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Opinion | Michigan’s bipartisan budget is a big deal for everyone

As Michigan’s state budget director, I am proud to see that the 2022-23 fiscal year state budget, passed by the Legislature and recently signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, benefits all Michiganders. Working together, across the aisle, we delivered a budget on time that makes historic investments without raising taxes.

Chris Harkins
Chris Harkins is Michigan’s state budget director. (Courtesy photo)

This budget prioritizes funding for our students, schools, public health, natural resources and the communities we know and love, while also paying down debt, shoring up pensions and setting money aside for a rainy day.

I am excited that the record investments in our students, recommended by the governor in February, were the foundation for the highest ever state per-pupil funding of $9,150. Additionally, the budget includes supports for those students who may need additional resources to achieve their fullest potential, including: $223 million to fully fund supports for economically disadvantaged students, and $246 million to increase supports for special education students. The budget also invests $250 million for student mental health and $210 million for school safety.

As a child, I was fortunate to have public school teachers who impacted my life; they were supportive, challenged me, and provided tools I use to this day. I am similarly proud to now be the parent of a child in public school, and I am particularly pleased with the investment to support Michigan’s teacher talent pipeline. Our teachers and education staff are the backbone of our children’s future. Investing in teachers is paramount to the success of our kids and to the future of our state. The $10,000 teacher scholarships funded in the upcoming budget will help ensure that we help attract our best and brightest to this important profession.

The budget includes purposeful one-time payments using our one-time resources to ensure long-term benefits to the state including: $800 million of state resources to provide local governments with grants to reduce their pension obligations and improve their overall financial standing; over $1.4 billion to pay down teacher retirement debt; $100 million to support state police pensions; and a deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund — bringing that account to its largest balance ever.

Ongoing investments in education and one-time investments to reduce our state debt are tremendous highlights, other significant investments in the budget include:

  • $97.6 million to build a new veterans home in Marquette to better serve those who served our nation.
  • $110 million for workforce development programs Michigan Reconnect and Going PRO to help Michiganders gain the right skills for the right job.
  • $100 million for modernization of Michigan’s armories to reflect our modern National Guard.
  • $325 million for a new state psychiatric facility complex and $250 million to construct a new state public health and environmental laboratory to ensure that Michigan has state-of-the-art capabilities to protect our residents and communities and can serve the mental health needs of our state.
  • 5 percent ongoing and 1 percent one-time increase to our local governments to ensure they can continue to provide support to our first responders and deliver important services.

While we accomplished many great things with passage of the budget, there is still work ahead of us. Tax credits for our working families were slashed in 2011 as Michigan was recovering from the Great Recession. The governor is committed to restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit and putting money back in the pockets of 730,000 low-income working families. Gov. Whitmer has also proposed rolling back the tax on retirement income to save half a million households an average of $1,000 a year. Michigan’s retirees deserve this form of tax relief to put food on the table and fill up their gas tanks. These tax relief measures can be absorbed into the state’s budget without creating shortfalls or future budget constraints.

Budgets are a reflection of priorities. In Michigan, it is clear our priorities are to support our kids, support our workforce, and use our resources to address current needs with an eye toward the future. I am proud of the work that has been done to deliver a budget, ahead of time and without raising taxes, and I look forward to collaborating with the governor and our legislative partners to continue delivering bipartisan results that invest in Michigan.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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