Michigan is in a good place for growth and innovation. And in Washington, many legislators are ready to work across the aisle but are being blocked by radical members of the House.
That was the message from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who spoke at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber’s Government Forecast Breakfast in Birmingham on Monday morning.
Stabenow, a third-term Democrat who defended her seat against Republican challenger Pete Hoekstra in November, was first elected to the Senate in 2000.
As the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Stabenow said Michigan’s main strength going forward is in the things it makes: from the food the farmers grow, to the cars being designed and rolled out at manufacturing plants across the state.
“Our strength comes from making things and growing things,” Stabenow said to the crowded ballroom at The Community House.
During her presentation, Stabenow spoke to an audience made up of who’s-who in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area, including: Rep. Mike McCready (R-Bloomfield Hills) and his predecessor in the State House Chuck Moss, Birmingham Superintendent Daniel Nerad, City Manager Bob Bruner and several members of Birmingham City Commission and Bloomfield Hills Board of Education.
Michigan’s main objectives in the next few years, Stabenow said, should be to incentivize innovation and manufacturing, continue to protect the state’s natural resources and explore ways to bolster Michigan’s agricultural sector.
“(Agriculture) is a big deal for us,” Stabenow said. “We have more diversity of crops than anywhere except California.”
During a question-and-answer session, audience members asked Stabenow about the dysfunctional nature of Congress and whether the country’s elected representatives would be able to do anything to reduce the national deficit.
Stabenow said she knows plenty of lawmakers willing to step across the aisle to effect real change, but many efforts are being stymied by House Republicans whose goal, she said, “is to shut the government down.”
“Their goal is to create dysfunction, to make people distrust government,” Stabenow said.
As for reducing the national deficit, Stabenow said she’s willing to be smart about her agricultural initiatives, including consolidating programs and cutting down on waste. The only thing that will work in the long-term, however, is if lawmakers are willing to work together.
“We have to reduce the deficit, but we have to be smart about it so you don’t inhibit economic growth,” she said. “(If we work together), we might be able to get things done.”