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Gov. Whitmer’s What’s Next Address as Prepared for Delivery


August 30, 2023



Gov. Whitmer’s What’s Next Address as Prepared for Delivery   


LANSING, Mich. -- Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the What’s Next Address to state legislators and leaders, outlining priorities for the fall.


Since taking office, Governor Whitmer has brought Democrats and Republicans together to power strong economic growth and help anyone ‘make it’ in Michigan. The numbers speak for themselves: Michigan has added 63,000 jobs year over year; the unemployment rate is 3.6%, the lowest rate in 23 years; and the state has won 16,000 jobs and secured $16 billion of investment with economic development tools that bring manufacturing and supply chains home from China. Governor Whitmer is focused on continuing that tremendous progress to grow the economy and create jobs. That's why she will focus on her policy priorities for the fall legislative agenda, which will build on previous work to lower costs, make Michigan more competitive, improve energy efficiency, expand opportunity, and protect people’s fundamental rights.


See below for the What’s Next Address as prepared for delivery.    


Thank you, Mayor Schor and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist! I am excited to be here as we round out 8 months of history and progress. Today I want to answer one question…


What’s next? 


It’s a question we love to ask. It’s in our DNA as tough, competitive people. We are always focused on what’s next. 


  • How do we take Michigan to the next level?
  • How do we compete to win the future?
  • How do we help anyone and everyone ‘make it’ in Michigan?

That idea of ‘making it’ in Michigan, has been the north star of our economic development vision. We’re focused on winning projects… investing in people… and revitalizing places. The good news is that we are seeing results.


In Representative Churches’ district, the former Wyandotte City Hall is being converted into a mixed-use building, creating jobs and commercial space for small businesses using brownfield redevelopment funds.


In Senator McDonald Rivet’s Bay City district, SK Siltron is making semiconductor wafers in Michigan instead of overseas. We have seen how chip shortages and long lead times result in unfinished cars sitting in lots.


In the Traverse City area, Representative Coffia’s district, a 91-unit apartment building is being built, expanding local housing supply and lowering costs.


The GM Delta Assembly Plant not far from here added a third shift last month….


Right next to where GM is building a brand new battery facility creating 1,700 jobs thanks to our bipartisan economic development efforts.


There are other battery plants being built across Michigan, bringing critical auto supply chains home.


  •  In Big Rapids, we’re creating over 2,300 jobs.
  • In Marshall, 2,500 jobs.
  • In Representative Miller’s district, Michigan-made Our Next Energy is creating more than 2,100 good-paying, American jobs.

These new battery plants will be game changers: supporting thousands of families, uplifting local businesses, and ensuring our cities and towns thrive for decades to come. They’ll help Michigan go toe to toe with China, bringing critical parts of the auto supply chain home. We must reduce our reliance on Chinese products, which have caused work stoppages, shortages, and car price hikes over the last few years.


Public Safety

A cornerstone of making communities better places to live, work, and invest, is public safety. Growth and safety go hand-in-hand. People want to live and businesses want to invest in places where they feel safe. 


Since I took office, we have invested $1.5 billion in public safety including funding to:


  • recruit and train police officers to make our communities safer…
  • resources for mental health and addiction treatment…
  • and other investments to tackle the root causes of crime.

This year’s bipartisan budget builds on it so we can: 


  •  buy firefighters new gear,
  • upgrade correctional facilities,
  • and so much more.

I want to thank Speaker Tate for his focus on public safety. Both he and Mayor Duggan are working on legislation to secure dedicated funding targeted toward public safety and fighting crime to make our communities safer. I will work with them to get it done.


Health of our People

That brings us to ‘what’s next’? well, my answer has four parts. What’s next on the fall agenda for Michigan is: the health of our people; the health of our planet; the health of our economy; and the health of our democracy. Let’s dig in.


First, the health of our people.


Last year, before Roe was overturned, we sprang into action. We filed a lawsuit to protect access to reproductive health care.


And in November, Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to protect abortion rights in our state constitution. In April, we repealed the 1931 law that banned abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.


Slaying our zombie laws was great, but there are still other bad laws that put politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. This forces patients to drive hundreds of miles for care or mandate that they receive biased, inaccurate information about their health. 


With a US Supreme Court stripping away basic rights, we must be proactive about repealing these antiquated state laws.


This is an issue I hear about from people who write to me. Like Rachel from Kalamazoo, who wants her daughter to live in a state where she is quote “in control of her mind, body, health, and future.” Rachel is right.


This fall, let’s pass the Reproductive Health Act and roll back these harmful restrictions. Let’s protect the freedom to make your own decisions without interference from politicians. Let’s get it done.


Health Care Costs

This fall let’s also do more to lower the cost of health care.


