GOP-led Legislature passes last-minute schools budget, puts other funding on ice, despite deadline

By: and - June 30, 2021 7:08 pm

Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas, June 30, 2020 | Laina G. Stebbins

A long day in the Michigan Legislature culminated in the passage of a $17.1 billion School Aid Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget ready for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature, just one day before lawmakers’ self-imposed July 1 budget deadline.

The K-12 investment for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 is the largest in Michigan’s history.

Funding for other parts of the budget — which is expected to total more than $40 billion to fund health and human services, environmental protection, local governments and more — did not make the cut in the Senate on Wednesday, however. GOP legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will have to continue negotiating spending plans. 

However, the Senate is not back in session until July 15. The House has session scheduled Thursday but will not take votes or attendance.

Sen. Curtis Hertel, June 30, 2020 | Laina G. Stebbins

“I think, you know, there’s a lot left undone,” said state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Certainly we have a lot of work to do in terms of getting the full budget done; we still have $8 billion in extra money that has been found throughout the process, as well as the [President Joe] Biden [federal] dollars that we still have to spend.

“This body has an entirely large amount of work to do, and I’m going to continue working to make sure we get that done,” Hertel added.

Whitmer signed legislation after a tumultuous 2019 budget fight setting a July 1 target date to present budgets to the governor — but no penalties were included for failing to do so. In 2020, Whitmer signed legislation delaying the July 1 deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate this month passed legislation for a similar delay this year, but the House has not acted on it.

The School Aid budget, House Bill 4411, was adopted after the Senate increased the House-proposed funding from $16.7 billion up to $17.1 billion.

While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle acknowledged there is still more work to be done, Republicans and Democrats alike applauded the legislation for its historic investment in K-12 education and elimination of a funding gap between highly-funded and lower-funded school districts.

“The bipartisan school aid bill makes historic investments in our children without raising taxes and will help each and every student thrive academically, mentally and physically,” Whitmer said in a statement Wednesday.

 “… Unfortunately, the legislature adjourned without getting the job done and passing a full budget — missing their July 1 deadline. We need to appropriate the $10 million in disaster aid for areas impacted by last weekend’s historic flooding. I am hopeful that the legislature will work quickly to approve a state budget that supports small businesses, fixes our crumbling roads and bridges, expands access to childcare and grows our economy,” Whitmer said.

State Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) was the lone vote against the bill in the Senate. He did not offer a reason for his objection.

HB 4411 provides more than $155 million for reading scholarships of $1,000 each for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) noted that the boost will be particularly important for children after a year of virtual learning.

“While today’s record-setting K-12 budget funding was a step in the right direction, we must ensure this record funding will be sustained,” said state Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo). “There is still more work to be done and I look forward to working on long-term policy, with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, that provides students with the greatest opportunities to succeed from the start.”

After being amended, HB 4260 was adopted by the Senate to provide about $2.51 billion for Michigan’s 15 public universities and about $437.9 million for its 28 community colleges for the current fiscal year.

An amended version of House Bill 4410, the general government budget, passed the Senate 34-0 without debate from members. Contrary to the House’s version, which included basic departmental funding, the Senate’s amendment contains about $1.4 billion in a revenue sharing boost and some supplemental funding for the current fiscal year for hospitals, nursing homes and more.

The House declined to take action on the 2.1% statutory revenue sharing increase for local governments, instead opting to have it be negotiated as part of the full budget. It did not vote on HB 4410 Wednesday.

“I would say we don’t have agreement at this point, but I hope that the House will take a look at the importance of getting the revenue sharing done,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland). “… On the overall budget, I think we’re in a positive place to move forward with discussions based on today’s conversations and I look forward to that.”

Also included in the Senate’s version of HB 4410 was supplemental funding of $10 million for flood recovery efforts following major flooding in Southeast Michigan in recent days.

With a vote of 33-0, the Senate also concurred with the House version of Senate Bill 28 to set aside a $10 million relief fund for brain injury clinics and in-home care providers affected by changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. 

Meanwhile, the state House adopted SB 27 to grant nearly $400 million in supplemental spending. The Senate adjourned without taking action on the bill.

“The budget we passed today for our schools, educators, and students is the culmination of a lot of hard work on both sides of the aisle, and something I am truly proud of,” said state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills). “This degree of funding that closes the gap between the state’s wealthiest and poorest districts — an issue that has persisted since Proposal A — is long overdue.”


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.