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R’s Say ‘80s Themed SotS Keeps State Behind The Times

January 30, 2024

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer embraced the 1980s Wednesday night during her State of the State address with a sparkly silver blouse and an arsenal of ‘80s music references that lasted All Night Long (All Night), but some Republicans said Whitmer’s 2024 proposals are short-term solutions that won’t help Michigan get back to the future.

During a press conference prior to the address, House Republican Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo) and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) said that instead of focusing on her “greatest hits,” or a series of short-term solutions and economic incentives, the governor should take a cue from her population council and develop a long-term economic growth strategy.

Between a total of 12 eighties music references, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Ash’s “Burn Baby Burn,” Whitmer proposed policy that included new car rebates, $1.4 billion to rehabilitate 10,000 homes, pre-k for four-year-olds and a business innovation fund.

But first, she walked listeners back through Democrats’ “record,” explaining how great albums and great legislators have something in common: a lasting legacy.

“We composed this record thanks to the people in this room and every Michigander at home,” Whitmer said. “Groups only succeed when all its members are thriving, and lately, Michigan has been playing in harmony.”

Hall disagreed, calling Whitmer’s past proposals, and her newest round of State of the State subheads, a series of one-off ideas “designed to attract a lot of media attention for the next election cycle.”

“As she auditions for the national stage, Gov. Whitmer played all her greatest hits,” he said. “But even all strung together in a primetime performance, her set-list clearly has no cohesive theme or plan for actually solving the problems in our state.”

Instead, Hall and Nesbitt said the governor should follow the recommendations of her Growing Michigan Together Council to put together a more specific long-term economic growth strategy, a departure from previous criticisms of the council and its lack of a Republican Senate nominee.

Of course, Hall and Nesbitt also made requests that the governor reverse the income tax rate back from 4.25 percent to the 4.05 percent it was in 2023.

Rep. Jaime Greene (R-Richmond) commented that Whitmer’s speech was a lot of “tax credit, tax credit, tax credit, which if you combined all those tax credits together, we would have an income tax reduction.”

During his press conference, Hall conspicuously displayed a set of “shared power” coasters with two 54-54 shaking hands, and Daniel Loepp’s book: “Sharing the Balance of Power,” which was written about the 1993-94 split House. Hall also had a coin featuring one side with him on front and  Speaker Tate on the other side.

The point was that absent a shared power agreement, maybe the House could flip this coin before session to determine who would be in charge on any given day.

Whitmer did not reference the split House or the special election in her speech, and she referenced the Detroit Lions’ winning season about as often as she spoke specifically about bipartisanship. (MIRS counted three Lions references, not including her whipping out the “Grit” towel and waving it in the air).

The Lions gear closely seconded the 80s references for the theme of the night, with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson decked out in full Lions gear and many of the legislators donning Lions pins.

Republicans didn’t echo all the excitement, remaining seated for not only the Lions references but the lion’s share of the governor’s speech.

The only portion of Whitmer’s speech that received a Republican standing ovation was a line shouting out Michigan’s service members, specifically the State Police.

Democrats were tallied as giving 30 standing ovations and were seen being generally spirited. Rep. Carrie A. Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor) was waving a University of Michigan pom pom, and the loudest cheers came when Whitmer spoke about tuition free secondary education and support for teachers.

Guests of note on the House floor included Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, Congresswomen Hillary Scholten (D-Grand Rapids) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), former Rep. Kevin Coleman and former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is teaching at the University of Michigan’s Ford School this winter as a policymaker in residence.

Republicans did stand and applaud the governor’s entrance into the chamber, but Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) used the opportunity to hand Whitmer a Bible as she was walking down the aisle, something Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) highlighted on X.

Schriver also criticized the governor’s language in her speech.

“She said the curse word ‘damn’ a lot, which was very off-putting and not family friendly,” he said.

Rep. Bill G. Schuette (R-Midland) said the governor injected “a lot of pop culture references into the very real problems that are facing our state without really proposing any actual long term solutions.

“I would have liked to see a little more time focused on the realities of governing and a little less time spent on playlists,” he said.

Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) also criticized the 80’s theme.

“In 1980, the mortgage rates were about 18.63%, the inflation rate was about 13%,” Green said. “Is the governor saying that those were good things and she wants to take us back to that?”

Nesbitt Gives GOP Response To Whitmer’s Address

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) said in Wednesday night’s pre-recorded response to the State of the State address that the governor is disconnected with the economic blight facing Michiganders.

With only three out of 10 children being proficient in math and Michigan’s unemployment ranking 40th in the country, Nesibtt said Whitmer isn’t matching with the “rosy picture the governor tried to paint.”

“I’m sad to say that is the real State of our State,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be. Democrats squandered a budget surplus on swimming pools and pickleboard courts.”

The answer, he said, is to allow government to refund excess funds back to taxpayers.


Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

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