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Whitmer set to testify about infrastructure before U.S. Senate panel

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to testify Wednesday before a U.S. Senate panel on infrastructure and the climate, a spokeswoman said.

Whitmer, a Democrat who campaigned on “fixing the damn roads,” will deliver her testimony virtually Wednesday morning before the Senate Environment and Public Works. 

The hearing is titled "Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation."

She will be introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who recently joined the panel.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is also scheduled to testify, according to Reuters.

Whitmer as governor has actually struggled to "fix the damn roads" as she promised during her 2018 bid for governor after the GOP-controlled Legislature rejected her proposed gas tax increase. But early in 2020, the Democratic governor launched a $3.5 billion bond program called Rebuilding Michigan to finance road and bridge repair projects. 

The coronavirus pandemic last year concentrated her focus instead on containing the public health emergency that has killed over 15,000 people in Michigan.

In her State of the State speech last month, Whitmer announced a listening tour across the state called “Fixing the Damn Road Ahead” to meet with and hear from residents.

Whitmer hopes the tour will produce "common ground" so the state is "stronger than ever" as the pandemic ends, she said.

Whitmer has been battling state lawmakers on a supplemental spending measure that would distribute up to $5 billion federal relief dollars approved by Congress in December.

Whitmer has said the supplemental is "crucial" and that failure to allocate all the funding could slow down vaccination efforts in the state. Republican legislative leaders have insisted on approving spending in installments so, they argue, the money can be targeted and monitored to ensure against waste.