Whitmer stays the course in State of the State address
It has been a long year, and a hard one, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged at the start of her third State of the State address, delivered Wednesday night to a state yet facing twin crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, and the damage the virus has wreaked on Michigan’s economy.
Throughout this year, unlike any we’ve ever seen, Whitmer has remained disciplined, focused and on message, despite organized protests of her COVID-19 emergency orders, a murder plot engineered by domestic terrorists and a recalcitrant Legislature.
And in the last statewide poll, taken in December, she continued to score unusually high approval ratings. However many protesters thronged to the state Capitol, a majority of Whitmer’s constituents has been willing to believe that she is on the right track.
Michigan continues to log daily deaths, but the state’s COVID metrics are finally trending in the right direction, after a winter surge that set Michigan back. But we’re just rounding the curve, and the road ahead isn’t particularly smooth.
Michigan’s vaccine rollout has been slow, something Whitmer acknowledged Wednesday night. “This process is like a locomotive,” she said. “It will be cumbersome and slow in the beginning, but it will get faster and smoother as we go.”
That’s a reasonable analogy. But Michiganders struggling to find a vaccine appointment for an elderly relative might have appreciated that sort of candor on the front end. Whitmer pledged Wednesday that when supply is available, the has a plan to administer 50,000 shots a day. Our math suggests that’s optimistic, when Michigan might be better served by realism.
Whitmer’s COVID-19 recovery plan, released last week, combines federal and state funds for vaccine administration, school districts, and job training. It asks the Legislature to approve more federal funds more money to improve the vaccine rollout, property tax relief and business tax incentives.
But for that plan to become reality, Whitmer will have to work with Republican legislative majority that has spent much of the last year clamoring for a larger role in the coronavirus response while failing to deliver any meaningful plan of its own.
We’d like to share Whitmer’s optimism that new leadership in the state House will lead to a more felicitous relationship between the two branches of government, but we do pay attention to current events. On Wednesday, the Legislature took two swipes at Whitmer, blocking 13 uncontroversial appointments and threatening to withhold federal education dollars unless Whitmer relinquishes some executive power.
Whitmer didn’t acknowledge either jab in her address, but repeated her belief that she and legislative Republicans can find common ground.
It’s a disciplined and measured approach that’s a pleasant contrast to the strutting showmanship of Republican legislative leaders who seem more interested in humbling the governor than in providing meaningful remedies for the public health and economic crises their constituents face.
The governor who ran on a promise to fix the damn roads said Wednesday night that Michigan’s state government needs to focus on the damn road ahead, find common ground, and work in Michiganders’ best interests. It’s a tortured motif, but a laudable goal. And it’s sobering that, like her Republican predecessor, Whitmer has identified partisanship and incivility as two of the most formidable obstacles to her state’s progress.
Whitmer pledged money for road repair and business growth and infrastructure repair, which remain reasonable and critical long-term goals. But mastering the virus remains Whitmer’s — and Michigan’s — chief challenge.
Like nearly all Michiganders, we’re tired: Tired of the life-saving but irksome constraints on our movements. Tired of not knowing when our children will return to their classrooms. Tired of waiting to learn if we’ll be vaccinated by June, or September, or next Thanksgiving.
And we’re especially tired of legislators who think this pandemic is just another game of political hardball, and that all that matters in the end is which team come out on top.
The truth is that fewer and fewer Michiganders are even keeping score. All most of us are rooting for anymore is spring, and any grown-up elected leaders who will help us get there.
— Detroit Free Press.