Democratic response to Michigan Governor's State of the State address

Jan 19, 2011

The Democratic response to Governor Snyder's State of the State address was delivered by Gretchen Whitmer, leader of the Michigan Senate Democrats. You can watch the response on the Michigan Senate Democrats website. The transcript of Whitmer's speech follows:

Good evening,

The election this past November saw Michigan government turn the page on an unproductive time of Michigan history.

Leaders struggled to get past bitter partisan politics and ended up forgetting that at the end of the day -- Michigan citizens deserve solutions, not political posturing and empty rhetoric.

I’m Gretchen Whitmer, and on behalf of the many Democrats across Michigan, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to offer this reaction to the State of the State address given earlier tonight by the Governor.

In recent history, the opposing party used their response to criticize and undermine the Governor. That’s not why I am here tonight.

While there are always areas of disagreement, I want to emphasize our firm belief that we must all focus our efforts on areas where we can find the common ground that create new investments in Michigan, ensure our children get the education they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow, and preserve our quality of life.

To make it clear, Democrats are ready to partner in problem solving to move all of Michigan forward – without stubbornly defending the tired old fights that have handcuffed our state Legislature in years past.

We must ask ourselves are we making decisions because they are easy, or because they will truly benefit future generations of Michigan.

First and most important is to start is by finding new ways to deploy economic development mechanisms to encourage and foster a new economy for Michigan.  We can only do this by being honest with ourselves about where we are as a state.  We must rethink the industries of yesterday and focus on the industries of tomorrow.

To see examples of the kind of turnaround that is possible in Michigan, you need look no further than what’s happening this week in Detroit.

Businesses, workers and consumers from around the world are gathering at the North American International Auto Show to recognize and spotlight the rebirth of an American industry, and more importantly, a Michigan industry.

The Big Three have weathered an economic collapse, and have reinvented the way they do business from top to bottom.  This has allowed them to not only survive, but to emerge as leading edge companies that are now producing some of the most advanced and efficient vehicles on the road today.

Just two years ago, this industry was facing an all-out economic collapse.  Workers lost their life savings, their jobs and many even lost hope.

Their success should serve as a model to Lansing that we must recognize where changes have evolved and adapt our state’s government to complement that new environment.  After all, just as my grandmother’s economy will not be the same as my daughter’s, so too our state government must also evolve.

Therefore, we must seek to find common ground to accomplish what’s needed for the good of our state…not just today, but 25 years from now as well.

25 years from now no one is going to remember a particular speech or a vote on the floor, but they will remember if the Legislature summoned the courage to help rebuild Michigan’s economy.

Change is always difficult. We must look past quick fixes, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Take our tax code, for instance.  It is littered with examples of special interest lobbying run amuck.  We spend $36 billion on tax giveaways, more than 3 times the amount spent on educating our kids.  Those kinds of glorified earmarks stand in the way of helping move Michigan forward in a responsible and long-term manner.

That is why Democrats have proposed a continual audit of all tax giveaways in a transparent and public way.  I honestly believe that if a particular tax credit is efficient we should vote it in and if the tax credit no longer works, we should vote it out.  That is the responsible government that tax payers expect.

We also need cut red tape to support and foster small businesses and entrepreneurs. They are the economic engine that propels Michigan, and red tape too often stands in the way.  We cannot build a new economy without promoting and fostering the growth of small businesses in Michigan.

Beyond reforms, we have also heard a lot about sacrifice.

During his inaugural address the Governor specifically said: “As part of the solution, we need to include everyone. The reinvention of Michigan must not leave anyone behind.”

We certainly agree with the Governor on that.  Unfortunately, even as he speaks of leaving no one behind, Legislative Republicans are already going down the same tired old road by putting politics over progress. Instead, we need to work together to create and implement policies that move all of Michigan forward while not leaving our kids behind.

Transition is never easy and everyone will be affected in this economic transformation.  Governor Snyder consistently talks of bipartisanship, leaving no one behind, and that we all must share in the sacrifice to Michigan forward.  We agree, and intend to work with the Governor to hold Legislative Republicans to that same threshold.

We as government officials must demand the best out of state government and out of each other.

We must ask ourselves are we making decisions because they are easy, or because they will truly benefit future generations of Michigan.

We must not be afraid to make the tough choices so long as they are the RIGHT choices.

I have spent my life fighting for better jobs for Michigan workers, better education for our kids, and a quality of life that will attract businesses and individuals to our great state.

This is a transformational period in Michigan’s history.  We are all in this together - and please know that Democrats stand ready to partner in problem solving that moves ALL of Michigan forward.

Thank you.