In 2013, I worked across the aisle to establish Healthy Michigan, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. We expanded care to over 1 million Michiganders: lowering costs, guaranteeing essential coverage, and improving health outcomes.


This fall, let’s codify the commonsense, cost-saving measures of the ACA, including...


  • Protections for pre-existing conditions so you can’t be charged more for having cancer, diabetes, or being pregnant.
  • Permitting children to remain on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26.
  • Banning annual or lifetime caps, so you can’t hit a limit on the care you receive.
  • And requiring insurance plans to cover essential services like ambulance services, maternity care, mental health treatment, and birth control.

Every Michigander deserves quality, affordable care.


Prescription Drugs

Another way we can save Michiganders money is by tackling the high cost of prescription drugs. 


We’ve made strides. Early last term, I established the Prescription Drugs Task Force. Thank you, Majority Leader Brinks and Representative VanderWall, both of whom were members. They proposed several policies and actions to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. 


In February 2022, I signed three bills to: 


  • hold pharmacy benefit managers accountable,
  • increase transparency,
  • and expand consumer choice for generics.

Thanks to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the cost of insulin was capped at $35 a month and Medicare will start negotiating for lower drug prices. Unfortunately, too many people still pay too much out of pocket to get medicines they need.


Like Kay from Genesee County. Working full-time as a nurse, she often skipped refills of her own prescriptions because they were not covered. One asthma medication was thousands of dollars a month, on top of her two inhalers and prescriptions for other issues. She needed medicine to breathe, but the exorbitant cost offered her absolutely no breathing room, especially while raising her two children. She deserves better.


Let's further lower the cost of prescription drugs by implementing the task force’s remaining recommendations.


Let’s establish an independent, nonpartisan Prescription Drug Affordability Board made up of leaders in economics, health care, supply chain, and academics. The board would use data and evidence-based research to tackle the cost of prescription drugs. We need to hold bad actors across the supply chain accountable for skyrocketing prices while also encouraging R&D for new treatments and cures—made right here in Michigan.


No one should have to make impossible choices between getting better and paying the bills. Let’s get this done.


Health of our Planet

Now let’s talk about the health of our air, land, and lakes.


In the decades ahead, Michigan will be a destination for people seeking safe water, clean air, and opportunity. We will also continue to face extreme weather events caused by climate change—just think about the last ten days. We must face climate change head-on and grow the economy.


Too often we think of these objectives as tradeoffs: 


  •  Environmental protection... or economic development?
  • Quality of life... or cost of living?
  • Invest in the future... or live in the now? 

No false choices. Let’s harness the power of ‘and’.


  • We can protect our natural resources and produce cheaper energy.
  • We can bring supply chains home and lower costs for families.
  • We will put the MI Healthy Climate Plan into action.

Clean Energy Standard & Efficiency

First, let’s enact a 100% clean energy standard for Michigan. 


This means all the energy we produce will be from wind, solar, or other commonsense sources. It means clean air for our kids to breathe and safe water for them to drink. And it means protecting our lakes for generations to come.


We can achieve 100% clean energy while balancing reliability and affordability. In fact, we’ve been doing it.


And let’s work together to improve energy efficiency programs. The cleanest, cheapest form of energy is energy you don’t use. Actions like sealing windows, upgrading appliances, or wrapping your water heater reduce energy waste. It’s why our utilities prioritize efficiency. 


Together, we can reduce energy waste to meet our clean energy goals and help Michiganders save money.


To hit our clean energy goals, the Michigan Public Service Commission needs more tools. 


First, it should be easier to create jobs and build wind and solar projects. Let’s permit clean energy projects through the MPSC—just like all other sources of energy. 


This ensures local perspectives are reflected in the planning process while also allowing us to move faster on installation. And let’s pay the workers building these large clean energy projects wages you can raise a family on. 


Second, let’s authorize the commission to incorporate climate and equity into their regulatory decisions. The Flint water crisis shows what happens when we don't put health first. As we expand clean energy, we must protect our communities from pollution.


By 2050, these actions will:


  • save Michigan families $5.5 billion in household energy costs …
  • create 160,000 jobs…
  • and bring home $14.7 billion of federal funding. 

We can achieve 100% clean energy while creating jobs, lowering costs, and bringing back billions of our federal tax dollars from Washington to Michigan. 


Health of our Economy

Now let’s talk about the health of our economy.


Michiganders work hard. The numbers prove it. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 23 years, when Eminem dropped The Real Slim Shady. More Michiganders are working too, as our labor force participation rate is ticking up. 


To make life easier, we have delivered on policies that make a real difference: 


  • safe roads,
  • affordable housing,
  • quality education,
  • strong unions, and so much more. 

