U.P. lawmakers react to Gov. Whitmer's 'State of the State' address

 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives her 2020 State of the State Address on Jan. 29, 2020 (WLUC image).
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives her 2020 State of the State Address on Jan. 29, 2020 (WLUC image). (WLUC)
Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 11:52 PM EST
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In her second State of the State Address Wednesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Michigan will borrow $3.5 billion through bonds to rebuild state highways and bridges over the next five years.

The Democrat calls is a responsible way to start fixing the deteriorating roads.

"My 'Rebuilding Michigan Plan' is financed without an increase at the gas pump and it will do three things -- save time, save money and save lives. Since it doesn't require the legislature to act, we can get started right away," said Whitmer.

Meanwhile, Republicans who have a majority in the legislature say they rejected the governor's proposed 45-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase for a reason, and this is not the way to go.

"It's not a long-term fix, it's a band-aid," said State Representative Beau LaFave. "Every U.P. resident knows that if you check the check book, and every month you're hemorrhaging from your savings account $1,000 a month, you have two options; either get more money, or cut spending. The governor doesn't seem to understand, you can't just put that $1,000 a month on the credit card."

Senator Ed McBroom adds that while he appreciates the Governor's concern for our roads, this new plan does not address the needs of the U.P.

"We need to do something about our local roads. But the plan that she proposed last year, and this one, is just a plan about big roads, in south-east Michigan."

The governor also announced the creation of an "Opioid Task Force."

"I know she's going to get bi-partisan support (on this)," said State Representative Sara Cambensy. "As we know, addiction doesn't choose race or families, or socio-economics, where you live ... it's all over our state, in every county. So I do think you'll see us come together and work on that."

The governor also touched on a topic of frequent concern across Upper Michigan -- training the next generation of workers to stay and find jobs locally.

"In 2019, I set an ambitious goal to increase the number of Michiganders with a post-secondary credit to 60 percent by 2030," said Whitmer. "To get there, there's bi-partisan legislation called 'Michigan Reconnect,' that will provide tuition-free skills training and degree programs for adults."

"I'm really excited to see her positive push on flexibility for education ... for high school graduates getting into training, apprenticeships, skilled trades, colleges, universities, etc.," said McBroom.

"We want every student in Michigan, whether they want to go to college, or they want to work in one of our awesome blue-collar jobs, to be able to do that," said LaFave.

State Senator McBroom did feel that certain U.P. topics were left out in the governor's speech.

"You know, Line 5, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing across the U.P. ... there are just so many things to get excited about. I would have loved for those things to get mentioned. But the governor had her message and stuck with it, and that's certainly OK."

But ultimately, Upper Michigan lawmakers say, they're walking away from Wednesday night's speech ready to come together and work for their constituents.

"I know as U.P. reps, we always come back to the table," said Cambensy. "Even if we disagree. We try to make it work for the betterment of the people."