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Opinion | Michigan’s bipartisan budget offers better opportunities for all

Garlin Gilchrist
Garlin Gilchrist II is lieutenant governor of Michigan. (Courtesy photo)

Throughout my career, I have fought to close equity gaps, bring diverse voices to the table, and create economic opportunity for Michiganders in every community. As lieutenant governor, I have seen the progress we can make when we come together and center equity and fairness in our policy-making decisions. We are strongest when we look out for each other and make sure that no matter who you are or where you come from, you have the resources and support you need to reach your fullest potential.

That is why I am excited about the budget Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed into law. Our budget makes transformational investments to make Michigan a more equitable, just state. It expands access to healthcare, economic opportunity, and education to marginalized and underrepresented communities. It helps low-income Michiganders get jobs, transportation, healthcare, and education. I want to highlight just a few of the ways our budget helps Michigan achieve its potential.

Our kids are our future. We can all agree that every child in Michigan, no matter where they live, should have a high-quality education that sets them up for success down the road. That is why our education budget funds the highest state per-pupil funding in Michigan history — $9,150 for every student in every district. It includes additional resources for special education and at-risk students, bolsters on-campus mental health supports, and funds $250 million worth of school infrastructure projects. To attract and retain great educators for every classroom, it backs $10,000 scholarships for 2,500 future educators a year, stipends for student teachers, and “Grow Your Own” programs to help districts put staff on tuition-free paths to becoming educators. For districts like Detroit Public Schools Community District, where I send my own kids, our education budget will mean $52 million to support academics, safety, and mental health.

Our budget expands access to healthcare, closing critical gaps in our healthcare system. It improves dental care access for the more than 1 million Michiganders enrolled in Medicaid, an essential but often under-covered care area. It reimburses community health workers to boost health and social services for those in low-income or underrepresented communities, funds repayment of loans to expand Michigan’s mental health workforce, and deposits $10 million into a jail diversion fund to ensure those facing mental health crises get the proper help they need.

The budget also invests in Michigan’s Food Security Council and increases the purchasing power of Michiganders with supplemental nutrition assistance. It continues funding our successful Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program, as well as a new maternal, infant, and early childhood home visitation program to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in communities across Michigan.

Finally, our budget invests in economic opportunity. It funds Jobs Court, a program to match people who have committed certain nonviolent crimes with participating employers, filling job openings and helping participants and small businesses get back on track. To further create jobs and help low-income Michiganders find employment, the budget funds wraparound supports for job seekers, reducing barriers to employment like lack of transportation or childcare.

With these equity investments, we are positioning Michigan for success in the years and decades to come. We are improving health outcomes, leveling the educational playing field, and helping Michiganders get good-paying, high-skilled jobs. We are closing equity gaps and building a state where no matter who you are, you have what you need to succeed.

While Gov. Whitmer and I know there is more work to do, we are proud of the steps we are taking in this budget. We are committed to working with anyone to put Michiganders first and build a state with equity and prosperity for everyone.

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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