Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Address to the Business Community: Focusing on the Fundamentals

“We’ve got to get the fundamentals right first. No one is going to invest in Michigan if we don’t invest in ourselves,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On Thursday, March 14, Gov. Whitmer spoke for the first time to the Detroit Regional Chamber members at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber at MGM Grand Detroit. The event was a part of the governor’s Road to Opportunity Tour and follows her first state budget proposal to the Michigan Legislature. The event offered regional businesses the opportunity to learn more about the 2020 state budget proposal and the governor’s vision of collaborating with the business community to accomplish her priorities for Michigan and its citizens.

From the broken roads to the skills gap, the governor addressed critical issues facing the state and the need to drive change at the foundational level in order to move forward. Michigan ranks 46 out of the 50 states when it comes to per capita spending on roads. The governor said that when it comes to education, Michigan is at a crossroads—the state was last in education revenue growth funding between 1995 and 2015.

“I didn’t get elected to manage the decline of the state I love,” she said.

Her priorities for the state and its residents are aligned with fundamental improvements to roads, education, skills attainment, and drinking water. She called for strong measures to solve the issues.

“A real solution matches the magnitude of the problem.”

Her 2030 goals for Michigan include getting 90 percent of state roads in good or fair conditions and providing resources for local roads, ensuring that 100 percent of communities have clean drinking water, facilitating 60 percent of post-secondary educational attainment for adults, and making Michigan a top 10 state in third grade literacy.


View Whitmer’s slides from the presentation here

In a Q&A with Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah, Gov. Whitmer answered questions from audience members on her gas tax increase, skills attainment plan, third grade literacy improvements, state funding, civility, and her relationship with the city of Detroit and Mayor Mike Duggan.

She stressed the importance of civil discourse and giving others the benefit of the doubt in order to “get back to the table.”

“If we share a goal, we can figure out how to get there. We have to negotiate.”

In her vision for the state, the governor cited the need to triple the number of literacy coaches to boost 3rd grade literacy, provide scholarships for high school students, and fill skilled trades jobs to 15,000 by 2024.
Whitmer commended the announcement of FCA’s $4.5 billion plan to add 6,500 jobs in the Detroit area, and said this “kind of investment is not happening in any other place in the country.” She praised the economic development occurring in Detroit, under Mayor Mike Duggan, and said that she has her “foot on the gas” when it comes to the city.

Gov. Whitmer addressed her 45-cent fuel tax increase, noting that it would be “painful for a number of people in our state.” She touched upon her tax proposal affecting the business community.

“If you disagree with me on this particular part of the plan, I’m okay with that,” she said. “We can have that discussion. The crux of solving the water crisis, skills gap, and education, and fixing the roads is the gas tax.”

Overall, she emphasized her prioritization of the gas tax as the linchpin to accomplish her goals for the state.

Gov. Whitmer expressed that the Chamber will be integral to navigating her proposals.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us. This could be a monumental step. We have to bring people to the table and give them the support they need.”

The chance to make this historic budget a reality is exhausting yet exciting, said the governor. From conversations with everyday Michiganders, there are moments of learning and inspiration. And businesses are key to driving the state toward progress.

“Use your platform, voice, and relationships to help make sure that we solve problems,” Gov. Whitmer said to the audience. “I’m going to need the help of everyone in this room.”

News Coverage:

Bridge Magazine
– Whitmer to Detroit chamber: ‘There is not enough pot to fill the potholes.’

Crain’s Detroit Business
– Baruah: Business community ‘amenable’ to Whitmer’s 45-cent fuel tax hike

Michigan Advance
– Susan J. Demas: Business leaders should call GOP’s bluff on Whitmer’s gas tax
– Detroit chamber CEO: ‘Growing split’ with GOP, biz community on roads

WWJ News Radio
– Whitmer Visits Detroit To Sell Proposed Budget, Gas Tax Increase