Whitmer calls bipartisan federal infrastructure deal a ‘game-changer’ for Michigan 

By: and - August 11, 2021 5:15 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talks to reporters at a Lansing bridge, Aug. 12, 2019 | Derek Robertson

The Senate on Tuesday passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will help to restore the nation’s bridges and roads, expand broadband initiatives, and fund projects to help battle against climate change. Roughly $20 billion of the funding will go to Michigan, with about $8 billion for roads and bridges.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a virtual meeting Wednesday alongside President Joe Biden across the country that the funding will be crucial in helping Michigan update and restore its infrastructure. She also acknowledged the bill will help her fulfill her 2018 gubernatorial campaign slogan to “fix the damn roads.” 

“Now the Infrastructure Investment in Jobs Act takes a big step toward helping Michigan modernize and develop the infrastructure we need to effectively connect our communities and continue our economic jumpstart,” Whitmer said. “This landmark bill is going to be a game-changer for us here in Michigan.”

The White House said the meeting included 1,500 officials. The five major advocacy groups for state and local governments have all endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The meeting resembled a victory lap, with state, local and tribal leaders of both parties telling Biden how important the $1.2 trillion bill would be back home — and also underlined the backing from beyond the beltway for a measure that would repair crumbling roads and bridges and more.

But the infrastructure measure is far from the finish line, with the next challenge balancing it with a $3.5 trillion spending plan favored by House progressives.

Michigan is set to receive about $7.26 billion for fixing roads, $1 billion for public transportation and $563 million for replacing and repairing bridges. 

There’s also funding for the Great Lakes, with $1 billion going to the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) over a five-year period and another $451 million going to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to fund projects restoring the Great Lakes, marine or coastal ecosystem habitats. 

The bill provides $110 million to expand electric vehicle charging networks across Michigan. Another $100 million will be allocated to establish broadband access for 398,000 Michiganders who do not currently have access to the internet. 

Lastly, the bill will send $5 billion to small and disadvantaged communities to address toxic PFAS chemicals in their drinking water while another $4 billion will go towards removing PFAS from drinking water supplies. 

Lake Michigan from southeast U.P. shoreline | Laina G. Stebbins

After Whitmer concluded speaking, Biden mistakenly said, “Thank you, Jennifer, for what you’ve done,” perhaps referencing Michigan’s first female governor, Jennifer Granholm, who served over a decade ago. Granholm currently serves as Biden’s energy secretary. 

Biden acknowledged the various community leaders who were present, and said that it will take a coordinated effort by the federal and local governments to carry out the projects the infrastructure legislation funds. 

“You know what it means to be accountable to the people you serve, and to focus on solving real problems people are facing in your communities,” Biden said. “But you also know that often states and cities and counties can’t do it alone. And they need the federal government to be a partner. … And being a partner is what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s the approach we’ve been taking with this bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

Liz Hausmann, a Republican commissioner of Fulton County, Ga., said the bill would help fund transit expansions that the rapidly growing region around Atlanta needs, but lacks the funding to construct on its own.

The bill “provides mobility options to our community, and the transit provisions provide connectivity, jobs and sustainability for the growth that we know is coming,” she said. “We can’t do it without the support and the partnership of our state and federal government, and this bipartisan infrastructure package will do just that.”

Biden praised senators for passing the bipartisan bill and said it’s a signal that more work can be done. 

“[Passing this bill] will help ease the years of gridlock in Washington and show the American people that their government can and will work for them,” Biden said. “We’re gonna still have big disagreements. But [passing this bill is] happening at a critical time because now is the moment to build on our momentum.” 

But final passage of the bill is likely weeks, if not months, away.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pledged not to take up the infrastructure package in the Democratic-controlled House until the Senate passes a larger spending plan that focuses on education, health and climate efforts through a separate process known as reconciliation.

That yet-unwritten bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), has compared the $3.5 trillion package to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

A majority of the 95 House members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus pledged on Tuesday not to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill until a “robust” spending package is agreed to in the Senate.

Passage of that plan has its own challenges. 

A group of nine House moderate Democrats, including Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Susie Lee of Nevada and Jared Golden of Maine, told Pelosi they had reservations about the measure’s price tag. Democrats have a slim, eight-seat majority in the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Wednesday his caucus would be united in supporting the eventual spending plan, which he said would be ready by Sept. 15, two days after senators return from their summer recess. 

Senate Democrats may pass the measure, even with all Republicans opposed, but they can’t lose any members, meaning the package must appease all members, from progressives like Sanders to West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III, a key moderate vote.

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.

Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.