Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
With less than a week to go before the state Legislature’s July 1 budget deadline, the Michigan House passed a bipartisan budget plan Thursday night that had been negotiated with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The budget for the next fiscal year includes Whitmer’s proposal to make a record investment in K-12 public schools, and closes the gap between highly-funded and lower-funded school districts.
However, the budget plan still needs approval from the GOP-controlled Senate, which does not come back for session until Wednesday — one day before the July 1 deadline.
“The bills passed by the House today represent bipartisan progress in the budget process and are a step in the right direction as we continue Michigan’s economic jumpstart,” Whitmer said in a statement. “… However, we still have a lot of work to do to get this across the finish line, and I look forward to action from the Senate by July 1st so we can deliver for Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities.”
Overall, more than $4 billion in federal COVID relief for schools was approved by the House on Thursday, in addition to School Aid Fund money for the next Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget.
Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) said his goal had always been to complete the budget by the July 1 deadline.
“This budget plan addresses a glaring need — how to help kids catch up on lost learning and get back on track to a bright future,” Albert said. “This plan keeps state government running with clarity and without disruption. This is exactly what Michigan needs right now, and I am hopeful the Senate and governor will join us in finishing this essential task. Afterward, there will be more work to do this summer — deciding which investments to make in infrastructure and reducing debt to put Michigan in the strongest position possible as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The budget plan includes:
- $16.7 billion for for K-12 schools, which fully closes the per-student foundation funding gap and provides $8,700 per student
- Federal COVID relief funding with equalization payments so each school receives at least $1,093 in additional funding per student
- $168 million to the Great Start Readiness Program to increase funding per child while also adding 22,000 new spots for early childhood education programs statewide
- More resources for special education, career and tech equipment and other initiatives for students
- One-time $560 million investment into the school retirement system
- A 2% increase in statutory revenue sharing for local government parks, road repairs, police and fire services and more
- Clean Slate initiative funding to expand the state’s expungement system
- A wage increase for direct care workers caring for vulnerable Michiganders
- Full funding for the Michigan Reconnect job-training program
- Increased funding for public safety
- Increased funding for dam safety and necessary repairs
In his statement, Albert noted that the budget for community colleges and universities will be addressed in a “future measure.”
“The people of Michigan have been through a lot this past year, and now they need a state government that can provide the services they need to get back to normal as soon as possible,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) said in a statement. “This plan gives the people we serve the best schools we can provide, the best public safety we’ve ever had, and access to the state services they’ve been looking for. This is the plan Michigan families deserve.”
Before passing the budget plan, House Republicans also passed a bill to strip the $300 weekly federal aid for unemployed workers. The legislation drew criticism from the Michigan AFL-CIO, who called it “yet another political stunt” by Republicans.
“It’s going to take our entire country some time to recover from the wreckage caused by the former president’s refusal to take the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seriously, so in the meantime, Republicans should stop trying to take money out of the pockets of folks who are unemployed through no fault of their own,” said AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber.
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