Whitmer Pledged To Cut Her Pay for Duration of Pandemic. She Gave Up After Five Months.

Michigan Democrat ended her salary sacrifice even as her pandemic restrictions dragged on

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) / Getty Images
May 20, 2022

In early 2020, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) pledged to give back a portion of her salary for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. But she stopped after 5 months—even as her gathering and mask restrictions dragged on for more than a year.

Whitmer in April 2020 said she would "lead by example" and return 10 percent of her $159,300 salary to the state's treasury department during the pandemic. According to state records obtained by MIRS News, however, Whitmer ended the pledge just five months later in September after cutting three checks totaling $4,917 back to the state. The Democrat's pandemic restrictions lasted significantly longer than her self-imposed pay cut pledge—Whitmer limited indoor gatherings and required face masks in public for 15 months.

The revelation marks Whitmer's latest in a long line of COVID blunders. 

During the pandemic's early stages, the Democrat issued draconian stay-at-home orders that shuttered local businesses but allowed large corporations to stay open. Whitmer also implemented a policy that required nursing homes to accept positive coronavirus patients who were discharged from hospitals, a decision that Republicans argue led to increased deaths in elderly facilities. Meanwhile, as the pandemic raged on, Whitmer broke her own COVID rules during a dinner party at a Michigan State University bar and fled the state to party maskless at a crowded Washington, D.C., cocktail joint.

"Governor Whitmer shut down the state far longer than the months she sacrificed, upending the economy and lives of Michiganders," Michigan Rising Action executive director Eric Ventimiglia said in a statement. "Despite pledging to 'lead by example,' Whitmer … continued to enjoy a generous, taxpayer-funded salary."

Whitmer's office did not return a request for comment.

The Democrat entered the governor's mansion in 2019 after centering her campaign on a pledge to "fix the damn roads." More than three years into her tenure, however, Michigan's "deteriorating" roads are costing residents nearly $5,000 a year in car repairs, an April report from national transportation research nonprofit TRIP found.

Whitmer's infrastructure shortcomings and infamous pandemic response now have the Democrat engaged in a difficult reelection bid. According to a January Detroit News poll, just 40 percent of Michiganders would vote to reelect the Democrat. Forty-eight percent of respondents said the state is on the "wrong track," compared with 36 percent who said it is on the "right track." 

Whitmer's prospective GOP opponents include former Detroit Police Department head James Craig, Michigan State Police captain Mike Brown, and Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke. Republicans will nominate Whitmer's challenger during the state's Aug. 2 primary.