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Done deal: Michigan lawmakers, Whitmer agree on $62 billion budget

(WILX)
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Legislature has passed a budget for the next fiscal year, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she will sign before the Oct. 1 deadline.

Lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement on a $62 billion spending plan with some cuts because of the pandemic. The budget is offset by federal CARES Act dollars, which will keep spending flat and allow the state to dodge otherwise major cuts because of the pandemic.

Rewind to a year ago, the 2020 state budget was $60 billion before CARES act funding kicked in. That leaves roughly a $2.5 billion budget deficit hole.

About $17.65 billion has been allotted for the School Aid Fund, allowing for a 1.4% boost in K-12 education spending and a one-time allocation of $65 per pupil. This was a big sticking point between the governor and lawmakers – to have no cuts in education funding.

“It’s an attitude of gratitude, because obviously we know that people and families are hurting for a variety of reasons, especially since kids have to stay home,” said Owosso Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Julie Omer.

The budget also includes funding to improve virtual learning, school mental health grants and teacher retention stipends for educators first year of work. About $66 million in funding is earmarked for school districts with increasing enrollment out of the School Aid Fund.

“I think in this environment, everyone has to be grateful for what they have, and not what you didn’t get,” Omer said.

Whitmer said the budget development process has been very challenging. She first proposed a spending plan in February before Michigan reported a single confirmed case of coronavirus, which eventually led to a severe economic recession and steep declines in state revenue.

“Saying that the development of the 2021 budget has been difficult would be an understatement, but I am very proud that we’ve been able to work together with the Legislature to put together a budget that moves Michigan forward,” Whitmer said.

Aside from schools, the budget also provides funding for general state government operations for all departments. Some highlights include:

  • $161 million to defray additional costs for schools to provide education during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • $135 million to continue a $2 per hour hazard pay wage increase for direct care workers treated Medicare and Medicaid patients.
  • $100 million for business attraction efforts.
  • $37 million for student mental health support.
  • $35 million to deposit in the state’s funding reserves.
  • $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program, which provides a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree.
  • $26 million to expand access to childcare by increasing the income limit from 130% to 150% of the federal poverty level.
  • $26 million for the Going Pro program to help train employees.
  • $20 million to provide personal protective equipment for nursing home staff and residents.
  • $15 million to restore the popular Pure Michigan advertising campaign.
  • $14.3 million in broadband funding to help expand internet access.
  • $12.6 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to promote healthy pregnancies.
  • $7 million to graduate at least 50 new Michigan State Police troopers.
  • $5 million in incentives to attract and retain first-year teachers.
  • $3 million more for early childhood literacy programs.

“We are protecting our seniors in nursing homes from COVID-19 and protecting those who protect us — our local police, firefighters and other first responders,” said Republican State Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland. “Due to the governor’s extended shutdown of our economy, thousands of Michigan residents remain out of work. This budget also makes significant investments to help them get back on their feet.”

The state also is spending an additional $15 million to help clean up flood damage from the failed Edenville Dam.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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