Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talks tax cuts, GM's EV investment in State of the State

Wednesday night, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her State of the State virtually for the second year in a row with a theme of optimism on the 185th birthday of Michigan.

Speaking from the Detroit Diesel headquarters, Whitmer outlined some successes in the past year and shared her vision for 2022 involving tax cuts, helping seniors, mental health funding and reduction in costs for electric vehicles.

Whitmer spent little time on the pandemic, and while admitting some can feel "exhausted" these days, that the "cure for cynicism is competence." 

She opened her address with a heartfelt remembrance of the four teens killed in the November shooting at Oxford High School.

"Tonight I am putting forward proposals to grow our economy by cutting taxes and lowering costs," she said. 

Whitmer spoke about eliminating the pension tax created under former Gov. Rick Snyder.

"For the seniors let's repeal the retirement tax," she said. "I first called to repeal this tax in 2019. It is time to get it done. If we phase it out over the next few years we can save half a million households in mich an average of $1,000 a year. "

Whitmer also hit on wanting to raise the Earned Income Tax Credit at the federal and state levels for full-time workers to keep more of what they earn.

"It is part of the refund we get when we file our taxes," she said, pointing out in 2010 Michiganders received almost a $3,000 refund on average. "Restoring the EITC lifts more than 22,000 people out of working poverty and sends 730,000 families an average refund of almost $3,000 that they can use to pay the bills." 

Then the governor transitioned into the more upbeat portion of her speech, where she will ride the momentum of this week's GM announcement of a $7 billion, 4,000 job investment in two new Michigan plants.

The governor said the state has made progress in lower costs and spoke about her 2019 auto insurance reform that will result in residents getting a $400 rebate this May. 

The governor also wants a $2,500 rebate for everyone who buys an electric car and the charging equipment that goes with that. 

The breakdown she mentioned, would be a $2,000 rebate for the vehicle and $500 for charging equipment. That, combined with the federal EV credit of $7,500 will bring costs down $10,000 per vehicle, she said.

She's also pushing to slice the price of insulin in Michigan. She said Attorney General Dana Nessel is starting an investigation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act into one of the "three largest drug companies" that makes almost all of the insulin in the US.

"The average cost of a single vial is almost $100," she said. "For years drug companies have been jacking up insulin prices, the average price tripled from 2009 to 2019. 

"In the Michigan legislature there are bi-partisan bills introduced that would cap the price of insulin to $50 a month. We all agree, insulin costs too much. I know we can work together to hold drug companies accountable, lower costs and save lives. Let's get that done too."

Whitmer also spoke about investing in the state's mental health workforce, adding that nearly 40 percent of Michiganders who need help, don't get treatment for mental illness.

She emphasized growing the workforce and expanding access to mental healthcare.

"We will expand Michigan's loan repayment program for mental health professionals," she said. "And we will make a historic investment to retain and recruit hundreds more mental health workers.

"I will propose another bold investment in mental health in next year's school aid budget to help schools hire more than 560 nurses, counselors and, social workers."