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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will work this year to “triage” failing roads, she told reporters ahead of a speech at the Great Lakes Bay Economic Club luncheon on Friday.
“This year I am going to push forward with starting to triage these roads,” Whitmer said.
“…We have to bend the curve or this asset is going to get beyond repair. And that’s my focus right now.”
She plans to release more detail at her State of the State speech later this month, she said. She is set to deliver her State of the State speech on Jan. 29 in Lansing.
In her budget last year, the governor put forward a plan to incrementally raise the gas tax by 45 cents to create a long-term road-funding stream. It got a chilly reception from the legislature and hasn’t budged. She hinted in December that she would change her direction in 2020.
When Whitmer took the stage at the event, held at Saginaw Valley State University, roads were one of her key points.
“The roads are not simply about good-looking roads. It’s about safe roads, it’s about a competitive economy, and it’s about ensuring that these children can know that they can live a good, high-quality life right here in Michigan as their parents did,” Whitmer told the audience.
She didn’t tip her hand on exactly what her plan is or what a triage would entail.
But she did say she wanted dedicated road funding, outside of the state’s general fund, which lawmakers use to fund most of the state’s priorities and make decisions on every year.
“The goal was to get roads out of the general fund,” she said of her 45-cent plan.
“So long as our roads are in the general fund and being funded through the general fund, they’re going to eat up more and more of it. So, anyone in health care, anyone in education, anyone who cares about drinking water knows that all of these priorities get compromised, so long as roads is taking up general fund dollars.”
Her speech touched on other topics, including keeping kids in Michigan, expanding broadband access, increasing education funding and protecting drinking water.
While Michigan had a lot to be proud of, she said, “we’ve also become known for some of our failures, for some of our inaction.”
She ended the speech on a hopeful note, saying, “I know together we are capable of meeting this challenge, and we’re going to be successful together when we do.”