Lawmakers pass massive $4.8B plan for water, infrastructure and more

By: - March 24, 2022 3:35 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

A deal reached between Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature culminated in almost $5 billion in spending being passed Thursday to shore up infrastructure, drinking water quality, transportation, housing and more.

The main supplemental spending bill, Senate Bill 565, was introduced by state Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) and largely uses leftover state and federal COVID-19 relief dollars to invest $2.5 billion statewide. More than half of that money — over $1.7 billion — will be put toward clean drinking water and wastewater initiatives.

That legislation passed out of the House Appropriations Committee late Wednesday night before being greenlit by the full chamber Thursday afternoon by a vote of 95-7. The state Senate then voted 34-3 to make final approval of SB 565, which now heads to Whitmer’s desk.

Whitmer issued a joint statement Thursday praising the bipartisan collaboration that brought the deal together, along with state Budget Director Christopher Harkins, Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland) and House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell).

The bipartisan agreement comes after weeks of clashes between Whitmer and Republican leaders on tax cut proposals.

Whitmer said the massive supplemental “invests in our shared priorities including drinking water, high-speed internet, housing, and parks.

“… I look forward to signing this supplemental when it reaches my desk and continuing in this spirit of collaboration to pass another balanced, bipartisan budget that delivers on the kitchen-table issues,” she said.

Stamas applauded SB 565 as “critical funding” for Michigan’s infrastructure, while Albert said the deal “use[s] one-time resources available today to benefit our children and grandchildren for the rest of their lives.”

Highlights of the $2.5 billion plan include:

  • $1.3 billion for sewer and water infrastructure
  • $250 million for dam upgrades and upkeep
  • $382.9 million for emergency rental assistance to support low income renters who have been hit hard financially by COVID-19
  • $250.6 million for broadband service infrastructure in underserved areas
  • $316.6 million for road and bridge programs
  • $66.2 million for federal transportation programs
  • $250 million for fixing up state parks
  • $200 million for new projects for local community parks

Within the pot of money for water infrastructure, $75 million will go toward lead service line replacements in Detroit; $45 million will be allocated to drinking water infrastructure improvements in Benton Harbor; and $50 million will be used to purchase new drinking water filtration devices in schools and childcare facilities.

State Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland) chimed in on the infrastructure funds, highlighting the $250 million allocated for improving dam safety.

Glenn’s hometown was the location of failed Edenville and Sanford dams, which in May 2020 unleashed catastrophic flooding and caused $200 million in damage.

“The strength and resilience of the Midland and Sanford communities are a daily inspiration,” Glenn said. “It strengthens my resolve to do everything possible to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring ever again anywhere in Michigan. With the resources the Legislature is approving this week, we are taking a historic step to protect people and property across our great state.”

Whitmer vetoes $2.5B GOP tax cut plan, saying it would mean ‘deep and painful cuts to services’

SB 565 also received praise from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) and the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP).

Albert authored the second supplemental bill adopted Thursday, House Bill 5525, which passed through the state Legislature quickly and received final passage by the House with a vote of 98-5.

HB 5525 would provide $100 million to the Unemployment Insurance Compensation Fund, among other appropriations, in order to offset expected exposure to state fraud and improper payment during COVID-19.

Up to $200 million would also go toward supporting customer service improvements, enhancing fraud enforcement efforts and more at the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA).

As Whitmer did not offer her stance on the second bill in the supplemental package Thursday, it is unclear whether she will sign it once it reaches her desk.

Lawmakers are not set to return to the Capitol until their two-week spring break concludes in mid-April.

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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).

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