State Rep. Andrew Fink today expressed disappointment in the governor’s misleading words in a recent press release that portrayed her as highly supportive of rural Michigan communities.
Gov. Whitmer’s press release this week announced the creation of a new Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), touting that she is “delivering on her promise” to support rural communities.
“It’s obvious that now we’ve entered an election year, the governor’s team is doing what they can to improve her weak standing with voters in rural communities,” said Fink, of Adams Township. “But her actions speak louder than her words, and she has turned her back on rural Michigan time and again. The people of Branch and Hillsdale counties know better, and the establishment of this office won’t make anyone forget about all the harm she has done.”
The representative pointed to the governor’s veto of a bipartisan plan to expand access to broadband internet in rural Michigan communities. House Bill 4210 and Senate Bill 46 would have authorized tax exemptions for new broadband equipment that increases internet service in rural and underserved areas. Both bills passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by the governor last spring.
“It’s especially upsetting that she vetoed these measures after her administration forced students across the state into virtual learning in 2020 and 2021, which disproportionately impacted learning and development for our kids in rural areas who do not have reliable internet access,” Fink said. “Further, our local businesses need to stay connected, working moms and dads need to be able to work remotely to provide for their families, and health care providers need to be able to offer virtual care. The governor has shown she does not care about the needs of rural residents.”
The Whitmer administration has also repeatedly favored urban areas of the state over rural communities in its budget proposals. In her first year in office, the governor vetoed funding for a program sheriff’s departments rely on to hire patrols for secondary roads and funding for rural hospitals in her attempt to try and force Michigan residents to accept a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase.
“Opening an office and slapping the word ‘rural’ onto it isn’t enough to fool the people in our communities,” Fink said. “If she wants our attention, she’s got to be willing to support meaningful changes in the lives of rural residents, families, workers and businesses.”
The Michigan House of Representatives has approved Rep. Fink’s plan to overhaul operations within the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) after it paid out billions of dollars to fraudulent applicants and failed an independent performance audit.