Whitmer's budget plan includes educational, environmental improvements

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FLINT (WJRT) - State Budget Director Chris Kolb presented the executive budget to a joint session of the Senate and House Appropriations Committee Thursday in Lansing.

Flint River

The governor's executive budget recommendation is $61.9 billion for fiscal year 2021.

Some of the areas receiving major attention from Whitmer include education, environment and public health.

Whitmer is recommending $15.9 billion in total funding for K-12 schools, which is an increase of nearly 5-percent from fiscal year 2020. The state budget director outlined that the funding will increase resources between $150 and $225 per pupil, provide investments for economically disadvantaged students, special education, grants for school facility upgrades, creating programs to help create a student-to-teacher pipeline and provide reimbursements to teachers for classroom supplies.

On the environmental front, Whitmer is recommending $20 million for rapid environmental contamination response. In the budget layout it's described as one-time funding that provides additional resources for "identification, prioritization, and initial abatement of contaminated properties."

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She is also proposing $4 million for the Oil and Gas program, which would support regulatory efforts and enforcement of the state's oil and natural gas wells. The state says there are over 18,500 active oil and gas wells that the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy oversees.

Through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Whitmer wants to reimburse farmers for conservation practices that will improve stream habitats, reduce flood peaks and restore critical habitats for game and wildlife.

The budget plan also includes $5 million to continue to keep invasive species at bay. She also wants to include $8 million to prevent Asian Carp from migrating from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes.

Lastly, $40 million would be used to address the negative impacts of Michigan's climate conditions in the form of infrastructure grants for climate change and high water levels.

"Funding, like the climate grants, I'm really excited to see that. I'm really hopeful that Flint and other communities in our watershed will be able to put together some really competitive proposals for those funds cause this is an issue that's not going to go away," said Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition.

Some of the most notable investments to public health include $352.6 million to leverage special financing for hospital reimbursement rates and $86.5 million to expand the MIDocs medical residency programs. This makes it easier to retain physicians committed to serving in rural areas.

The governor is also recommending $37.5 million for Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies "to reduce infant mortality rates and racial disparities in birth outcomes through expanded maternal and reproductive health services and home visiting programs."

The legislature is now required by law to present the budget to the governor by July 1.

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