Whitmer wants to spend nearly $1.4 billion to build or rehabilitate 10,000 housing units across the state.
“The rent is too damn high, and we don’t have enough damn housing,” she said. “Our response will be simple: build, baby, build!”
It’s not immediately clear where the money would come from, but Whitmer spokesperson Stacey LaRouche told Bridge Michigan that the state government “has the funding to build 10,000 new homes.”
Republicans were skeptical, however.
The plan is “all about keeping up with the Newsoms,” Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, argued earlier Wednesday, referencing California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who like Whitmer has generated buzz about future presidential ambitions.
Bringing back good jobs
As she continues to try to stimulate job creation, Whitmer is backing plans to bring back and expand the “Good Jobs for Michigan” business incentive program started by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
Renamed the High-wage Incentive for Regional Employment program, or HIRE, the plan would allow businesses to “capture” some of the income taxes paid by employees in newly created jobs.
Legislation introduced last year but not yet voted on by the Michigan Senate would provide an income tax capture for businesses that create at least 50 new jobs with annual wages exceeding 175% of the regional median.
The state would be allowed to commit up to $100 million in tax capture revenue to qualifying businesses each year, up to a total of $1.3 billion through 2038, making it richer than the Snyder era program that was limited to $200 million total.
Among other things, the legislation would prioritize tax captures for companies that advance “diversity, equity and inclusivity” in the state, utilize clean energy sources and honor worker decisions to form unions.
The governor also pitched a new “innovation fund” to support start-up firms, and she backed a House-approved plan to bring back a research and development tax credit program for businesses.
Free community college
Whitmer confirmed Wednesday that she wants to make the first two years of community college tuition free for high school graduates in Michigan.
The Whitmer administration has worked with both Republican- and Democrat-led Legislatures to approve earlier measures that expanded college affordability.
In recent years, the Michigan Reconnect program has provided funds to help adults 25 and old attend community college tuition-free. Last summer, leaders approved a temporary expansion of the program for people aged 21 to 24.
The state has also launched a new scholarship program to help high school graduates attend a career training program, community college, private or public 4-year college or university.
Free pre-K for all
Whitmer previously called for free preschool in the state by the end of her second term but accelerated that plan Wednesday, proposing to fund pre-k for “every single 4-year-old in Michigan, two years ahead of schedule.”
“Let this be a message to parents in other states: Come to Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We got your back every step of the way, and we’ll save you 10 grand on your child’s education.”
In the most recent education budget, the Legislature boosted pre-K funding with an additional $90.9 million to increase the amount per student, expand student eligibility based on household income, allow programs to expand the days and weeks of programming and increase student transportation.
The legislature also deposited $200 million into a new reserve fund that can be used if costs exceed initial appropriation.
The Michigan Department of Education previously oversaw the Great Start Readiness Program. Whitmer moved the program to her new education agency called the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential.
$5,000 family caregiver tax credit
Whitmer also confirmed plans for what she is calling the “Caring for MI Family Tax Credit,” which would provide up to $5,000 in tax relief for families paying for care like counseling, transportation and nursing or respite services.
The governor said the goal is to lift a burden off of unpaid caregivers, who often spend significant sums out-of-pocket to pay for their loved ones.
Electric vehicle rebates
In her speech, Whitmer urged lawmakers to pass her Michigan Vehicle Rebate plan, a $25 million program that would offer up to $2,500 in rebates for drivers buying a new car: $1,000 for any vehicle, $2,000 for electric vehicles and an extra $500 if the vehicles were union-made.
“We want our autoworkers and our auto industry to thrive right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “With the MI Vehicle Rebate we can lower costs and support the ongoing transition to an all-electric, union-made future.”
Finish spending road money
Whitmer used her sixth annual address to hearken back to her 2019 campaign promise to “fix the damn roads.”
But she stopped short of announcing any new plans. Instead, the governor called on the Michigan Department of Transportation to authorize the final $700 million of her $3.5 billion road bonding plan that began 2020, in order to cover projects on Interstate 94, Interstate 696 and others.
Last year’s budget boosted total state transportation funding by about $500 million, but $118 million of that was to pay off debt from the bonding program, and Whitmer’s own population council later reported that the state needs another $3.9 billion each year to really fix the problem.
The governor has expressed interest in — but not yet committed to — more aggressive ideas to overhaul the state’s road funding scheme, such as moving to a miles-driven tax or turning some highways into toll roads.