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Budget process enters next phase in the Legislature

view from below of Michigan State Capitol dome
Bimatshu Pyakuryal
Thursday’s report was the first in a four-part series from the Auditor General on the UIA’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Michigan lawmakers come back to the Capitol this week, they’ll start looking at budget proposals from the opposite sides of the Legislature.

That’s after the House and Senate both sent their own spending plans to one another last week.

Senator Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) chairs the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee, which helped write the Senate’s proposed budget for schools.

He said one highlight is how his chamber suggested combining school safety and mental health funding.

“We were able to also allow for mental health grants and school safety grants, including school resource officers, to go out in the same pot of money. It’s $343 million of available dollars for all of our schools,” Camilleri told reporters after voting ended.

Throughout last week’s votes, Republicans in the minority introduced several dozen amendments to the bills outlining each proposed department budget.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp) argued Democrats hadn’t been fully inclusive in the process, leaving few other options for Republicans who are at a two-seat disadvantage in the chamber.

“When you’re at a 20-18 Senate, and they go ahead and stack committees where they can lose 2, 3 or 4 members in some of these committees. You’ve got to do some of these on the floor that way,” Nesbitt said Thursday.

Democrats argue they have been inclusive with Republicans.

Camilleri chalked his colleagues’ concerns up to growing pains.

“I think that they’re learning how to be in the minority, and they’re really struggling with it. When we were in this position, we did not offer 200 amendments on budgets,” Camilleri said.

Republicans and Democrats will need to eventually find common ground during this process, however, for the budget proposal to gain immediate effect once a plan does become law. Without it, the state could face a potential government shutdown this fall.

Nesbitt said he’s not necessarily seeing many red lines in the current proposals right now that could cause his caucus to take that stand.

“But there is one where we’ve got to sit down and have those true negotiations. They put out their budget, I think we’ve shown a contrast in what we’re looking at and where our priorities are. And my hope is that we can work through that and find a landing spot,” he said.

Things should get moving after the May 19 Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. That’s when representatives from the House and Senate and executive branch confer to determine how much money the state has to work with.

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