Governor Gretchen Whitmer comes to Portage North

Astrid Code, Staff Writer

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On March 25, Governor Gretchen Whitmer visited Portage North Middle School for a town hall meeting to explain and answer questions about her new budget proposal that she calls “The Road to Opportunity.”  Whitmer’s new budget plan has four main parts: roads, education, drinking water, and skills training. “I really appreciate all of you making time to have this important conversation,” says Whitmer. “This is time for us to really talk about where we are headed as a state.”

First, Whitmer introduces Michigan’s problem: the general fund, currently at $10.7 billion, has not risen with inflation for 20 years. As a result, Michigan is last in the country in infrastructure quality, elementary literacy development, and in the bottom 20 for for post-secondary education. Even more, if Michigan continues with their current funding for roads, road condition will only worsen at a faster and faster rate.

Then, she explains her statewide goals for 2030: to get 90% of state roads in good/fair condition, 60% of people with postsecondary degrees, Michigan in the top 10 states for literacy, and ensure that every community in Michigan has safe drinking water. However, as Whitmer puts it, “A goal in itself doesn’t mean you’re gonna be successful. You have to develop a plan to get there.”

In order to achieve these goals, Whitmer plans to have a 45 cent per gallon gas tax, in order to replace the $562 a year “road tax” that the average citizen pays in the form of poor road condition-related repairs and collisions. This will give a huge boost in funds, including $120 million for water, $2.5 billion for roads and bridges, and $500 million for education (Portage Public Schools will receive a total increase of $282 per student). “What we’ve seen in Michigan for a long time are politicians who are taking money out of schools to fill potholes,” explains Whitmer. “So when we actually fix the roads by a tax at the pump, all those dollars from the schools that have stolen can be put back where it’s supposed to go.”

“I think it’s great, the way she explains where the money is going and how we can focus on getting our money back to education.” says Katie Weyenberg, an attendee of the event.

Eighth grader James Asher was the one who invited Whitmer to come to Portage North. “I invited [Whitmer] especially since we’re in an area that is half Republican, half Democrat. She speaks a lot about working across the aisle and I think that’s something that we really need, especially at this age.” says Asher. “It’s so important that we get things done for our community and when I see Gretchen Whitmer, I think she’s working with Republicans and that’s great.”

Whitmer agrees. “We have divided government in Lansing right now…. divided government doesn’t have to look like Washington DC. I believe we have an opportunity to show the world what real leadership looks like. That’s the Michigan legacy and I am determined to make sure that it is our future as well. Our goal is not a partisan goal, it is a goal that helps everyone in the state thrive.”

To learn more about Whitmer’s budget plan, including the mural, posters, slideshow, and video that she used during her presentation, visit mi.gov/mibudget. You can also look at an interactive map of the specific funding planned for each school district and road in Michigan.

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