Gretchen Whitmer State of the State: How to watch and what to expect
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will give her first in-person State of the State address since before the pandemic
- Democrats are pushing to expand Earned Income Tax Credit in Michigan
- Whitmer is also likely to mention education reform, repealing the pension tax increase and gun safety legislation
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will appear at the Capitol on Wednesday night to give her fifth State of the State address, and the first in-person speech since 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan.
She will have a more favorable audience as this is the first time since the 1980s that Democrats have control of all three branches of government.
Here’s what you need to know.
Where can I watch it?
- Michigan tax cuts could total $1.6B; Democrats won’t block income tax rollback
- Gretchen Whitmer: Michigan students need individual tutoring and soon
- Michigan doles out millions in pork in secret. Will Democrats pledge reform?
What are the key issues?
Whitmer and Democratic leaders have been clear about their legislative priorities this year. Here are just a few topics she is likely to cover:
Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit
Whitmer is pushing to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to offer financial help to nearly 700,000 Michiganders. Michigan families who qualify currently receive what amounts to 6 percent of the federal credit from the state, adding about $150 atop the federal credit of $2,467. Michigan’s credit was 20 percent of the federal rate until 2012, which saved a family of four an additional $350.
Democrats are now seeking to raise it to 30 percent of the federal rate. Raising it to 30 percent over the next four years would cut taxes by $442 million by the fiscal year 2026-2027, and save families about $600 more than under the current rate, according to a Whitmer administration analysis.
During a roundtable discussion in Lansing Tuesday, Whitmer touted her plans to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income workers and repeal the so-called pension tax on retirement income.
"The top priority," Whitmer said, "is putting more money in people's pockets."
Repeal of pension tax increase
Whitmer supports eliminating the “retirement tax” by exempting more senior income from the state’s 4.25 percent income tax. Pensions were not taxed by the state until 2011, and Democrats argue the current policy is unfair to retired seniors who didn’t expect their fixed income would be taxed.
Whitmer supported a plan to phase out the pension tax over the next four years, which the administration estimated would cost the state $495 million annually by 2025. A State Budget Office estimate at the time said nearly 500,000 households would save an average of $1,000 under the plan.
Whitmer has strongly advocated for “common sense” gun laws, including: universal background checks, safe storage laws, which aims to keep children from accessing guns, and “red flag” laws, permitting someone’s gun to be temporarily taken away if they are deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Such bills did not gain traction when Republicans ran the Legislature but now with Democrats in control gun safety laws are back on the table.
Whitmer is urging the Legislature to fund her plan, Get MI Kids Back on Track, to address learning losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. The $280 million plan would include one-on-one reading tutoring for children. Researchers from Harvard and Stanford University estimated that in districts like Detroit, Lansing and Saginaw, some students suffered the equivalent to a year of learning loss.
In 2021 she vetoed a $155 million program that would give Michigan children roughly $1,000 for elementary school students to receive private tutoring or reading instruction.
Bridge reporter Jonathan Oosting also contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This story was changed at 11:05 Jan. 25 to note that Whitmer's last in-person State of the State was in 2020.
We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please support our nonprofit newsroom?