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Opinion: Whitmer's address should focus on common-sense reforms

Lee Chatfield

Before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives her annual address to our state, several important issues should be highlighted. Her first address last year was filled with hope, talking points and big ideas, but it lacked the real policy solutions and details necessary to actually deliver the results people expect.

Fortunately, the governor’s second address gives her a unique opportunity to change course for the better, focus on real reforms and find success in 2020. This will be her chance to reach across the aisle and work together in a bipartisan way on the issues that matter most to Michigan families. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her second State of the State Address to a joint conference of the Michigan Legislature at 7 p.m. on Jan. 29.

With that in mind, here are some of the top issues I would like to see our governor focus on:

•  A realistic road repair plan. The people we represent want the roads fixed, but they don't want the government to break family budgets to do it. We need to hear a real plan that can fix our roads without creating more problems than it solves.

Before there is even any mention of raising new revenue, I hope the governor works with me to commit that every dollar taxpayers pay at the pump will actually go to fix roads. This is simply common sense, and it’s what the people expect. The governor has been resistant to change this, but I believe Michigan drivers deserve better than to be treated like ATMs. This would be something we can all rally around if she’s willing to join us.

•  Mental health care. Our county jails are overflowing, there’s a shortage of access to mental healthcare and addictions are going untreated. The lack of access to critical care is a major reason this crisis continues to grow out of control.

Republicans tried to fix this last summer by expanding access in under-served areas around the state. The governor went the other way, vetoing both a new facility in northern Michigan and funding for a center in Jackson seeking to help those struggling with addictions. This hurt people across the entire state. Her actions were wrong for Michigan, but she has an opportunity to do the right thing this year.

•  Civility. I vowed last year that we would not let divided government turn our state Capitol into Washington. Unfortunately, unilateral executive actions, political maneuvers, vetoes and budget cuts targeting families and children all eventually led to a frustrating and tense end to the year. We can deliver more certainty to the people of our state by working together, and we should.

But we also need to see more political civility across our state. The recent Facebook page that disparaged our governor with horrible remarks and threats is completely unacceptable. It was sickening to read the terrible comments. Whether Republicans or Democrats, we can do better.

•  A Great Lakes Energy Tunnel. It’s time to end the partisan lawsuit that’s doing nothing more than holding up a necessary project and jeopardizing the well-being of Michigan families. It’s time to build the underground corridor and safely transport essential energy resources to the people of Michigan. We have more homes in Michigan that use propane than any other state, and we can’t risk their livelihood. Let’s protect the Great Lakes. Let’s get a new pipeline. Let’s build the tunnel. 

It is my hope that Whitmer uses her address to announce a new direction that everyone in Michigan can support. Focusing on common-sense reforms like these gives her a new opportunity to work together and succeed. You know what’s better than talking about building bridges? Actually doing it. Let’s all get to work.

Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, is speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives. He serves Michigan's 107th House district.