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House Dems Call For “Up-Or-Down Vote” On Whitmer COVID Plans

Maxim Jenkins

Democrats are pressing the Legislature’s GOP leaders to call a vote on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plans to spend federal COVID-19 assistance. The Legislature returns to Lansing Tuesday with an otherwise thin to-do list.

State House Democrats in a Monday news conference called for an up-or-down vote on a nearly $5.7 billion package that’s almost identical to Whitmer’s proposal.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) says this is federal money that’s only waiting on approval by the Legislature.

“And so our hardworking Michigan taxpayer dollars have taken up residence in Washington DC instead of doing the work we need done here in the state of Michigan,” she said. ”Michiganders across this state need those dollars here now.”

The Democratic plan would earmark $2 billion for schools and roughly the same amount for food assistance. Funds would also be used to assist small businesses, renters, people behind on utility payments, and extending unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Also, there’s money for COVID testing and contact tracing, and $90 million for vaccine distribution.

State House Republicans introduced their plan last week. It includes shifting decisions on school closures and student sports to local health departments instead of the state.

Republicans have been frustrated by the Whitmer administrations use of orders to enact COVID restrictions and complained the governor’s been reticent to bargain.

House Appropiations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) released this statement:

“The House Democrats’ plan has some of the same elements in the House Republican plan introduced last week – without demanding real action to get kids back in the classroom and extracurricular activities, without proper oversight of how the money is spent, and with relatively no support for small businesses. It’s mostly carrying water for the governor and getting her plan introduced in the Legislature – and that plan is simply not good enough for our kids, families, or job providers.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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