Top lines from Whitmer’s first State of the State

By: - February 13, 2019 11:44 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her first State of the State address | Casey Hull

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had her share of zingers, applause lines and a corny joke or two — pretty standard fare for a first State of the State speech.

She also didn’t shy away from progressive rhetoric on how Michigan is falling short on education, climate change, equal pay and LGBTQ rights, which did not earn her bipartisan cheers. That’s not surprising, given the stark political divide on those issues.

If anyone was keeping count — as this was a source of endless fascination during the 2018 campaign — she used the word “damn” three times. Once was in reference to the weather and two times were a callback to her campaign slogan, “Fix the damn roads.”

One of her applause lines about former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was ad-libbed. Whitmer’s prepared remarks described the Republican as “Rep. Julie Calley’s spouse.” In her speech, the governor jokingly called him “Mr. Julie Calley” — something appreciated by several Democratic female legislators, judging by their chuckles.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address | Casey Hull

And Whitmer also broke some good news in her speech that her lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, and his wife, Ellen, are expecting a baby in June.

Here’s a roundup of some of her more memorable lines from Tuesday night:

Remembering U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn), whose funeral she attended that day:

“He was the epitome of what I think we in Michigan know: You don’t have to be mean to be strong. And those who live by this creed can get things done.”

On Michigan’s recent extreme weather that closed down state government for almost three full days:

“Someone even suggested, after the recent record-breaking cold, that I should, quote, ‘Fix the damn weather.’ I guess the cat’s out of the bag; now you know my campaign slogan for 2022.”

Capitol Building, Jan. 28, 2019 | Michael Gerstein

To new lawmakers:

“I remember the excitement I felt as a 29-year-old freshman lawmaker. I sat where you are as a House member, and eventually as a senator, and watched three governors give the State of the State address. Back then, it never dawned on me that I would deliver this speech one day.”

On Michigan’s diverse heritage:

“Despite our challenges, Michigan’s greatest strength is — and always has been — our people. It’s no accident that Michiganders are a diverse, persevering, and innovative group. Just think about the people who built our state: Dutch immigrants who settled in West Michigan to work the land. Finns who came to mine in the U.P. African-Americans who came north for jobs in the auto industry. People from the Middle East who made Dearborn one of the country’s most vibrant, flourishing Arab-American communities.”

Warning about the danger of Michigan’s bad roads:

Potholes on a Brighton, Michigan road | Susan J. Demas

“The potential consequences, of course, can be far more serious than a flat [tire]. Right now, we have crumbling bridges with hundreds of temporary supports holding them up. Buses of school kids and families travel over them — and under them. Chunks of concrete have slammed through windshields.”

On the declining state of Michigan’s education system, after noting funding declines and low literacy rates:

“Let’s be clear: This is not happening because Michigan kids are less talented. It’s not happening because our kids are less motivated. It’s not happening because our educators are less dedicated. It is happening because generations of leadership have failed them.”

Lauding state workers she met with:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Jan. 31, 2019, press conference in the Michigan Emergency Operations Center I Michael Gerstein

“I met state employees who have served the public for decades and never even met a governor. 7 I listened and learned about the obstacles they try to navigate on a daily basis to serve the people of our state. I promised I will do everything I can to support them. Because while many focus on what happens here at the Capitol . . . the real work of state government — protecting the public, educating our kids, working with business — is done by the 48,000 people of our state workforce. And they don’t get the gratitude they deserve.”

Slamming the “phony fixes” of past leaders:

“Filling potholes instead of building roads. Pretending that little increases can fix an education crisis. Playing a shell game with the state budget. Ignoring the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars from lawsuits against the last administration. Giving sweetheart deals to political insiders. Spending $1.3 billion on the last day of the lame-duck session in December. A government that doesn’t work today can’t get the job done for tomorrow. And that ends now.”

On the danger of climate change for Michigan:

“Two weeks ago we had wind chills: 50 below zero. Last week it was over 50 above. That’s a 100-degree swing — and a reminder that climate change and extreme weather are already putting Michiganders at risk. As a state, we must take that risk seriously. We cannot and will not wait to act.”

Reiterating her veto threat on bills that have an appropriation attached in order to bar citizens from overturning measures via referendum:

“I will not sign anything that resembles the budget gimmicks and band-aids that have failed us in the past. I will veto bills designed to cut out the public’s right of referendum. And I will stay faithful to the mission of fixing the roads, improving skills through education and training, and cleaning up our water. And I’ll work with everyone who wants to do that.”

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

On getting budgets done before summer, like they have for the last eight years:

“I pledge to continue the new culture that Governor [Rick] Snyder created in Lansing over the last eight years: Budgets got done before the break. And that was a good thing. Because just like every other workplace, we shouldn’t go on vacation until we get the job done.”

And after talking about leaders’ families near the end came this olive branch:

“We all have families. We all care about our kids’ and grandkids futures. We all want what’s best for our communities and our state. It’s important for us to remember that the enemy is not the person across the aisle. The enemy is apathy. The enemy is extreme partisanship. The enemy is self-interest.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.