Budget Proposal Puts Safe Drinking Water "In The Spotlight"

Mar 10, 2019

Governor Gretchen Whitmer giving her State of the State address in February - file photo
Credit Jake Neher / WDET

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says that by 2030 all communities in Michigan should be able to trust the drinking water coming out of the tap. When the governor unveiled her proposed budget last week, she called for 120-million dollars in additional money for drinking water infrastructure. Lake Michigan Senior Correspondent for Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Bureau Gary Wilson says “If Michigan is going to meet that goal, she’s going to need to build alliances in the Legislature and cultivate this over time.”

Whitmer’s spending plan is the opening bid in negotiations over Michigan’s next budget. Wilson says it’s not clear right now what the final deal will look like. Whitmer proposed more money for roads and schools. She also requested $120-million in supplemental spending on drinking water infrastructure. Wilson says that includes $37-million to replace lead service lines, $30-million for PFASes and $40-million for a drinking water revolving fund to help local communities get loans for water infrastructure.

Extended Interview with Gary Wilson in WestSouthwest podcast

Whitmer made drinking water part of her campaign for governor. But Wilson says he was still surprised to see it near the top of her agenda, and included in her budget address. Wilson says “I think she’s doing the right thing by putting it in the spotlight.” But he says “When you get down to the hard negotiations the real test will be will she take a hard stand on some of this?” 

The first standoff between Whitmer and the Republican controlled Legislature was over her plan to reorganize the Department of Environmental Quality. Wilson says while that flared up and got resolved fairly quickly, it probably won’t help her get money for safe drinking water. “It’s easier to get what you want when you’re making friends with people, than when you’re picking a fight with them.”