Last week, Gov. Whitmer gave her second State of the State address. I had the honor of escorting her to her address, along with a few of my colleagues. It was such a joy to welcome Samantha Hillborn and her mom, Melina, to the Capitol as my guests for the State of the State address. Samantha is a post-secondary program student at Troy Center for Transition, where she recently joined their basketball team. Samantha is involved in GiGi’s Playhouse and participates in Special Olympics, where she won a gold medal at the State Games for the 25m backstroke. She is learning to become a strong advocate and will be attending her second Self-Advocacy Day in Lansing this-coming March. A big thank you to both Samantha and her mom for joining me and making the trip to Lansing.
After listening to the governor’s speech, I wanted to breakdown a few of the topics she spoke about during her address and share my thoughts on the future of our state.
This is a continuing discussion that has been at the forefront of our state government over the past few years. While a report from the Detroit Chamber showed most Michigan residents believe we have enough money to fix our roads and it is a problem of efficiency, multiple independent audits from organizations outside of government show our state is actually significantly short on revenue.
We need at least $2-to-3 billion annually to get our roads in good condition. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to fix our roads, which is why the governor has directed her state departments to allow for bonding. Given the inaction of the state Legislature last year, the governor has taken up this temporary solution as a short-term financing mechanism.
Here in Southeast Michigan, we know firsthand the damage our roads have taken over the years. I hear from constituents daily about our crumbling roads, and they are tired of waiting for action. I applaud the governor for making the hard decisions the majority in the legislature has refused to make. It is important to also note this is a temporary solution and it is still on the legislature to do the work and come up with a long-term funding mechanism that prioritizes our roads and infrastructure. I am committed to working with my colleagues to find solutions to this major issue facing our state.
Have questions? We’ll be on-hand to talk through the budget at all of our Meet Up events, so we hope you’ll join us and we can talk through it with you: https://senatedems.com/mcmorrow/events/
Gov. Whitmer highlighted her office’s efforts to expand overtime rights for Michigan workers. If you are working overtime, you deserve to be paid for those hours. Additionally, another issue — and one that is especially important to our friends in unions and labor – is the misclassification of employees and payroll fraud. With the help of the Attorney General Dana Nessel, this administration is working to crackdown on those bad actors that shrink paychecks, often forcing workers and families to rely on government assistance programs just to make ends meet. If you would like to learn more about the actions that the Attorney General’s office is taking, you can do so here.
While Michigan is experiencing a historically low unemployment rate, it’s critical to acknowledge many families are still struggling because wages remain below the rate of inflation, or they need to work multiple jobs to cover costs. We must continue investing in opportunities for economic growth through creating good-paying jobs and empowering Michigan workers through educational attainment opportunities to develop our talent pipeline.
Education is a top priority for both my office and our district. One of the biggest challenges we are going to face is the implementation of the new third grade reading law. Holding kids back is not the solution to this problem, and I am happy to see the governor is working to partner with organizations to ensure this law does not negatively impact our students and their families.
Further, our “one size fits all” funding structure does not work, and it is important we work to find a more equitable funding model that prioritizes our schools, teachers, and students. This includes the many corporate incentive programs taking money away from the School Aid Fund. I believe we can invest in our workforce and attract business and talent without taking away funding from our schools.
For instance, a program I am supporting is the Michigan Reconnect Program, an economic-growth/workforce development program proposed by Governor Whitmer that would provide a tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for Michigan adults 25 and older. I have heard from many business owners throughout the district that their biggest challenge is filling jobs with qualified applicants, and this program — modeled off of similar successful programs in other states – will help make sure we have Michiganders with the skills needed to fill the jobs we already have available.
If you watched the speech, one of the most prominent topics the governor addressed was the issue of maternal healthcare. The maternal mortality rate in Michigan is staggering: Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications. Additionally, Michigan has one of the lowest birth rates in the nation. Our inability to grow our population as our state ages will have a lasting negative impact on our economic future. It is essential we invest in programs assisting mothers and families with both pre-and-post-natal care. We want to make sure Michigan is a state that supports mothers and families and is an attractive place for individuals who to want to stay and build their futures.
If you were unable to watch the address, you can do so here. Additionally, you can watch my video response here. I look forward to working with my colleagues and my constituents on all the exciting things we have before us in 2020.
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