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Gov. Whitmer Highlights Priority for Businesses, Advocates for Civility at the Chamber’s State of the State Address

State of the State for Michigan Business

On Feb. 12, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared her vision for successfully managing COVID-19, strengthening the economy, and fixing the roads in her State of the State Address for the Business Community to the Detroit Regional Chamber. The event came one day after the Governor released her administration’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2022. The budget has many elements that the Chamber has been advocating for over the past few years.

 

Chamber Priorities in 2022 Budget

  • $120M Michigan Reconnect: The Chamber helped advocate for and develop Michigan Reconnect. It is modeled after the Detroit Reconnect program and works toward that same mission to support adults returning to higher education or starting for the first time.
  • $60M Futures for Frontliners: This program helps essential workers and those impacted by unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic to go to college. This program will help the state reach the Chamber’s goal of 60% of adults attaining a two-year, four-year, or professional certificate by 2030.
  • $15M Going Pro: The Chamber has advocated for the program to expand employer-based training grants that result in industry-recognized credentials and certificates.
  •  $25M Mobility Futures Initiative: The Chamber and MICHauto are leaders ensuring Michigan is at the center of the mobility industry. The Mobility Futures Initiative supports a new statewide collaboration that addresses environmental sustainability, connected and autonomous vehicle deployment, economic and workforce development, and alleviating systemic mobility inequities in underserved communities.

Governor’s Priorities for Business

The Governor’s budget proposal mirrors her vision for how Michigan will combat COVID-19 and support a broad-based economic recovery. Daniel J. Loepp, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, introduced Gov. Whitmer, who outlined her top three priorities for 2021. At the heart of the Governor’s plan is putting people back to work, helping children return to school safely, and create the foundation for long-term recovery. These are the exact priorities Chamber members, who have been hit hard by the pandemic and public health restrictions, want to see. The Chamber’s Government Relations team has been advocating for two policies in particular.

  • Providing Local Control for Funding Infrastructure: The Chamber is advocating for a bipartisan plan that allows counties to levy gas taxes on fuel and vehicle registration fees on their county’s residents, once voters approve those measures. Our infrastructure is badly in need of repair—most roads and bridges are local—and investing now will have a long-term economic benefit.
  • Good Jobs for Michigan: Good Jobs for Michigan is a performance-based incentive program that provides benefits to recipients once they deliver on the promised positions. The jobs are high-paying roles that either meet or exceed the average wages of the region. Furthermore, the program is available to areas large and small, urban and rural. The Chamber continues to advocate for this program as a vital tool in building Michigan’s workforce and long-term economic prospects.

One critical area of policy difference between the Chamber and the Governor is over the future of Line 5, which heats homes, powers our worksites, and keeps energy affordable across Michigan. Line 5 means jobs. Tens of thousands of them. During Michigan’s recovery from COVID-19, those jobs are more important than ever.

Advocating for Civility

After outlining priorities, the Governor was joined by Dave Massaron, Michigan’s budget director, for a discussion moderated by Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer, Sandy K. Baruah. Baruah highlighted both areas where the Chamber supported the Governor but also pointed to specific issues where our members want a different policy approach. The Chamber believes that achieving consensus on policy requires a recommitment from all parties to find common ground and mutual respect.

After Baruah asked about steps that leaders can take to work together, the Governor replied, “I think that it’s really important in this moment that the Chamber and the members of the Chamber lean in and hold people who espouse rhetoric that is dangerous accountable, and play a real role here.”

Baruah was quick to agree with those remarks and added, “The attacks that have been directed towards you and your family with the language that has been used and obviously, the serious crimes that have been committed against you, are completely appalling and have no place in civil society.”

The Chamber will continue working with the Governor and legislators from both parties on these and other innovative policies as we advocate for in the Michigan 2030 plan to help our state and the Midwest advance its global economic leadership.