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Legislature passes budget in overnight session

Lester Graham
/
Michigan Public

The Michigan Legislature pulled an all-nighter Wednesday through early Thursday to finalize the new state budget.

The sun was rising as the final votes went up on the board before lawmakers packed their things, cleared their desks and headed home to begin the summer recess that will likely keep them from the Capitol until after the November elections.

Many hours were spent waiting and debating in an effort to strike deals. But in the end, Democrats did it on their own with almost no Republican votes on the two main budget bills.

After the final gavel, a weary House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said he wished the budgets had gotten more bipartisan support.

“But we’re excited about the budget that we have passed and that we are going to send over to the governor,” he said.

Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said GOP lawmakers felt shut out. Lightner said she was a “yes” vote last year.

“This year, we got no amendments, we put up over 200 amendments on different budget bills. No - nothing was given to us,” she said. “And that’s not how negotiations work.”

Republicans complained the $82.5 billion budget is too big, unfair to schools and generally irresponsible.

The marquee battle was over the education budget that set spending for public universities, community colleges and K-through-12 schools. That is because there was no increase this year to the state’s per-pupil allowance. The tradeoff was districts will be allowed to keep the savings from reduced payments to the school employee retirement system.

But that was not a fair trade, said Rep. Nancy DeBoer (D-Holland).

“That critical funding gives our children updated textbooks, quality teachers and desks that work,” she said. “But this year, for the first time in a long time, there is no increase in the foundation allowance.”

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spending would grow by about 5% over the current budget. Some new spending areas include $10.4 million to help implement juvenile justice reforms, $6.8 million to increase Medicaid reimbursements for doula care, and $10 million for water affordability.

Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) called it a “people centered budget.”

“Things like water affordability, things like making sure we have an increase for direct care workers, and obviously, the school budget, making sure that we’re putting more money into classrooms. These are things that we want to continue to do,” Anthony told reporters.

Anthony said she’s also excited about investments into housing and money to help pay for community college education. Democrats also cheered an increase for the Great Start Readiness Program, although it’s still less than Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of statewide universal preschool.

The Democratic governor issued a statement that she is pleased with the budget.

“We are once again setting Michigan up for success by making record investments that will benefit everyone across the state without raising taxes by a penny,” she said. “This budget will grow our economy, fix the damn roads, ensure first responders have the funding to keep our neighborhoods safe, and build a heck of a lot more affordable housing, while also bringing down costs and putting more money back in people’s pockets.”

Once the final budget bills are formally presented to Whitmer, they will be reviewed nd she can exercise her line-item veto power before signing them. The state’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, but the budget years for schools, local governments and colleges and universities start next week.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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