The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance was once again well represented in Lansing during Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s 2nd State of the State address on Wednesday, January 29.
The annual trip – which gives the Alliance a major presence and a voice in Lansing during one of the key events of the legislative year – started by hosting the Governor’s staff to a luncheon and ended with the launch of a rural development coalition which the Alliance has been working for months to build.
As for the Governor’s speech, it was short by historic standards, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. Chamber Alliance partners noted it was also short on references to rural Michigan’s challenges, however, it certainly reignited the road funding discussion.
Northern Michigan’s legislative delegation, in post-speech discussions with the Alliance, bristled at the Governor’s accusation that no alternative road funding plans had been submitted to her. The Governor’s team continued to assert that if legislators would not act, the Governor would act within her authority to issue bonds for funding road projects on M-, US, and I- roads across the state.
Indeed, the next day the State Transportation Commission voted unanimously to bond for $3 billion to be put into Michigan’s road system. Legislative leaders again demurred that bonding was simply a financing tool, and the task of finding sustainable revenue to meet the future debt obligation on the bond had yet to be completed.
The Governor’s calendar is busy for the near future. In addition to the State of the State address, she was invited to give the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4, and is scheduled to kick-start the FY 2020-21 budget negotiations by delivering her recommended executive budget to the legislature on February 6.