer was first elected governor in 2018, which means they’ve all but lost the ability to challenge her on some of her key issues.
With what they believe to be little backing behind some of Whitmer’s plans, some Republicans were left to feel like there was not much they could agree on.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Hall, R-Richland Township, and Nesbitt set their own expectations for what they hoped Whitmer would discuss during her speech: protecting the income tax rollback, providing immediate tax relief for working families and seniors, outlining a road plan and a focus on public safety.
Following the State of the State, Hall said he was disappointed she didn’t mention her plans for the income tax trigger that may be caused by a surplus of state funds, which would reduce the state’s individual income tax rate to 4.05% from 4.25%.
“Why not get up there and celebrate this achievement and get out there and say, ‘We’re going to have this policy?’” Hall said.
Nesbitt also called out the Democrats plan for tax relief Whitmer mentioned as not being as inclusive as Republicans competing tax plan.
“It’s very important that we stand up and support all working families and all seniors in Michigan, instead of picking winners and losers,” Nesbitt said.
Sen. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, is chair of the Senate Appropriation Committee and said, of all the working families she had met with, all had responded enthusiastically to Democrats’ plans.
“You know, I can’t speak for my Republican colleagues, but I know I’m from a very working middle class community and relief is at the top of people’s minds,” Anthony said. “I can’t speak for folks who have yachts and are at the top echelon of society. I’m speaking for folks who are trying to make ends meet.”
There was then the question of how Democrats intend to fund these new programs, another detail which Republicans felt were noticeably absent from Whitmer’s speech. Republican lawmakers said they see large costs necessary for these projects as a potential challenge for the state years down the road as the state faces a possible recession.
“Those are going to be ongoing entitlements, ongoing expenses with no explanation how they’re going to get paid for,” said Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Hillsdale.
Whitmer mentioned during her speech her willingness to “work with anyone who’s serious about solving problems to move Michigan forward.” While Republicans do have some concerns, Hall said there are bipartisan issues he sees the two parties being able to work together on, such as bringing supply chains back from overseas.
“Let’s focus there and let’s start moving in a direction together rather than focusing on divisive policies,” Hall said.
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