LANSING, MI (AP) – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will address Wednesday night during the annual State of the State as she addresses the state legislature in person for the first time since January 2020.
Items on Whitmer’s agenda include plans to offer kindergarten education for all 4-year-olds in Michigan to help families with rising costs. She will also announce plans for “common sense” gun safety issues.
The kindergarten plan, which Whitmer has pushed since she first ran for governor in 2018, could become a reality when Democrats take full control of the state government for the first time in decades.
FOX 2 will stream the governor’s speech in full at 7 p.m. on this page. Keep our stream going after her speech wraps up as we’ll break down her key plans for the year with special coverage from FOX 2.
Building on the state’s Great Start Readiness Program, which covers at-risk children from low-income families, the proposal would ensure all of the state’s 110,000 4-year-olds are able to attend pre-kindergarten. The plan would save families, on average, about $10,000 in childcare costs, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“All parents know that an early start is critical to their child’s future,” Whitmer said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The governor’s office said the plan will be implemented over the next four years. While the cost of the plan has not been specified, Whitmer is expected to come up with a budget proposal in the coming weeks.
Michigan’s budget surplus is expected to reach $9.2 billion by next fall, including $4.1 billion in the school aid fund.
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 will have a free preschool education by the end of their second term.”
In 2021, President Joe Biden and other Democrats tried — and failed — to include universal preschool — one of Biden’s campaign promises — for all states in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal.
The speech will also include a previously announced retirement tax rollback and a significant increase in the state income tax credit.
While Whitmer and other Democratic leaders in the Legislature announced tax cut plans during a Jan. 12 news conference, 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 that he was “delighted” that Senate Democrats amended the bill to apply retroactively to the 2022 tax year.
Whitmer didn’t specifically address Senate Democrats’ plan in her statement, but she said the tax credit increase 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.
Whitmer sat with Michigan residents at the event to discuss how inflation is affecting them. Salina Montes, mother of a 1-year-old, broke down in tears as she described being forced to stay at home because she couldn’t afford daycare.
In December, the governor said she was willing to use “common sense” to solve some gun safety issues.
“I think you’re going to see a very sensible, sensible set of policies designed to keep people safe,” Gov. Whitmer said.
Last December, the governor confirmed at the executive residence that she would push for security measures to control, but added that she was speaking to the NRA and gun owners.
“I’m not talking about taking everyone’s guns out, I’m not talking about hunters and recreation,” she said.