When Michigan families succeed, Michigan’s economy thrives.


Paid Leave

That’s why it’s time for paid family and medical leave.


This issue is personal. When I had my first daughter, I was also caring for my mom, who was dying of brain cancer. I was sandwiched between them.


That time forged me and showed me the challenges that so many Michiganders live every single day. I had my first child during my first legislative term. I wanted to be a great mom and policymaker. But I had advantages like resources and a strong support network. Even with help, raising a child, caring for yourself, and juggling your work is hard.


That’s why we need paid family and medical leave. It helps workers be there for their families. It gives you breathing room to get better when you're sick, bond with your baby, or care for a family member. Right now, 77% of Michigan workers do not have access to paid family and medical leave. They deserve better.


As governor, I was proud to establish 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all state employees. Nearly 3,500 people have used it to spend time with their newborns, forming lifelong bonds. 


While many large companies already offer this benefit, small businesses often cannot afford to. Enacting paid leave levels the playing field, helping small businesses attract and retain workers.


It will make a difference for people like Adam from Clinton Township. His employer offers 6 weeks of paternal leave. Adam’s wife does not receive any maternity leave. She was forced to use short term disability leave to spend time with her newborn. They deserve better. 


Surveys show paid leave is one of the top three policies people prioritize when considering where to relocate. A majority of adults who plan to move in the next two years would be more likely to go somewhere with it. This is priority for all workers, but it’s especially true for women, who make up half our workforce and often bear the brunt of caretaking responsibilities. 


So many of us have points in our lives when we have a baby, an aging parent, a sick spouse… sometimes two at once. But not all of us have access to paid family and medical leave. We deserve better.


No one should have to choose between being there for their family and a paycheck. Paid family and medical leave is a pro-family, pro-small business policy that will grow our state and its economy. Let’s get it done.



Moving on. We all know that growing the economy depends on our ability to deliver for workers, businesses, and communities. There is no either/or—it’s always both/and. So, let’s talk about another challenge that’s vital to unleashing our economic potential: permitting.


I hear from business leaders, especially folks in other states, about how no state has gotten permitting quite right yet. Michigan should be the first. This is a bipartisan priority and I know we can get it done. 


We are living through a manufacturing boom the likes of which we have not seen since the 1960s. Construction spending by American manufacturers more than doubled over the past year. We are building a heck of lot the right way. But we need to pick up the pace. 


To build more, faster and harness the full power of our economic development toolkit, let’s streamline our permitting process for advanced manufacturing, infrastructure, housing, and so much more. Over the years, I issued executive orders to improve our permitting process, but we need legislation to make long overdue strides. 


Let’s compete with other states and nations to bring jobs and businesses back home to Michigan and build the future.


Health of our Democracy

Finally, I want to discuss the structure underlying all the work we are doing together this fall—our democracy. 


I want to thank my partners—Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for leading in this space. Last November, Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to pass Proposal 2, making it easier to vote in a secure way. 


However, as we see around the nation, the threats against the integrity of our elections are alive and well. As we look back on the 2020 election, there was a concerted, coordinated effort not only to overturn the result, but also to intimidate voters prior to the election and threaten poll workers during the counting process.


We have expanded voting rights. Now, we must shore up election security. We cannot allow the will of the people to be tossed out or overturned, and we can’t permit politicians to stay in office despite getting voted out. We must ensure Michiganders are heard and respected. 


Don’t Just Believe

Today, we’ve celebrated the progress we have made together and started an essential conversation about ‘what’s next.’ Our plans are ambitious, but they are achievable. Let’s get them done so we can build a bright future for Michigan.


I’ve spoken often over the last few years about how we need to ‘believe in Michigan.’ I know that Michiganders love our state and we have been through a lot, especially over the last 40 years. We have made strides to reverse those trends by delivering on issues that make a real difference in people’s lives. We have made progress.


Our list of accomplishments, our growing, diversifying economy, and our strong financial position prove that what we are doing is working. That feeling you’re seeing in every region of our state—is hope. Michiganders believe in Michigan.


Now that we all see what we’re capable of, let’s tell the world. Michiganders are known for our kindness and our humility. We get a lot done, but we are not the best at telling our story.


Today, that ends. Today, we go from just believing in Michigan to bragging about Michigan.


Every conversation with folks from other states should start with, “Hi, I live in Michigan. Here’s why you should too!” After all, what’s not to love? 


  • Personal freedom and economic opportunity.
  • Great Lakes and majestic forests.
  • World-class cities and strong small towns.
  • Grit and grace. 

We have it all. Let’s tell that story. Because we’re Michiganders, damn it. There’s simply nothing better. We have a lot to do and only a few months before the new year.


We see ‘what’s next,’ so let’s get it done. Thank you!