by Bruce Walker
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her third State of the State Wednesday night on a mostly optimistic note.
The governor spent much of her 30-minute speech discussing bipartisan successes.
The past year, Michigan has witnessed government-imposed shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating 100-year flood in Gladwin and Midland counties that inflicted more than $200 million in property damage.
These two events, she said, made 2020 an “annus horriblis,” or year of misfortune, for the state. She asserted 2021 would be the opposite, an “annus mirabilis” or auspicious year.
However, Whitmer said bipartisanship resulted in many positive developments, including the Clean Slate criminal justice reform, the tuition-free job training and education Michigan Reconnect Program, and two balanced budgets.
Additionally, the governor heralded Michigan as once the former “arsenal of democracy” is currently the “arsenal of health.” She noted Michigan’s Portage-based Pfizer developed one of the two available COVID-19 vaccines.
“Despite incredibly hard decisions and dangerous threats, I know my burden has been lighter than many,” Whitmer began, referencing the alleged plot to kidnap the governor that garnered national attention last year.
Noting more than 14,000 Michigan deaths have been attributed to the pandemic, she stated: “This past year, we confronted historic converging crises – a worldwide pandemic, the recession it caused, a 500-year flooding event, a nationwide call against racial inequity, and a deeply divisive election.”
Another bipartisan effort referenced by the governor was the Protect Michigan vaccine commission, which she said is currently the second wave of distributing vaccines. The state has administered more than 800,000 vaccines thus far, which ranks Michigan sixth in the nation.
Addressing her proposed $5.6 billion Michigan COVID Recovery Plan announced last week, Whitmer said it would jump-start the state’s economy by supporting small businesses, distributing vaccines, and “getting our kids back on track.”
The plan also asks the Michigan Legislature to permanently extend unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.
“Let’s get the MI COVID Recovery Plan passed immediately,” she said. “Our economy demands every child has a great public education. Despite the budget crisis caused by COVID, we worked across the aisle to support our public schools,” she said.
Whitmer was less specific on future plans she has for the state, and opted not to mention her controversial intention to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline completely by May.
“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,” she said.
“This year, I will launch the ‘Fixing the Damn Road Ahead’ tour to engage with and listen to Michiganders – young and old, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and everywhere in between,” the governor said. “To focus on what unites us, improve how we talk to each other, and together we’ll fix the damn road ahead. My mission is to find common ground so we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by WOOD TV8.