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gretchen whitmer

A conversation with Senator Gretchen Whitmer

Nov 13, 2012
Michigan Senate Democrats

Listen to the full interview.

The Michigan legislature enters the lame duck session this week. Republicans held onto a majority in the State House, so they’ll be setting the legislative agenda, but Democrats will be watching closely.  Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer talks with Jennifer White. Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, was overturned by Michigan voters last week, could a new version of the law emerge? Plus, a discussion on right to work. And, what could the repeal of the personal property tax on businesses mean for local municipalities?

Michigan GOP / file photo

Senate Minority leader Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer want a special investigation into the case of Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt.

The Kent County Prosecutor says Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to “perpetrate a fraud” on voters. But he says they didn’t commit any crimes. You can read his full report that was released last month here.

But Whitmer isn’t so sure. She believes there’s evidence to prove that Schmidt and others conspired to commit perjury and obstructed justice.

“My biggest fear is that people just brush it off as, you know, one of those odious things that happens in the capitol and it’s just not the case. It is very serious,” Whitmer said.

It’s hard to see the future. If you had been around during the Cretaceous Period, sixty-five million years ago, it would have been obvious that the world belonged to the huge and magnificent dinosaurs which dominated the planet.

Nobody would have paid much attention to the little rat-like things called mammals scurrying around the forest floors. But in the end, they would inherit the earth.

automotiveauto.info

The first hearing will be held tomorrow on a Republican plan to phase out taxes on most industrial equipment in Michigan.

Local governments collect about $400 million in revenue a year from the industrial property tax.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley helped design the plan to get rid of the tax over the next several years. He says Michigan is unique in how it taxes industrial property -- and he says it’s driving investments to other states and countries.

“So at the end of the day, it’s about jobs and removing the penalty for investing in Michigan,” Calley said.

But local leaders say the way the phase-out is drafted now, it would force disinvestment in schools, and city services. That’s because it does not replace all the revenue lost to local governments.

Some state lawmakers like Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer agree.

“At best, they only intend to replace 81 percent of the dollars,”Whitmer said. “So does that mean that they are going to cut our fire services 19 percent? They’re also going to cut our police service 19 percent? They’re going to cut our schools an additional 19 percent? How is that made up?”

The communities that would be most affected are industrial cities with the most factories. That includes Michigan's third-largest city, Warren.

Warren mayor Jim Fouts says the city stands to lose $12 million a year in revenue if the tax is repealed.

“It would be absolute disaster," said Fouts, who said he'd be forced to cut public safety and other vital services. 

"It’s a good example of short-term thinking without looking at the long-term consequences, which are draconian consequences.”

Fouts says Lansing has recently shifted more costs and mandates to local governments, while also cutting off their sources of revenue. He sent a letter expressing his concerns to Governor Snyder.

Michigan’s governor and legislative members are not subject to state open-records law, but Democrats in the State Senate are trying to change that.

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic Senate leader. She thinks requiring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is an important step towards promoting honesty from elected officials.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring ethical conduct by people in the legislature and setting a standard that’s very clear, and a system that is transparent," says Whitmer.

Her request comes a few days after emails were released by the Oakland County Democratic Party, which suggest the county’s redistricting process was motivated by partisan goals.

Legislation attempting to lift this thirty-six year old exemption is not new. It has been introduced several times before, most recently in the 2009 term. At that time, it was sponsored primarily by Republican representatives, who were in the minority.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Photo courtesy of Senator Whitmer's office

A developing proposal from Senate Democrats would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college by ending some tax credits and other revenue changes.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs for attending public universities and community colleges in the state.

The plan would be paid for by closing what Democrats call "tax loopholes" and ending some tax credits, collecting sales tax from out-of-state Internet retailers and saving money on state contracts.

Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it's a bold step needed to make Michigan more prosperous and attractive to businesses.

The proposal likely would face stiff opposition in the Republican-dominated Legislature, particularly at a time of tight state budgets.

http://whitmer.senatedems.com/

Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in today's Detroit Free Press. She writes that Senator Rick Jones' (R-Grand Ledge) comparison of a prominent female public relations professional to a "hooker" is one of many incidents of sexism that she's witnessed in Lansing.

The Michigan Senate today passed the House version of an anti-bullying bill.

