NEW YORK – Following a “State of the State” address from Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and facing looming decisions on the state’s budget, the Michigan Catholic Conference has encouraged policymakers and elected officials to focus on the needs of low-income workers and families.

“Families are the cornerstone of society, and should be a priority when developing state fiscal policy,” Paul Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO, said in a Jan. 30 statement.

“Policymakers and elected officials would do well to craft budget proposals and public policies that pave a long-term path of stability for men and women working low- and middle-income jobs while caring for themselves and their children,” Long said.

Whitmer delivered her sixth State of the State Address Jan. 24, placing emphasis on lowering costs, improving education, and fortifying the state’s manufacturing industry.

Whitmer called for the next budget to deliver on universal preschool, and on making the first two years of community college tuition-free for every high school graduate.

Touting a slogan of “build, baby, build,” Whitmer also highlighted an investment of more than $1 billion to rehabilitate housing in the state. She highlighted the need for a caregiver tax credit to financially help Michiganders who care for aging or sick relatives, as well.

“We will build a Michigan where if you get knocked down, you have the support you need to get back up,” Whitmer said. “Lowering costs on the biggest items in your budget … improving education so your kids can thrive … Ensuring you can ‘make it’ no matter who you are or what you’ve been through. We will deliver real change for people right now and for Michiganders generations from now.”

Following the address, Michigan Republicans criticized it as lacking substance.

“As she auditions for the national stage, Gov. Whitmer played all her greatest hits, but even all strung together in a primetime performance, her set-list clearly has no cohesive theme or plan for actually solving the problems in our state,” State Representative Matt Hall, House Minority Leader, said in a statement.

While not exact, some of the ideas Whitmer highlighted align with the calls from the Michigan Catholic Conference, particularly those related to housing and the caregiver tax credit. Still, in Whitmer’s address, the conference’s top priorities were either mentioned only as things she worked on in 2023, or not at all.

Long outlined the need for the state to expand its Working Parents Tax Credit, which would provide a $5,000 refundable tax credit for Earned Income Tax Credit-qualifying parents of any child under the age of three, and a $2,500 credit per child between the ages of three and five. Long also highlighted a need for the state to provide financial assistance or tax relief to parents who would otherwise struggle to afford the costs that come with the child adoption process.

Two of the other priorities Long outlined overlap with comments made by Whitmer – the need for more affordable housing in the state, and the need for caregiver grants or incentives.

According to the State of Michigan’s published budget time frame, Whitmer’s State of the State kicks off the annual budgetary process, as she prepares her budget recommendation for submission to the legislature. The governor’s budget proposal will be delivered this month, and legislative action begins.

In his statement, Long reminded elected officials and policymakers that the budget is a “moral statement,” and that the needs of low-income workers and families must be paramount.

“While some may correctly note that spending priorities and tax policies designed to support working families do not come free, it is necessary to remind policymakers and elected officials that the state budget is a moral statement, one that places people first and ensures low-income workers and families benefit from funding priorities and economic decisions in the years to come,” Long said.

Long added that the prioritization of families in the budget would also “help grow the economy, resuscitate the state’s upside-down birth rate, and lift the standard of living for low- and middle-income families, thereby contributing to the state’s overall population and prosperity.”

“Michigan has an abundance of resources to offer families that are already here and those who may be considering moving to the state,” Long concluded. “Michigan Catholic Conference is eager to collaborate with lawmakers from both parties to support life-affirming policies crafted to stabilize financial security for working families and their children.”

Founded in 1963, the Michigan Catholic Conference serves as the church’s official voice in the state on matters of public policy. Michigan’s seven diocesan bishops serve on its board of directors, with the Archbishop of Detroit, currently Archbishop Allen Vigneron, acting as chair.

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