Michigan

Gov. Whitmer plans tax cuts, stricter gun laws, free Pre-K

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday outlined an agenda that would include passing stricter gun laws, repealing outdated laws restricting abortion and who to marry, and providing preschool education for all 4-year-olds the state will prioritize.

Whitmer introduced her agenda in her fifth State of the State address, her first since her re-election. Their plan could become a reality if Democrats have full control of the state government for the first time in decades.

Addressing the entire legislature in the House of Representatives, Whitmer vowed to continue fighting for “strong protections for our fundamental rights” after voters approved proposals to expand voting and protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

She also called on lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws, including general background checks and safe-keeping laws.

“The time for thoughts and prayers is over. It’s time for common sense action to reduce gun violence in our communities,” Whitmer said in prepared remarks.

The state of the state speech was one of the first times Whitmer was able to summarize specific legislation for the coming year, and Republicans criticized the governor for not outlining a broader plan to assist Michigan residents in anticipation of the speech .

“She’s got the House of Representatives, the Senate, and herself. Where’s the street plan? Where’s their infrastructure plan?” Republican House Speaker Matt Hall told reporters. “Or will we just get some statements from her about new government programs she wants to create?”

Michigan’s budget surplus is expected to reach $9.2 billion by next fallwith $4.1 billion in the school aid fund.

Whitmer also promoted her Reduce MI Costs plan, which will save families an average of $10,000 by offering all 4-year-olds a free Pre-K.

By providing Pre-K to over 100,000 4-year-olds annually, Whitmer would fulfill a promise she first made when running for governor in 2018. She said the plan, which will take four years to implement, will “help parents, especially moms, get back to work and will create hundreds more preschool classes across Michigan supporting thousands of jobs.”

Former Republican Lt. gov. Brian Calley, who is now president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in a statement that Whitmer’s plan “will ensure that every 4-year-old in Michigan can get a free preschool education by the end of their second term.”

President Joe Biden and other Democrats tried and failed in 2021 Universal preschool — one of Biden’s campaign pledges — for all states, including Michigan, in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal.

The full proposal to “reduce MI costs” will also include a previously announced retirement tax repeal and a significant increase in the state income tax credit.

While Whitmer and other Democratic leaders in the Legislature announced plans to cut taxes during a press conference January 12, the extent of the relief is still being negotiated in the legislature. The Senate Housing and Human Services Committee introduced legislation on Tuesday that would increase the earned income tax credit from 6% of the federal credit to 30% and apply retroactively to the 2022 tax year.

House Republicans also appear to agree with the increased tax credit. Midland State Assemblyman Bill G. Schuette said in a statement he was “pleased” that Senate Democrats had changed the bill retrospectively for the 2022 tax year.

Whitmer didn’t specifically address Senate Democrats’ plan in her statement, but she said an increase in the tax credit would “bring over 700,000 working families across Michigan an average total refund of $3,000.”

After an event Tuesday in Lansing, Whitmer told reporters that her “first and foremost goal” was to reverse the tax on pensioners, but said “a lot of discussion and negotiation” was still needed.

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