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Analysis: Whitmer calls for tax cuts and unity in 2022 State of the State address

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivers her 2022 state of the state address from the Detroit Diesel plant Wednesday.
Michigan Governor's Office
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) delivers her 2022 State of the State address from Detroit Diesel.

In her State of the State address from the headquarters of Detroit Diesel Wednesday night, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer focused on what she called “kitchen table issues,” including schools, jobs and taxes.

Listen to Michigan Radio's broadcast of the speech above. Hosted by Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta and Laura Weber Davis, it also includes analysis and commentary by John Sellek (CEO, Harbor Strategic Public Affairs), Adrian Hemond (CEO, Grassroots Midwest), and Graham Filler (Republican state Representative - DeWitt).

Whitmer delivered her fourth State of the State speech remotely, for the second time, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The state of our state is strong, and it’s getting stronger every day,” Whitmer said.

At the beginning of her speech from the headquarters of Detroit Diesel, the governor acknowledged the nearly 30,000 Michiganders who died from coronavirus since the pandemic began. She also spoke of the teenagers who died and others injured in last November’s Oxford School Shooting.

Despite the pandemic and other struggles facing the state, Whitmer struck an optimistic tone.

“We’ve all been through a lot. It’s rational to feel frustrated, exhausted, even cynical,” said Whitmer, “Fortunately, the cure for cynicism is competence."

Republican response to 2022 State of the State address
For a Republican perspective on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's address, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou spoke with state Rep. Andrew Fink.
Republican state Rep. Andrew Fink

Whitmer trumpeted her administration's infrastructure accomplishments early in her address, naming highways that have been rebuilt and Great Lakes projects that have begun during her term.

She described progress she said the state had made on issues she said were important to Michigan families. "These bipartisan accomplishments are a testament to what we can do together. We must believe that better things are possible because that is the only way they ever get done," Whitmer said.

During her nearly 30-minute speech, the Democratic governor called for action on one issue that was already drawing messages of support from Republicans in the Michigan legislature after her address: tax cuts. Whitmer threw herself behind an increase in the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit and a repeal of the pension tax.

Appearing on Michigan Radio after the governor’s address, State Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) liked what he heard.

“I’m excited that we’re talking about tax cuts and putting money into people’s pockets,” said Filler, “Is it an election year? I don’t know. I guess it is,” he quipped.

Otherwise, Republican leadership disagreed with the governor’s view of the state of the state.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) said Michigan families need a champion with "bold ideas and a strong vision."

"Unfortunately, Gov. Whitmer’s big moment tonight did little but celebrate other people’s accomplishments and look backward toward things that have already been done or are already in the works," said Wentworth.

The Michigan Republican Party issued a series of scathing statements during Whitmer’s speech, attacking the governor’s handling of everything from the pandemic to her promise to “fix the damn roads.”

"Whitmer's list of epic failures is a lengthy one. Her administration has followed a repeated pattern of broken promises, from pledging to fix the damn roads and address water infrastructure to building up Michigan's economy and creating jobs.” read one of the state GOP statements.

While much of the State of the State address focused on what her administration has done during her first three years as governor, Whitmer took some time to focus on what she wants to accomplish in the final year of her term.

The governor talked about auto insurance reform, home heating assistance, electric vehicle incentives, holding down the cost of insulin and improving access to mental health treatment.

The leader of an advocacy group for health care workers praised those priorities.

“Holding drug manufacturers accountable to lower skyrocketing drug and insulin costs, as well as expanding our mental health workforce and rethinking how mental health care services are reimbursed, will help individuals better access the care they need to live, learn, work, and give back to our communities,” said Dr. Farhan Bhatti, a family physician in Lansing and Michigan State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care.

Whitmer ended her speech with a call for unity.

“We are doers, united against inaction. We're optimists, united against pessimism. We're believers, united against cynicism. We fight for each other, not with each other. We come together to get things done. We are capable of greatness.”

With a large field of Republican hopefuls lined up to challenge her re-election in November and a Republican-led legislature with which she has often clashed, “unity” may be an elusive goal for Whitmer in 2022.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Laura is Executive Producer of Stateside. She came to Michigan Public from WDET in Detroit, where she was senior producer on the current events program, Detroit Today.
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