Whitmer talks abortion rights fight, turning around state population, and lagging EV sales

As 2023 comes to a close, FOX 2 is sitting down with state leaders to talk about past accomplishments and future plans as we head into the new year. We were joined by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist in this latest installment.

"Michigan's always going to be a competitive state - no one should make any assumptions about Michigan - you've got to do the work," said Whitmer.

Whitmer and Gilchrist are wrapping up 2023 and looking to the future - as the presidential election looms in 2024.

"I think abortion will still be on the ballot," she said.

Even though it's not a constitutional question in Michigan - the governor says the future president, appointed judges, and elected lawmakers will have power over reproductive rights.

"It very much is very real - we know that with the US Supreme Court taking up the Mifepristone case - a court could yet undermine the majority way the women access abortion in this country - through medication," she said. "So it's very real - it's not over, and I think it will continue to drive people to the polls."

As that national election takes shape the two are concentrating on growing the dwindling population of the state.

"I think this is a blueprint and a gut check moment for Michigan, where we say you know what, it really is in all of our best interest if we're successful here," she said.

"We need to make Michigan a place where everyone sees a future for themselves and their family," Gilchrist said.

That means focusing on education, transit and housing. Both are proud of their $50 million investment to address affordable housing in the state.

"That's going to mean more new housing units, more resources to renovate existing homes, and give people the chance at a home which is really the foundation for your participation in the community," Gilchrist said.

A community that is so diverse - with large Jewish and Arab populations who are watching the Israel-Hamas war with grave concerns.

"We've got a lot of communities that are hurting," Whitmer said. "What I can do is work hard to make sure we're bringing people home from the region - which we did, work to make sure that as people worship - whether it's in the synagogue or a mosque, that they are safe when they do, and that our students are safe in their schools and on their campuses."

Campuses where the state's future is taking shape - life sciences - semi-conductors - but what about electric vehicles? Michigan has committed to mobility and the advancement of EVs although automakers have scaled back production and sales have languished.

"I don't think they're pulling back from EVs, I think that the transition - not all the pieces to move it as fast as I think, some hoped they'd be able to, are there yet. But we are really seeing that ecosystem grow."

And speaking of growth - we asked the governor if she has any plans to run for president.

"I have no plans to do any such thing," she said. "I have got three more years as governor - I am going to spend every minute of that time focusing on getting Michigan in as strong a position as we can be."

Moving beyond fixing the damn roads to ending the retirement tax and expanding the earned income tax credit for working families, with she says, more to come.

"Keep doing the work - I don't have a catchy, spicy slogan," she quipped. "I feel good about - we've lowered people's costs and we've strengthened our economy and if we stay focused on continuing to do both those things, I think Michigan is going  to be in a very strong position."