Governor Whitmer gave her State of the State address to a joint convention of the Michigan Legislature on Feb. 12.

While it is an important night for the new governor to lay out her vision, it can be easy to get caught up in the pomp & circumstance of the occasion. To help make sure that my focus is always on Southwest Michigan I had a guest from home join me for the address. I was fortunate to have Jerry Holtgren, Director of the New Tech Academy at Niles High School join me at the Capitol. Jerry has been a phenomenal mentor to not only me, but many other innovators in education as well. It was a blessing to have him alongside me as we listened to the governor.

While we are certainly better off now than we were a decade ago – unemployment in 2009 was over 14 percent and in 2019 it is about 4 percent - the governor did point out some areas where Michigan can do better. One area that has always been a focus for myself, and for my guest, is education. It was encouraging to hear the governor talk about continuing support for increasing access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education. I believe that giving educators and school districts the flexibility to be innovative, so they can design a curriculum that works for their students and community, will help achieve those goals and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the governor to do so.

Another education topic that the governor touched on was the affordability of a college education. While I agree that college should be affordable for students, I wish the governor would have laid out specifics about the state can afford the new programs and promises she outlined. I also think we should be wary of creating a false narrative that success means a student MUST attend college. Increasingly some type of post-high school education is necessary for success, but our education system should never diminish the importance of trade schools, apprenticeships, or industry certifications. There are many well-paying careers in Southwest Michigan that do not require the expense of going away to college.

One issue I thought deserved far more attention in the governor’s speech was auto insurance reform. Auto insurance should never be a budget buster for a family, but in Michigan it often is. While Michigan is a great state to live in, we can’t help but be a little envious of our family and friends across the state line in Indiana who pay dramatically less. The legislature is reviewing multiple bills that would reform our current auto insurance system, and I hope the governor is open to providing our pocketbooks with some relief.

The weather outside might have been icy, but inside the Capitol during the governor’s address is was warm and bipartisan. We all know that both sides need to work together to make sure Michigan continues heading in the right direction. I’m both sides we will have disagreements along the way, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be nasty. If you ever have ideas about how we can work to make Michigan better, please remember that my door is always open.

— Brad Paquette is Michigan’s 78th District State Representative

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