Whitmer: ‘Comprising with each other’

Well that didn’t take long.

The air around the state capitol is rarified these days with a renewed sense of optimism that the long-awaited public demand for bipartisan cooperation is within reach.

Pumping that air into the process is none other than the new governor who has spent a big chunk of her time promoting the notion that she, as a Democrat, can actually work to get stuff done with a GOP legislature in general but the two new GOP leaders in particular.

During her brief but to the point Inaugural message, she nailed it with this: “We can not afford to compromise Michigan’s economy by not compromising with each other.”

A cynic would correctly recall that every new governor has uttered the same “we-have-to-work-together” theme for a host of reasons. It is the right thing to do; the citizenry does want it and the only way to resolve tough problems is to set aside partisan differences and search, arm and arm, for a common ground solution.

In that context then, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer begins her journey to succeed where others have failed or didn’t even try and the first gut check on whether she can do it, is right on her doorstep.

She wants to fix the roads. Yep. We heard that.

She wants to raise new revenue to do that. Yep. Heard that too.

She does not have enough Democratic votes to do it which means the GOP lawmakers must put some yes votes up on the board.

And that’s where the rubber hits the pothole. The two new GOP leader’s won’t play ball.

GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield and his senate counterpart Majority leader Mike Shirkey are no votes.

What’s that you say, those are only two votes and surely she can persuade others to say yes?

Your logical self would conclude that but in the sometimes illogical world of Lansing if the two leaders don’t want to go there, the folks they lead, usually fall in line.

Sen. Jim Ananich, the senate Democratic leader, was asked if the governor will call for the fee hike in her State of the State message early next month. He was noncommittal but he joined in her rhetorical ruffles and flourishes about working together, “We have a responsibility to make it work. We’re all adults. I think I have a great relationship with the leaders and the governor and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.”

It sounds so wonderful yet all the positive thinking in the world doesn’t automatically produce votes for something the other guys don’t want.

Mr. Shirkey was asked about supporting a fee increase. “You know the answer to that my friend,” he poured ice water on the bipartisan notion. But what if she does lead with the fee hike? “It may be into an echo chamber,” he underscored his no stance.

Does this mean she will lose this fight?

Not necessarily. After all the game has not really begun and perhaps she can weave her 14 years in the legislative trenches into someway to make them an offer they can’t refuse. Ms. Whitmer is not adverse to horse trading.

However the fact that she begins with two key votes against her, is hardly where she wants to begin to prove that working together can really work.