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Schuette, Whitmer make a final pitch to voters at Detroit Economic Club

Gubernatorial candidates Bill Schuette (R) and Gretchen Whitmer (D) at Detroit Economic Club Forum.PNG

The Detroit Economic Club gave the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates the stage for a final public pitch to voters with less than a week until the midterm election.

The questions asked to each candidate were the same. Republican Bill Schuette was first on stage in the Sound Board Theater at Motor City Casino. In front of a room filled of business leaders, Schuette focused most of his time on his Paycheck Agenda and plans for tax cuts.

“I believe in the private sector, Sen. Whitmer believes in more government,” Schuette said during his two-minute opening statement.

First diving into education, Schuette said it’s all about relationships, and he has “great relationships.” Apprenticeships and more skilled trade opportunities are big for the GOP candidate.

“Not everyone will need to go to college, we need to make sure we have career ready folks,” he said.

The moderator asked Schuette to provide specifics on plans to address the cost of higher education. He sidestepped the question and when asked about any specific ideas following the forum, he doubled down on the need for "career ready" people after high school and touched on his "grading system" plan for so parents can see how schools are doing in their communities.

When asked about education, Gretchen Whitmer talked about her "opportunity grants" program that would allow students to go through a two-year program or use the money to "bring down the cost of a four-year education."

Both agreed there needs to be an improvement in third grade reading scores. Whitmer said during her time in the legislature, she had a "fundamental disagreement" with then Gov. Jennifer Granholm after money was pulled from the school aid fund.

“We’ve had leaders that haven’t made the right investment in our kids,” Whitmer said. “I’m going to make sure no dollars are taken out of the state fund.”

The candidates were asked about taxes plans to pay for their ideas. Whitmer did not specifically say her infrastructure plan includes raising the gas tax.

“We need to do it smarter,” she said.

In previous interviews, Whitmer has said her plan will raise the gas tax, but she’s confident people will still see it as a positive plan since people continuously pay for auto repairs now. During the forum, Whitmer said using the right mix and "doing it smarter" will allow for total infrastructure upgrades.

“We’ve got millions of people who can’t drink their water in the Great Lakes state,” she said while talking about replacing lead laced pipes around the state.

For Schuette, he said he plans to go to Washington.

“I know the Secretary of Transportation, she’s a friend of mine,” he said.

He said he will work with the federal government to ensure Michigan gets grants and funding for projects. Schuette said that his Paycheck Agenda will encourage economic growth and therefore provide funding for infrastructure programs and education.

Schuette was also asked about his campaign pulling money from TV ad spots originally reserved from around the state except for the Detroit area. He said it’s all strategy.

“We’re winning in various areas across the state of Michigan and where it’s a jump ball in southeastern Michigan, we’re pouring in our resources,” Schuette explained.

His campaign said the $1.2 million ad buy the state Republican Party purchased recently will stay in place.

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