Editorial: Congratulations, Gretchen Whitmer
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defied early concerns about her ability to win a gubernatorial election and scored a decisive victory Tuesday night. Congratulations to her, and let us offer our support as she embarks on the business of being governor of Michigan.
Whitmer is inheriting a state that has changed dramatically in the past eight years — and largely for the better. Under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan has become a state that is open for business, more competitive on taxes and in a better financial position for the long term.
In her endorsement interview with The Detroit News editorial board, Whitmer said she would not undo Snyder’s business reforms that have stimulated the state’s economy. That’s a commitment she must keep. Whitmer and her team must be focused on keeping the Michigan recovery moving forward.
We don’t yet know the full makeup of the state Legislature, but whatever it is, Whitmer must commit to the priorities she highlighted during her campaign: fixing the roads and the state’s sliding public schools. It’s a challenge that eluded Snyder, but one that she must meet.
Tackling both of these vital issues will take bipartisan support, and it’s important that she sticks to her campaign promises of working across the aisle to get things done.
Whitmer made “fixing the damn roads” the rallying cry of her campaign. Now that she is governor-elect, it’s time to put substance to the slogan. Taxpayers are eager to know how she’ll pay for the much needed infrastructure work.
Whitmer has received strong support from unions, including the Michigan Education Association. But she can’t be overly influenced by the teacher union, which too often sees more money as the only solution for improving schools.
It would be a mistake if Whitmer bends to that viewpoint. Some of Snyder’s reforms, including making teacher evaluations more meaningful, are positive changes and shouldn’t be repealed. She also should clarify her ambiguity on school choice; Michigan needs a variety of education options.
Not every campaign promise makes for good policy. Whitmer has promised more than $1 billion in new spending and tax reductions, including a repeal of the pension tax. That will require either cutting other spending, or finding new revenue. Michigan can’t return to the era of reckless budgeting.
Much of the hard work of reforming Michigan has already been done. The challenge for Whitmer will be to resist the temptation to roll back initiatives she opposed when she was in the Legislature, but have proved successful.
Whitmer enjoyed considerable business support in her campaign, including the endorsement of the Detroit Regional Chamber. That’s encouraging, particularly if she seeks the counsel of the business community.
Michigan has tremendous momentum. Voters are counting on Whitmer to keep it rolling.