It’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The bill as passed did not include the controversial exception in an earlier Senate bill that protected statements that came from moral or religious convictions.

The Michigan Senate received national attention for that bill - some calling it a template for how to get away with bullying. 

Senator Whitmer spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White earlier today about her opposition for the bill approved by the Senate, and about the reaction to the YouTube video of her reacting to the bill.

Here she is telling her colleagues in the Michigan Senate "you may be able to pat yourself on the backs today and say that you did something today, but in actuality you're explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying... This is worse that doing nothing. It's a Republican license to bully."

Photograph courtesy of Senator Whitmer's office

The Michigan Legislature is back in session this week, so we took some time to speak with state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-23rd) about what she would like to see happen in the state legislature this fall.

Recall campaigns against the state’s elected officials have until the end of the week  to hand in petition signatures to be considered for the November ballot. There have been more than two dozen recall campaigns against Republican lawmakers, and just three against Democratic lawmakers. 

Two of those lawmakers – State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and state Representative Barb Byrum – are in the clear after an elections panel in Ingham County rejected petitions language against them. 

Lawmakers to take up big issues in June

May 31, 2011
Allieosmar / Flickr

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

“I expect most of that will be done before we break for the summer, yes. June ought to be a very busy time around here. Just because the budget bills get signed into law next week doesn’t mean we won’t be working very hard around here for the next month or so.”

The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Democrats feel slighted on budget deal

May 19, 2011
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have reached a budget deal for the coming fiscal year.

The plan will use hundreds of millions of dollars from a tax revenue windfall to lessen proposed cuts to K-12 schools.

Democratic leaders say the plan violates a deal they agreed to last week, because the money doesn’t go directly to replace the cuts. Instead it will be used to urge schools to cut costs, and help make retirement payments.

"I think that we should motivate people to do the right thing and to find efficiencies where they can," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. "And if you want to incentivize them with extra dollars, I’m comfortable with that idea. But this violates the agreement that we had, and the agreement was that we would mitigate the per-pupil foundation allowance so that the dollars would get right into the classroom with the kids."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says negotiations could have gone more smoothly with Democrats.

"There was no malice, there was no intent to mislead or anything like that, we don’t have that kind of a relationship. But this is the first time that this group of people is actually getting together and negotiating a deal, so there may have been some improvements laid out, we could probably do things better than we did, and we’ll continue to work toward that."

There is about a week and a half left before Governor Snyder’s self-imposed, May 31 budget deadline.

Richardville says he expects the Legislature to meet that goal.

Yesterday the state Senate passed a comprehensive tax overhaul bill. It went to the House where it was approved and it’s now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature.

The tax overhaul includes the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, in favor of a corporate profits tax.  It also eliminates a host of tax breaks, including the income tax exemption for pensions.

Seven Republicans joined the twelve Democrats in the Senate in voting against the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer is opposed to the tax restructuring

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Whitmer. Here's the interview.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It appears Michigan may be in for a revenue windfall of about $500 million dollars more than  it was expected to take  in this year.

The state Senate Democratic leader says Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature should use that money to avert cuts to schools.

The state Senate Democratic leader is calling for protections in the Michigan Constitution against using the School Aid Fund for any purpose other than K-through-12 education.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says she’s looking for any way she can to avert school aid cuts as high as $470 per student.

Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Democrats in the Michigan Senate want a constitutional amendment passed next year that would protect K-12 schools funding. The amendment would not allow community colleges and universities to tap money from the state's school aid fund.

At a news conference today, the Associated Press reports that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said, “K-12 schools wouldn't need to absorb the $470-per-student cut Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing for 2011-12 if he wasn't trying to give nearly $1 billion from the $12 billion school aid fund to community colleges and universities.”

Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press explains:

To appear on the ballot, the proposal would need two-thirds majorities in both the state House and Senate. Whitmer and her Democratic colleagues believe a majority of Republicans, who control both chambers, would support the proposal.

Michigan Senate Democrats

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.

Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Democratic state Senator Gretchen Whitmer will be Michigan's next Senate Minority Leader. Whitmer's fellow Democratic Senators elected her to the position yesterday. She'll be the first woman to hold the job. She became a state Senator in 2006.  Before that, she was as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2000 to 2006.

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