Last of FY ‘22 budget heads to Whitmer’s desk, vaccine, masks measures likely unenforceable

By: and - September 22, 2021 2:49 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

With just over a week before the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, both chambers of the Legislature finished on Wednesday passing remaining spending plans worth about $53 billion. They now head to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has said she’ll sign them.

The legislative Conference Committees laid out the details of the state’s FY 2022 budget Tuesday and unanimously approved both the General Government budget, as well the Higher Education budget, which was pulled out from the rest of the omnibus, which has not typically been done for more than a decade. 

The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and Whitmer has until Sept. 30 to sign the budget in time to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Part of the FY 2022 budget is already complete. Whitmer already signed the state’s $17 billion FY 2022 School Aid budget in July, which primarily funds K-12 schools.

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

“Regardless of whether it’s for a family, a small business or all of state government, a budget is a statement of priorities — and this budget focuses on helping our families, workers and economy recover from the pandemic,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

In a statement following the passage of the FY 2022 budget, Michigan House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) said the bill was a “far cry” from some of the cuts Republicans proposed in spring. 

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done with the Governor and our colleagues across the aisle to deliver a budget that puts the people of Michigan first,” Lasinski said. “By investing in transformational projects, we set Michigan up for success for years to come and pave the way to prosperity for future generations.” 

However, there is a significant amount of unspent federal dollars left out of the FY 2022 budget. The budget only allocates about $800 million of the state’s $6.5 billion in federal funds.

While none of this is easy and debates take time, it is important that we focus on our ability to work together as we move on through the federal budget process and spending the [American Rescue Plan] dollars,” said Senate Appropriations Minority Vice Chair Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing). 

Higher Education budget

On Wednesday, the House passed the Higher Education budget, House Bill 4400, on a 97-8 vote. 

Reps. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.), Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), Matt Maddock (R-Millford), Andrew Fink (R-Adams Twp.) and Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming and Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) were the no votes.

Rep. Tenisha Yancy (D-Harper Woods) spoke on the floor in support of HB 4400. 

“Making sure that our children are safe and back in the classroom is important, that’s why we passed our historic bipartisan school aid budget in June,” Yancy said. “However, we also know that after-high school education is even more critical for setting some of our young people up for success. … I’m incredibly proud that negotiations on both sides of the aisle resulted in a bill that increases funding for almost every university in our state. And I’m hopeful that we will not stop here.” 

The budget was then approved by the Senate with nearly unanimous support. The lone no votes were from Sens. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) and Jim Runestad (R-White Lake). Neither senators responded to a request for comment on why they voted against the budget.

The budget includes a 4% one-time funding increase in the FY 2022 budget for the state’s 15 public universities.

Universities typically only see a regular 1% increase in funding, but received additional funding this fiscal year through federal funds. Most community colleges will still just see the 1% increase.

“I hope that when we start the budget next year that we will start with this as the base for funding for higher education,” Hertel said. “Because if we do that, it is a huge commitment to our future and to those that are in our schools and the talent base here in Michigan.”

Central Michigan University | Susan J. Demas

There also are exemption and reporting requirements that community colleges and universities must provide if a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy is implemented. 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said earlier this month that the Higher Education budget was “going to be one of the [budgets] that we’re going to have to wrestle with a little bit.” Shirkey added that it “starts with philosophy, and then it gets to dollars.”

Shirkey opposes mask or vaccine requirements on college campuses, which a number of Michigan’s colleges and universities have implemented.  

However, Michigan’s public universities have constitutional autonomy. And Hertel defended the budget, despite the language.

I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns regarding boilerplate language in the budget concerning public health orders. The language is obviously unenforceable. We would not have voted for it otherwise,” Hertel tweeted Wednesday.

There’s also boilerplate language that would ban many local mask mandates that many experts believe is unenforceable.

Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said she “opposes any attempts that diminish local ability to manage this pandemic or prevent local health departments from doing their jobs.”

“As always, we will be conducting a thorough legal review of the legislation to ensure that all provisions in the budget are constitutional to take action to fix the pieces that aren’t,” Whitmer said in a press release Wednesday. 

General Government budget

The Senate passed the General Government budget, Senate Bill 82, on Tuesday with a unanimous vote. 

Jim Runestad

As public servants, it is our duty to protect and defend the rights of all Michigan residents to work and live freely,” Runestad said in support of boilerplate language in SB 82 that prohibits state agencies and departments from requiring proof of vaccination to access state services. 

“The Legislature has used this bill to reaffirm the rights of Michiganders to make their own personal health decisions regarding vaccines,” Runestad added.

The GOP-led House adopted the general omnibus budget bill on Wednesday with a 99-6 vote. Johnson, Reilly, Meerman, Maddock, Berman and Carra were the no votes.

House Appropriations Vice Chair Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said the budget “is a victory for Michigan” and noted that there is still money left over to be spent on other initiatives. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.

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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.

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