While remaining sketchy on details, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her sixth State of the State Address on Wednesday, January 24. The governor’s past performance has caused skepticism among Republicans, business leaders, and a free-market economic think tank that she will change course in 2024.
In a news release, Whitmer claimed she and the Democratic-controlled Michigan Legislature will pursue policies that “will lower costs, continue record investments in education from preschool to college, expand access to safe and affordable homes for Michigan families, keep protecting our seniors, boost our state’s economy to new heights, and so much more.”
Whitmer was re-elected in 2022, a year also witnessing Democrats taking majorities in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate. It became the first time Democrats held the political trifecta in 40 years.
“We are a state full of humble, hardworking people with simple dreams for themselves and their families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “After one of the most successful years in our state’s history, we’ve delivered on our promises to Michiganders, ranging from record tax cuts for families and free school meals for students to safer communities and more personal freedoms under the law. I look forward to sharing my vision for how we continue getting things done so everyone can build a brighter future in Michigan.”
Several of her critics challenged Whitmer’s accomplishments over the past year and expressed their reservations concerning continued one-party rule in Lansing.
For example, Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, told The Midwesterner the governor isn’t properly addressing Michigan’s struggles to maintain its population.
“I haven’t been given any preview of what the governor will address, but I’m sure she will make some effort to cover up the continued trend of Michiganians moving elsewhere,” Fink said. “It’s becoming more unaffordable and impractical to live in Michigan the longer she’s in office. Her population council struggled to confront the truth, which is that if Michigan is going to compete with the states that are growing, we have to move away from policies we share with states that are shrinking. The growing states all have low taxes, less regulation, and low energy rates. This governor has not moved us in that direction at all.”
The annual governor’s address will be held in the Michigan House Chambers before a joint session of the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate. It will be broadcast live throughout the state at 7 p.m.
Rep. Angela Rigas, R-Caledonia, told The Midwesterner that Whitmer and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have done little to assist Michigan families.
“None of the legislation that was passed helps protect Michigan residents like Gov. Whitmer claimed,” Rigas said. “It only increases their taxes, takes away rights and freedoms, and in some cases murders Michigan’s unborn. So no, the governor did not fulfill her promise to our state!”
Holly Wetzel is director of public relations for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In an email to The Midwesterner, she said it’s likely that some of Whitmer’s proposed reforms will follow the administration’s trend of showing favoritism to select groups rather than pursuing broad-based policies. She noted that many of the policies that were discussed in the governor’s 2023 State of the State address followed that trend, including the support of more taxpayer-funded handouts.
Wetzel pointed out Whitmer’s attempt to steer more automotive customers into purchasing electric vehicles as one example of ill-advised government largesse to private companies.
Despite billions of dollars in direct state incentives to Big Three automotive manufacturers and millions more for EV battery plants in the state, EV sales only accounted for 9% of new vehicles sold nationwide in 2023. Currently, only 33,100 EVs are registered in Michigan, a state with nearly 2.9 million registered vehicles.
New federal tax credit standards for purchasing EVs will likely stymie EV market growth in 2024. Previous tax credits provided up to $7,500 for 43 vehicles that qualified for the credit, but under the new 2024 standards, only 19 EVs – or only 30% — qualify.
One program Whitmer has said she plans to address in her 2024 SOS speech is a $25 million incentive program for new automobile purchases that will provide up to $2,500 rebates to customers who purchase an electric vehicle manufactured using union labor.
“Whether it be handing out incentives to select businesses or giving out vehicle rebates for EVs produced in a UAW facility, spending taxpayer dollars to appease favored groups is bad public policy and is not an effective way to grow the state,” Wetzel said.
Rich Studley is the former CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. In an interview with The Midwesterner, he said Whitmer’s efforts to stem the state’s population loss are working at cross purposes with her other policies.
He said repealing Right to Work legislation in the state will deter businesses from relocating to the state.
“Ramming through legislation early last year to repeal Right to Work may have made union bosses happy, but it’s like the governor and legislators forgot that the vast majority of Michigan workers chose years and years ago to not join unions.”
Studley also pointed out the governor’s education policies, which he says favors the state’s teachers unions over students’ needs.
“For one reason or another the governor and Democratic lawmakers said they care about education quality,” he said. “So they increase spending at the same time they reduced accountability for student achievement. They passed and the governor signed into law a bill to repeal the 3rd grade reading requirement. Well if our children and grandchildren can’t read by third grade, when will they learn to read?”
Studley added that the governor and Democratic lawmakers passed and signed into law legislation to reduce teacher evaluations and student achievement tests.
“You don’t have to be a journalist or a political scientist to reflect back on the year and see that a lot of the administration’s actions were very inconsistent,” he said.