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Candidate profile: Whitmer will fix infrastructure 'once and for all' and focus on schools

Gretchen Whitmer (Photo courtesy: Gretchen Whitmer for Governor Campaign)

Name: Gretchen Whitmer

Occupation: Candidate

Hometown: East Lansing, Mich.

Education: Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University, Michigan State University

The gubernatorial race has a woman looking to be Michigan’s second female governor and she believes her experience makes her the most qualified.

Gretchen Whitmer served as the Senate Minority Leader in Michigan’s legislature and as the interim Ingham County Prosecutor. She edged out her primary opponents in July and now is pushing for the win in November.

Roads and Infrastructure

Whitmer has made it a staple in her platform to fix the roads. Her plan calls for an initial investment of $2 billion in the first year; half would come from the state and the rest would come from the federal government, Whitmer said.

“This is something that is costing us right now,” she said. “Instead of paying to fix our cars, let’s get the roads fixed, let’s do it the right way so that we are safe on those roads so that we are competitive as a state.”

This plan has faced criticism from her opponents who claim her proposals will lead to an increase in taxes that mirror former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Whitmer, said her plan is an honest approach to a problem everyone faces.

“If you are tired of paying that bill to replace your tires, if you’re tired of going to Belle Tire or poly glass to get your windshield fixed because our roads are falling apart, then give me a chance. I can get this done,” she said.

Part of her infrastructure plan also calls for replacing lead laced pipes in cities and neighborhoods as well as ensuring internet cables are in place to connect communities.

PFAS and Line 5

Gov. Rick Snyder announced a deal with Canadian energy company Enbridge in October for a new Line 5 pipeline to be built in a new tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

“I’m very disappointed to see the governor try to move forward and tie the hands of the next governor,” Whitmer said. “I think that is a terrible, terrible idea. We’ve got to get that pipeline out of the water as quickly as possible.”

Those in favor of keeping Line 5 operational believe the pipeline delivers natural gas and other energy to the Upper Peninsula. Proponents of shutting down the controversial line believe alternate ways of delivering the resources to the U.P. are feasible.

“I’m committed to making sure Yoopers have clean energy that is affordable, but if there is a rupture in that pipeline that is already 15 years older than it was every supposed to be in there for the first place, if there’s a rupture it would devastate our economy,” Whitmer said. “We cannot afford to rely on a company that’s not trustworthy to do the right thing when we know we are bearing all the risk here.”

With testing underway by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, PFAS contaminated drinking water is being found in communities across the state. These so-called "forever chemicals" are being found in other states as well; the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet set an enforceable drinking water standard.

This has set some Michigan legislators into motion, sponsoring legislation to act. So far, no movement has been made. This would change, Whitmer said, if she is elected as governor.

“I won’t need the legislature to do it because as governor I’m going to do it. I’m going to make sure that I’ve got a DEQ that is headed by someone who believes in science and someone who is going to do the right thing and clean up our drinking water in this state, we have urgency here,” she said.

Education

Whitmer called herself "fierce" on behalf of her own children and all others in the state when it comes to advocating for an improved education system in Michigan.

Reading scores are consistently in the bottom half of all states for students in Michigan and Whitmer said her plan will spark change.

“I’m going to make sure that we have universal early childhood education so that every Michigan child comes into kindergarten ready to learn,” the Democrat candidate said.

Whitmer also calls for "tripling the number of literacy coaches" available to students, which she said will improve reading scores.

To pay for universal preschool and more literacy coaches, she said the state needs to stop "raiding the education fund." Whitmer said every year, $750 million is pulled from the dedicated education budget and diverted to the general fund, and that will stop she said.

“We’re failing generations of kids in Michigan because our education system has become a political football and we’re all loosing because of it,” Whitmer said.

Healthcare

Another mainstay in Whitmer’s platform – the Healthy Michigan Plan that is part of Medicaid expansion and became active in the state in 2014.

She has touted her work in the legislature to make it happen by ‘crossing party lines’ to work with Gov. Snyder. Healthy Michigan expanded coverage to roughly 680,000 people once effective.

“People come up to me and thank me for their health coverage,” she said.

The current legislature has proposed work requirements for beneficiaries, but Whitmer has been opposed to those in the past. Now, she said she wants to ‘hold the line’ on Healthy Michigan and focus on other aspects of healthcare.

“We’ve got to amend our laws in Michigan to protect women’s health, to protect the right to contraception in this state as well as ensuring that we are bringing down the prescription drug prices and getting more people covered,” Whitmer said.

Of Note

Whitmer also has plans to expand the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which became effective in Michigan in 1977. The ELCRA “prohibits discrimination in Michigan on the basis of 'religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status' in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations."

“It’s 2018 I think we all need to know that Michigan has got to get on the right side of history here,” she said.

The gubernatorial hopeful said it’s important to expand the language in the law to include members of the LGBTQ community.

“I will lead the effort to amend the statute, work with the legislature and I will sign it into law and we can make Michigan a place where everyone is respected and protected under the law,” Whitmer said.

To read more about Whitmer’s platform, head to her campaign website.

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