Whitmer reveals ‘centerpiece’ of 2020 budget plan

Dennis Archer Jr., Detroit Regional Chamber 2019 Conference chair, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Feb. 28, 2019 | Ken Coleman

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said closing the skills gap and fixing infrastructure will be the primary themes when she delivers her first budget plan to the Legislature on Tuesday.

She made that comment to reporters on Thursday after speaking during the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Policy Conference in Detroit, where she discussed her vision for helping small business.

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Whitmer made “fixing the damn roads” a major campaign pledge last year.

“If I didn’t have a real roads plan, I think that you’d all be shocked,” said Whitmer. “And we’ve got to acknowledge that we have to close the skills gap. That’s the way to ensure that people have real paths into work that pays and that has dignity. That’s the centerpiece of the budget.”

Whitmer’s aim is to arm each Michigander with a skill set. Only 44 percent of state’s population has a post-secondary credential, like an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or training certificate.

“Until my State of the State, we were one of only nine states in the country — and the only state in the Midwest that had not set a formal goal,” she said. “I set the goal at 60 percent. And in order to close the gap, we’re going to have to get to work.”

Whitmer discussed the skills gap with President Donald Trump when she was seated next to him at a White House state dinner on Sunday, the Advance reported.

President Donald J. Trump, January 14, 2019, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, in New Orleans, Louisiana. | Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour, Flickr

She plans on sharing more next week on two tools to help meet her year 2030 goal: the Michigan Reconnect and the My Opportunity scholarship. The governor also talked about them during her State of the State address.

During a lighter moment during the one-on-one conversation with Dennis Archer Jr.*, the chamber’s 2019 conference chair, Whitmer noted that she wanted to be an ESPN broadcaster while in high school.

“I loved watching college football and professional football when I was young,” she said.

But she entered Michigan State University “and the [state] Capitol was just down the street and I fell in love with public policy.”

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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