Seventy billion dollars.
The state budget has cleared the legislature and is heading to the governor’s office.
After the state budget for K-12 education was passed in June on Wednesday, the legislature passed, by a large margin, the higher education budget and the general budget of the State, with a price tag reaching nearly $ 70 billion.
Not only was this budget deal reached a week and a half before the Oct. 1 deadline for shutting down the state, it was actually done before noon on Wednesday. In a process usually brewing against the deadline, both sides of the aisle are applauding this massive deal.
“I’ve heard time and time again, from many people, that having too much money is sometimes worse than not having enough,” said Wolverine Rep. Sue Allor.
Each budget negotiation is unique, but this year’s version is unlike any other. First, a large surplus, due to unexpected income from the pandemic.
“It was certainly interesting but I think more difficult,” said Senator Jim Stamas of Midland, “There are a lot of big programs that we really want to continue to focus on, but we also want to continue to focus on those which can be maintained with continuous dollars, versus one-time dollars.
Second, over $ 6 billion in federal COVID relief to spend after this deal. This has led to record spending but also unprecedented savings.
“There is another billion dollars in general funds that have not been spent, so we are going to attend the January Revenue Estimates conference and see where we are at,” said Senator Curtis Hertel of East Lansing, “Then discuss supplementary budgets to spend some of those dollars.
The only thing left is Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature. Since his office had an expanded role this session, little veto is expected, but the plan contains boilerplate language that limits state power over vaccines and masks. Whitmer said these might not be binding or even constitutional.
“It’s their choice and we wanted to make sure they also had a voice within the budget,” said Stamas of Michiganders having control over the use of the masks, “We’ll let someone else figure that out, but it ensured that all Michiganders had the opportunity to express their voice and protect their health.
According to a statement from the governor’s office, here are some of the key elements of the budget plan. The budget includes a series of investments to help Michigan’s economy, including reducing costs and expanding access to child care for working families. The financing plan includes:
- $ 108.1 million, making 105,000 more children eligible for child care by increasing income eligibility to 185% of the federal poverty line through fiscal 2023, then to 160% in during the following exercises.
- $ 13 million to forgo parents’ co-payment for child care until fiscal 2022.
- $ 158 million for a continuing 30 percent rate increase for child care providers, with an additional $ 222 million for a temporary rate increase.
- $ 117.4 million to pay for child care registrations through fiscal 2023.
- $ 36.5 million over 3 years to increase the number of child care spaces for infants and toddlers.
- $ 700.7 million for stabilization grants and an additional $ 100 million for seed grants for child care providers, including technical assistance and facility upgrades.
- $ 30 million for a one-time premium of $ 1,000 for on-call staff.
- $ 100 million for community revitalization and place creation grants to support the economic development of local communities.
The budget will also provide direct support for education and skills training to help close the skills gap and provide Michigan employers with the talent needed to move the economy forward. Investments will include:
- $ 55 million for the Reconnect program to provide a tuition-free path to an in-demand associate’s certificate or diploma for Michigan adults aged 25 and older to help Michiganders develop the skills they they need to compete for a well-paying and in-demand job.
- $ 25 million for the Futures for Frontliners scholarship program which pays frontline workers to attend local community college tuition-free.
- $ 40 million for the Going Pro program to expand training grants offered by employers that translate into industry-recognized credentials and certificates to help raise workers’ wages and help employers to fill vacant positions.
- $ 6 million for enveloping supports for Reconnect or Futures for Frontliners to remove barriers to graduation.
- $ 8 million for pre-apprenticeship / apprenticeship training programs that will expand Michigan’s talent pool in the construction and building trades.
- $ 1 million for Focus: HOPE to support workforce development, youth development, and community empowerment and advocacy programs.
- 1% base funding increase for operations at universities and community colleges, with a one-time 4% increase in funds to help reduce tuition fees.
The budget will also invest heavily in state infrastructure to provide the additional resources needed to make necessary repairs and replacements, including:
- $ 196 million for the local bridge consolidation to repair or replace nearly 100 crumbling bridges in serious and critical condition.
- $ 14.3 million to help local governments prepare for climate change and extreme weather events, including flooding and coastal erosion.
- $ 19 million for dam repair and replacement to mitigate flooding and risks caused by dam failure.
- $ 3 million for the Michigan Infrastructure Council.
The budget will also fund key initiatives focused on the health of Michigan families, including:
- $ 460 million to give a permanent increase of $ 2.35 / hour to direct care workers caring for our most vulnerable in nursing homes and beyond.
- $ 7.4 million to expand the Infant Home Visiting Program for evidence-based home visiting services to families at risk with infants born with substance exposure.
- $ 19.1 million for the expansion of the MIChoice program to provide alternatives to nursing home care and allow the elderly to stay in their homes (increase of 1,000 sites).
- $ 6.7 million for the Sickle Cell Disease Initiative to cover the cost of treating approximately 400 adults and increase awareness and clinical capacity by supporting the approximately 4,000 Michigan residents living with sickle cell disease, who disproportionately affects black people.
- $ 8.4 million to reduce health disparities and expand the use of community browsers to improve access to health coverage and improve screening, data sharing and interoperability of existing data systems through the Michigan Health Information Network.
- $ 5 million for a pilot program to reduce family utility bills by improving weather protection and energy efficiency in homes.
The budget also emphasizes the need to invest in our water and environment, including:
- $ 10 million to continue replacing lead service lines at Benton Harbor to provide access to potable water.
- $ 15 million for the Emergency Drinking Water Fund to help the state deal with drinking water emergencies.
- $ 14 million to combat PFAS and an additional $ 22 million to clean up contaminated sites across the state.
- $ 25 million to clean up the western basin of Lake Erie by reducing phosphorus levels.
- $ 10 million for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund to help eliminate lead poisoning from homes by injecting private capital into lead remediation efforts.
- $ 5 million for the State Facility Green Revolving Fund, which is a catalyst for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at state facilities, helping to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and save money taxpayer money.