Insider: Whitmer expects GOP road funding plan Thursday

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will meet with Michigan's Republican legislative leaders Thursday and expects they will “finally” place “some solutions on the table.”

Whitmer mentioned the meeting with House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to the media Wednesday ahead of a conversation with state employees at the Lansing Community Center. She noted Thursday will mark 170 days since she first proposed her 45-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase to pay for the state’s crumbling roads.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks with Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield before her State of the State speech in this file photo from Tuesday, February 12, 2019. Michigan lawmakers on Friday approved a sweeping plan to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance system negotiated by Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders.

“I'm focused on trying to get a deal and trying to make sure that we get a budget done on time,” Whitmer said. “I think that taking the summer off, while we have such important work to do ... it's insulting, it's maddening, and it's incredibly irresponsible.”

Her comments came as the Senate convened Tuesday for the first time in two months. The House plans to reconvene next week.

Whitmer's comments Wednesday were the first Chatfield had heard of a deadline for the plan, his spokesman Gideon D'Assandro said. 

"It is disappointing for it to come through the media," he said. 

The speaker expects to continue a discussion of various proposals and ideas during the Thursday meeting with Whitmer and Shirkey, a discussion that's been ongoing throughout the summer, D'Assandro said.

The upper chamber’s GOP majority, which quickly adjourned then entered an off-site caucus Tuesday, is considering whether they could support a smaller 20-cent gas tax increase or a 10-cent hike paired with a teacher pension debt swap proposal that could free up cash for roads.

Whitmer said her support for such a proposal would depend on what other pieces the Republican legislative leaders planned to include that could hit targeted road funding goals, noting her concerns about looping education funds into the formula.

“We have to do both things,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “We have to do a better job educating our kids and supporting our education system, and we have to get serious about fixing our infrastructure problem.”

Napoleon endorsed Booker

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon is backing Democrat Cory Booker for president, giving a boost to the New Jersey U.S. senator with Detroit ties six months out from Michigan’s primary.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and other commanders salute the casket of Wayne County Sheriff's Sgt. Lee Smith.

Napoleon is a high-profile African-American leader in vote-rich Detroit, which Democratic presidential candidates flooded late last month for their second series of debates. Booker, whose mother was born in the city, stuck around for a separate “Detroit Rise” event.

"I have known Cory Booker for years and continue to be personally inspired by his comprehensive plans to take on criminal justice reform, combat gun violence and address the rise in violence incited by white nationalism,” Napoleon said in a statement shared by Booker’s campaign.

“He understands the problems facing urban communities and communities of color, and is ready to lead with compassion and strength. I believe that the Democratic Party should nominate Cory, because he is just the candidate we need to energize voters in places like Detroit, who are essential to winning back the White House in 2020."

Ecorse Councilman Devonte Sherord also endorsed Booker this week, saying he “will fight for communities like mine, not divide and demonize us.”

Booker has been mired in the single digits of early polls of the crowded Democratic field, but he has had notable moments in the party’s first two debates.

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey speaks at a "Detroit Rise" event at Saint Andrews Hall Thursday in Detroit.

In Detroit, he sparred with Biden over criminal justice reforms and his record as mayor of Newark, telling the former vice president, "You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor.”

Liquor commission gets new leader

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Patrick Gagliardi and Geralyn Lasher to full-time positions on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Gagliardi, a East Lansing Democrat and former Democratic floor leader in the state House of Representatives, will serve as chairman for the five-person commission. He previously served a stint on the commission under Democratic former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

"The Michigan Liquor Control Commission is a critical component to the success and economic growth of businesses here in our state," Whitmer said in a Wednesday statement. "I'm certain that both Patrick and Geralyn will perform their duties intelligently and thoroughly while serving on the commission." 

The liquor control commission oversees licensing, enforcement and policy for liquor sales in Michigan.

Gagliardi will replace Republican Teri Quimby, whose term expired in June. His appointment will give Democrats the majority on the board, which can have no more than three members of the same political party.

Lasher, an Okemos Republican and former communications director for former Gov. Rick Snyder, will replace current Commission Chairman Andrew Deloney, a Republican whose term also expired in June.

Subject to the advice and consent of the Senate,Gagliardi and Lasher will join Snyder-appointed commissioners Dennis Olshove and Edward Clemente, both Democrats, and Bradford Jacobsen, a Republican.