by Bruce Walker
Michigan’s budget clock is ticking toward its Oct. 1 deadline and an impending government shutdown.
The Republican-led legislature voted Tuesday to send its proposed budget to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who subsequently declared the document “a mess.”
According to Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, in an email to The Center Square: “This budget does too little, too late. It continues the Republican tradition of underfunding our roads, schools, and communities, and neglecting our responsibilities to Michigan residents.”
Ananich added: “We know and generally agree on the size of our roads problem, but the Republican leaders lack the will to do anything about it. The best – and only – way to solve this problem is to do it together.”
Whitmer’s willingness to separate budget negotiations from her proposal to fund state road repairs with a $0.45 per gallon gas tax increase indicates her intent to avoid a shutdown. In other words, many political observers state it’s unlikely the governor will veto outright the entire proposed budget. Instead, she’s more likely to veto specific line-items given the limited time available to avert a shutdown, observers say.
Among those budget provisions possibly subject to the governor’s veto is a one-time $400 million appropriation for road repair rather than a portion of the $2.5 billion Whitmer anticipated raising from her proposed gasoline tax.
The budget submitted includes a landmark $15.2 billion education spending appropriation, representing a $300 million increase over the previous year that translates into a $240 increase per Michigan student. These budget increases don’t include additional boosts for spending on special education, early literacy and school safety.
“I’m proud of the education budget we passed last week, and I’m pleased to support the rest of our responsible and balanced budget, too,” Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, said in a statement. Miller authored House Bill 4242, which increased state school funding and passed the legislature last week.
“What I’m most proud of is that we are investing in our state’s roads and bridges without increasing taxes for Michigan drivers,” Miller added.
“Based on what we heard from residents regarding the governor’s gas tax plan, we had to pass a budget that respected taxpayer money instead of telling them we needed more because what they were giving us wasn’t enough,” Rep. James Lower, R-Greenville, said in a statement.
“These budget plans make record investments into roads and schools, adequately fund other departments for the upcoming fiscal year and fulfill our constitutional duty to take action on a new budget before Oct. 1,” Lower added.
Other items in the budget include $120 million to protect Michigan waters from such contaminants as PFAS and lead; $30 million for substance abuse prevention and treatment; and $2 million for a mental health hotline.
Rep. Matt Hall, R-Kalamazoo, also defended the legislature’s budget in a statement: “People said ‘no’ to the governor’s massive tax increase, and she walked away from budget negotiations.”
Hall continued: “We had to finish the budget without her, so I worked with everyone – Republicans and Democrats – to put together a good and responsible plan. This budget invests in our kids and our roads – and it respects hardworking taxpayers who are paying the bills because we’re not asking them for more money. It’s a great example of how to make our state a better place without raising taxes.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Gretchen Whitmer.