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Whitmer names commission to set population growth plan

 Governor Gretchen Whitmer smiling and holding her signed executive order
Rick Pluta
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday establishing a commission to look for ways to boost Michigan’s sagging population numbers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday to create a bipartisan commission to look for ways to attract more people to Michigan. She made the announcement at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

“We all know that where someone chooses to make their lives is the most important vote of confidence,” she said.

“This is a real, earnest plan to get the politics out because the work is not going to be done in three and a half years when I leave office, and a new person takes the oath. But the work’s got to start now in earnest and that’s what we’re undertaking with this council.”

Whitmer announced that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates John Rakolta and former New Detroit CEO Shirley Stancato will lead the commission. Rakolta is a Republican who was a top fundraiser for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. Stancato is a Democrat who serves on the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

Whitmer also announced Hilary Doe will serve as the state’s Chief Growth Officer. The position will be housed within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The stakes for Michigan include workforce development, congressional representation and eligibility for population-based federal financial aid.

But legislative Republicans said the effort isn’t truly bipartisan. The Legislature’s GOP leaders say they’ll get only two direct appointments to the commission’s 21 voting members. They also said the governor’s stated mission for the commission sets the stage for a tax increase.

“It’s not just funding,” said House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Marshall). “It’s also looking at accountability in education. It’s not just tax increases for roads. It’s also looking at regulatory reform, permitting reforms, other things we can do to make our state more competitive other than just raising taxes.”

The commission is tasked with setting a population goal for 2050 and creating plans on how to hit that target. The executive order also says the commission will issue a report with recommendations to attract and retain residents within six months.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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