2023 State of the State: What to expect from Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s speech tonight

Coverage of speech starts at 6:30 p.m. on Local 4+

FILE- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd during inauguration ceremonies on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, outside the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. Whitmer will travel to Europe next week for a five-day trip to promote the state's recent economic developments and with hopes of attracting new businesses in the automotive and clean energy industries. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File) (Al Goldis, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hey Gang! Grant Hermes here. Tonight is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State speech of her second term. Before we get into what to expect, there are a few things to know about the climate she’ll be giving this speech in.

First off, she’s giving this speech in person for the first time in three years and the first time in nearly 40 years that a Democratic Governor will be addressing a Democratically controlled Legislature. She’ll be giving the speech from the House floor to a joint session.

Second is really more of the first, it’s hard to understate the political climate that Whitmer will be giving this speech in. Democrats in the House and Senate have secured a narrow majority and have already started introducing bills to make good on campaign promises and decades long wish list items. That being said, Republicans have been quick to point out the narrow majority is by no means a mandate and they’ve already begun calling for bipartisanship. That bipartisanship has been short lived so with political squabbles popping almost immediately after the first day of session. We do expect Whitmer to continue to promise to reach across the aisle in her speech tonight.

So here’s what we’re expecting to hear tonight. It’s already been reported that Whitmer plans to announce an expansion of the state’s free pre-K program to all 4-year-olds. The state currently has free pre-K for low income families but announcing a new expansion would mean covering all of the state’s roughly 110,000 kids eligible for pre-k. It’s also something Whitmer has been campaigning on since she first ran in 2018 and is clearly looking to leverage her newly unified government to get it done.

We also expect her to push for new gun purchase and ownership laws, along with more investments for mental health and law enforcement. Democrats have been pushing for universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, more commonly known as red-flag laws since the Oxford shooting, but those bills faltered in the previously Republican led legislatures. Polls have shown Michiganders overwhelmingly support universal background checks, including current gun owners. In a ClickonDetroit poll from July, 91 percent of voters and 93 percent of gun owners said they were in favor of universal background checks. Polling was similarly high for red-flag laws, which prevent guns from being owned by a person who is deemed a threat to themselves or others, like someone in the middle of a mental health crisis or a domestic abuser. Among gun owners, 69 percent said they would support red flag laws, 77 percent of non-gun owners said they’re in favor.

It’s not clear what Whitmer might call for on mental health funding. Last session the legislature set aside millions of dollars for mental health funding in schools and the outgoing school safety task force has asked for millions more. Whether Whitmer is planning to call for more funding outside of schools is something we’ll wait to see.

We’re also not exactly sure how much money or what kinds of programs she’ll be calling for when it comes to law enforcement. During the campaign, Whitmer’s leadership was blamed for the rise in violent crime in 2020 and 2021, which was more than double the national average at the time. Experts blame COVID as the leading cause for the spike and not Whitmer’s policies, but calling for more law enforcement funding is also a political nod to centrist and Republican voters.

We also expect Whitmer to talk about the newly introduced retirement tax roll back and earned income tax credit bills. Those have been something she’s wanted to get done since 2018 and she’ll likely expand on that tonight.

A few things to keep an ear out for:

ROADS! Infrastructure is a top priority for Democrats in the legislature right now, expect this to be a two-for; infrastructure and climate change mitigation investment.

ABORTION: Whitmer has called for repealing the 1931 abortion ban that is still on the books. After Prop 3 passed last fall it enshrined abortion access into the state constitution, but it didn’t remove the ban from the books, just overruled it.

JOBS: Michigan is investing billions in making itself a leader for building electric vehicles and batteries, namely giving GM a lot of money to build a new plant here. Expect her to tout those investments and the work with the Biden Administration that has done the same financial backing of GM and the other automakers as the push to mainstream EVs continues.

I’ll be lives tweeting the speech tonight, you can follow along here!

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.