by Scott McClallen
When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down most of Michigan’s economy in 2020, she promised to return 10% of her $159,300 annual salary to the state in solidarity with more than 1 million Michiganders either out of work or who were soon to be.
“I’m going to lead by example,” Whitmer said on April 20, 2020. “I know that times are tough and that we as a state are going to be confronting a tough budget as a result of the economic shutdown.”
She urged her senior team to also take a 5% pay cut, bracing for a drastic state revenue loss that was later backfilled by federal dollars.
And she did, for three months.
But instead of paying all $15,930, she paid $4,917, or about 10% of her pay for just over three months. MIRS first reported the story, saying that Whitmer’s other cost-sharing programs saved taxpayers $80 million.
Michigan Rising Action Director Eric Ventimiglia said the promise was a publicity stunt.
“Michigan’s crumbling roads cost the average Michigan household $4,845 a year, but Gretchen Whitmer bought a news cycle of positive coverage for $4,917,” Ventimiglia said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer shut down the state far longer than the 3 months she sacrificed, upending the economy and lives of Michiganders. Despite pledging to ‘lead by example’, Whitmer’s sacrifices included not getting her boat in the water, fallout from her trip to Florida, and continuing to enjoy a generous taxpayer funded salary.”
Over two years, billions of federal funds flowed to Michigan, which has a few years to spend the money. Michigan’s proposed 2023 fiscal year budget is a record $74 billion, but Whitmer and the GOP have split priorities.
For example, Whitmer wants the following programs, which the Senate opposes.
- $230 million in one-time funds for medical education, health sciences, and electric vehicle (EV) teaching, training, and development.
- $200 million for regional economic development.
- $70 million in state infrastructure.
- $50 million of EV rebates.
- $10 million for at-home charging EV rebates.
- $10 million to electrify the state’s fleet.
- $10 million to create an Office of Rural Development for workforce, housing, and internet access help.
- $5 million to create a new Michigan Infrastructure Office.
- $4 million to create Michigan’s Office of Future mobility, which is somehow related to EVs.
In total, Whitmer’s budget aims to spend up to $374 million on EVs despite only 13,545 registered in the state, compared to 5.8 million internal combustion engine vehicles and 105,651 hybrid vehicles.
The House GOP plan aims to spend nearly $6.8 billion on the Department of Transportation budget, including a one-time investment of $750 million for local roads.
The GOP budget promises $2 billion in tax cuts but includes little specifics so far.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Gretchen Whitmer.