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Gov. Whitmer calls for $3.5 billion in bonds to fix roads and bridges

Gretchen whitmer at a microphone
Jake Neher

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is seeking $3.5 billion in new bonds to fix crumbling roads and bridges. She unveiled the plan in her second State of the State speech Wednesday evening. She said this is her “Plan B” after Republicans rejected her proposal for a 45-cent fuel tax increase last year.

“So from now on, when you see orange barrels on a state road, slow down, and know that it’s this administration fixing the damn roads,” Whitmer said.

The new plan doesn’t require the Republican-led Legislature to sign off.

But Whitmer said this isn’t a long-term solution to the problem.

“Let me be clear, these new projects will only address the worst of our most highly traveled state roads. We still need the Legislature to come up with a real, long term solution to fix the roads,” said Whitmer.

The State Transportation Commission is expected to consider Whitmer’s bond request Thursday morning.

Republican Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says it’s not a solution he’s ready to accept.

"We actually have to fix the root of the problem and not just focus on the symptoms,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) argued bonds are not a funding source.

“She doesn’t have a road funding plan; bonding is a finance tool, not a funding source,” he said. “And that is the biggest mistake she’s made and she’s misleading all the people of Michigan to think she’s funding roads. She’s just using a finance tool.”

Whitmer also said in her speech that she wants to pass state-level protections for part of the Affordable Care Act.

If a court case against the ACA succeeds, Whitmer argued thousands of Michiganders with pre-existing conditions could lose health care.

But Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey doesn’t see the same urgency.

You know, we’ll see what happens at the federal level, but I don’t see any reason for us to act quickly on that,” said Shirkey.

The State of Michigan currently has more than 390,000 participants in the ACA and more than 600,000 participants in the state’s Medicaid expansion program. The Texas court case challenging the law was sent back to district court after a higher court ruled part of the law unconstitutional.

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Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.
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