Print Friendly and PDF

#MIGovDebate Candidates Go Head-to-Head on Road Funding, Education, Auto Insurance and Marijuana

In Michigan’s first bipartisan gubernatorial debate hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee, the top six candidates for governor offered voters a glimpse of their leadership while trading barbs on a wide range of topics for Michigan’s future — from education reform and talent, to automotive insurance, tax incentives and recreational marijuana.

The debate, which served as a fundraiser for the PAC, took place on Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference and featured the top three candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties as identified by a public opinion poll commissioned by the Chamber earlier this year.

Republicans included Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Attorney General Bill Schuette. Democrats included former Detroit Health Department Director Abdul El-Sayed, entrepreneur Shri Thanedar, and former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.

On education, all three Democratic candidates said they would like to see more investment in teacher training and classroom enrichment programs to ensure all students have access and opportunity to a better life.

“The key to a good job is a good education. We have been failing generations of kids. It used to be that Michigan would offer a top-notch education and the opportunity to retire with dignity. We have to hold that line,” Whitmer said.

Labeling himself Michigan’s education governor, Thanedar said businesses invest in communities where people have the education and skills they need to be successful.

“I’ve seen teachers buying supplies from OfficeMax out of their own pocket. That is no way to run an education system. I would provide the necessary funding for teachers to teach and students to learn safely. No guns in schools and no guns with teachers.”

When it comes to infrastructure, Colbeck said Michigan has a duty to upgrade its roads from the current version to a higher quality version two road system, which he said would reduce the state’s overall budget for improvements to $2.5 billion from $4.5 billion.

Whitmer said she has driven thousands of miles throughout her campaign, resulting in repairs to her car windshield twice. The fiscal impact to families due to potholes and other crumbling infrastructure must be addressed immediately, she said, touting a $3 billion plan.

“Fix the damn roads,” she said.

Schuette said improving roads requires more accountability and favors stretching the way road dollars are used so more miles get paved with the same amount of money. The Attorney General also said he would abolish Michigan’s prevailing wage law — which requires union rates on most government jobs.

In response to a question on tax incentives to attract new business, Calley said the next governor must look at the bigger picture, which is talent.

“Talent is the new currency for growth,” he said. “We can’t find enough people to fill the jobs of tomorrow. We need to invest in a world-class K-12 education experience, lifelong learning, skilled trades, and the tools that our young people need to compete.”

Regarding health care coverage, El-Sayed labeled a current proposal in Lansing that would require many residents on Medicaid to prove they work at least 30 hours to keep coverage as “racist.”

“The requirements exclude people in rural communities that have some of the highest unemployment rates while unfairly burdening urban areas like Flint and Detroit, and other areas surrounded by more affluent communities,” he said. “Every single person deserves to be covered by health care.”

El-Sayed has made health care a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, pledging to work with the Legislature to create a single-payer system if elected.