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Whitmer talks budget, closing skill gap at GR Chamber of Commerce

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 6, 2019 at a speaking event in Grand Rapids, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was in Grand Rapids Wednesday to discuss her new budget plan with the city’s chamber of commerce.

Whitmer presented her first budget to the legislature Tuesday, proposing a $507 million boost in K-12 spending, $120 million in spending to ensure citizens have clean drinking water and a 45-cent increase to the state’s gas tax.

Her gas tax proposal — three increases of 15-cents to the existing 26-cent-per-gallon tax over the next 18 months — would raise an additional $2.5 billion annually for work on roads and bridges.

“That’s the spend level it’s going to take to fix this problem in the next 10 years,” she said.

Whitmer has defended the need for the tax, saying it’s the best way to address the state’s struggling infrastructure.

“When we start building our infrastructure, we make this a greater place for people to grow economically, to invest in the future, and we put people to work immediately, rebuilding,” Whitmer said.

The Democratic governor said she is ready to set a plan and negotiate.

“You want a solution, right? Then the negotiations begin, so I think everything will be negotiated from here on out,” Whitmer said.

She told the chamber her budget is putting the state’s priorities in line: closing the gap in education and job skills, and improving the infrastructure.

“The fact of the matter is that this budget represents the biggest investment in our kids’ education in a generation,” Whitmer said. “Michigan is back of the pack in educating our kids, and we’re all paying a price for it.

“So we can remedy with this budget, make a big leap in our kids’ education, close the skills gap … and make Michigan a competitive state.”

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