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Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield talks about the year in review

U.P. Politico

Last week we interviewed Governor Gretchen Whitmer about her year in politics.

Now, we hear from Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield who spoke to Ben Thorp about his thoughts on the major issues faced by the legislature in 2019.

Ben: One of the first questions here is what is the legislatures greatest accomplishment in 2019?

Speaker Lee Chatfield: Heading into 2019 we knew it was going to be a first for many of us and that was serving in an era of divided government. The very first conversation I had with Governor Whitmer was that we could either share in the credit for things getting done in the state or we could share in the blame for nothing getting done. We made a vow that we were not going to be like Washington DC. Because of  that we decided that we were going to work together, we were going to roll up our sleeves and not let disagreements on one issue stop us from getting another issue done. Without a doubt the biggest accomplishment of 2019 was reforming our car insurance system. That was far and away our biggest accomplishment and I think there’s a lot we can build off of that.

Ben: I want to talk briefly about roads. You called Governor Whitmer’s 45 cent road tax a “nonstarter.” Ultimately the legislature offered just under 400-million dollars for the state’s roads which the Governor vetoed. The most recent included only 13-million for roads. What do you see as the path forward to reaching an agreement with the Governor on roads in 2020?

Speaker Chatfield: Fixing roads needs to be a top priority for everyone elected. Whether you are Republican or Democrat our infrastructure is a top priority in state government. Now I’ve said from day one, a priority of mine before I have any conversation about a new tax we need to make sure that all taxpayer dollars that are paid at the pump are taxpayer dollars that go towards the roads. Michigan is one of only a couple of states that charge multiple taxes at the pumps without putting that money towards the roads. Too often we want to look at the symptoms of the problem. The symptom is that our roads are in poor condition. But the root of the problem is that we’re not putting all the taxpayer dollars towards the roads. I think a penny you pay at the pump needs to be a penny you pay towards the roads. I think if we can accomplish that then we can talk about how much revenue is needed in addition to that.

Ben: At her swearing in the Governor called Michigan’s problems bipartisan but there has been a lot of conflict over everything from the budget, the fate of the Line 5 pipeline, and redistricting. What is the state of bipartisanship in Lansing?

Speaker Chatfield: Listen, we come from different parties which means we come from different belief systems. I think that every single person in Lansing can fight passionately for their sincerely held beliefs. I believe that there is a way to compromise on policy without compromising on principle. If we got to Lansing and don’t stand up for our values what did we campaign for, what did we run for? All of us have to make the decision that we’re not going to allow disagreement on one topic to stop us from coming together on another. That is what Washington D.C. has done. So we accomplished car insurance reform this year, we accomplished some of the biggest criminal justice reforms that we ever have in 30 years in the state of Michigan. Yes, we are going to have our fights over what we believe and that’s ok. We just can’t let that stop us from getting the big important things done and moving the state forward.

You can hear the full interview here: