Snyder signs $1.3B ‘Christmas tree’ spending plan

By: - December 29, 2018 1:26 am

Michigan Capitol | Michael Gerstein

Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a more than $1.3 billion spending plan. This caps his eight years in office in which he’s touted signing Michigan’s budgets early and presiding over the state’s “economic comeback.”

The term-limited Republican signed the 40-page Senate Bill 601, which passed early last Friday morning. The bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) dedicates funding for environmental clean-up and roads, as well as funds for the state’s “Rainy Day” fund.

Gov. Rick Snyder at his year-end press conference, Dec. 11, 2018 | Ken Coleman

There was also more than $100 million for a variety of legislators’ preferred projects. So-called “Christmas tree” legislation — named because many lawmakers get a present — is often customary in flush economic times during Lame Duck sessions.

Line-item projects included $18 million for the state Senate to acquire a parking structure and $10 million for a ski jump in the Upper Peninsula.

Snyder used one line-item veto for a $2 million “Michigan Enhancement Grant” request — which appears to be a dairy plant — because “the language does not state a public purpose for the funds allocated in that subsection.”

Snyder’s state budget director said that the last-minute spending package — which was initially planned at about $630 million — will have a real impact for Michigan residents.

“At the end of every dollar is a Michigan resident, community or project that affects the health and welfare of our great state,” said budget director John Walsh. “This is more than just numbers and decimal points and dollar signs; this is about making a positive difference in people’s lives.”

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

There is about $53.8 million for environmental cleanup and almost $171 million in transportation, mostly for road funding and upgrades to the Soo Locks. And there’s more than $4 million for the new Enbridge Line 5 tunnel.

Snyder said that the supplemental spending bill represents a good example of the executive and legislative branches coming together to fund key initiatives.

“I proposed an idea for finding a long-term solution to cleaning up contaminated sites, and the Legislature had some of their own ideas, and we came together to solve the problem,” he said. “It’s not about a debate over who’s idea is best, it’s about working together to get solutions to problems, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Snyder also noted that the legislation includes a deposit into the state’s savings account, bringing the balance to about $1.1 billion.

Snyder also signed SB 149, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-Hart), a school aid supplemental totaling almost $80 million, including funding for at-risk students.

Potholes tearing through a Meridian Twp. road | Susan J. Demas

The last piece of the puzzle was House Bill 4991, sponsored by Rep. Ed Canfield (R-Sebewaing). Snyder signed this shift over time of almost $200 million in new revenue from online sales taxes away from the state’s School Aid Fund to help fund roads and environmental cleanup.

The bill takes $141 million from the SAF — which funds K-12 education — this year. In 2020, it’s $174 million and in 2021, it’s $178 million. That would be offset by increased sales tax revenues from online sales. That’s due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is expected to mean $200 million more in sales tax revenue annually.

As a result, roads would see a bump of $114 million this year and receive $143 million next year. And there is $69 million for a fund dedicated to environmental cleanup known as the “Renew Michigan Fund.”

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.