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Democrats ditching Whitmer plans for Michigan trash fee hike, EV rebates

Chevy bolt being charged
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has repeatedly proposed rebate programs to incentivize electric vehicle purchases. The Legislature has repeatedly rejected those plans. (iStock photo by hapabapa)
  • The Democratic-led Legislature is beginning to advance budget bills that leave out some of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s top priorities
  • Lawmakers have so far skipped Whitmer’s proposed landfill fee hike, EV rebates and a tuition-free community college guarantee 
  • Budget negotiations are in the early stages, and final deal must be signed into law by Oct. 1

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pitched several big-ticket items in her $80.7 billion budget proposal for next year: Free preschool and community college, rebates to incentivize electric vehicle purchases, a landfill tax hike to fund environmental cleanups and more. 

But some of those plans are on the chopping block in the Legislature, where fellow Democrats have already removed a few of the governor’s marquee recommendations.


House budget subcommittees on Tuesday ditched Whitmer's landfill fee and vehicle rebate proposals. A separate panel last week blocked her proposed community college guarantee. 


“We don't have as much (money) at our disposal as we did during our last budget cycle, and so there's decisions that have to be made,” Rep. Felicia Brabec, an Ann Arbor Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations general government subcommittee, told Bridge Michigan Tuesday. 

Lawmakers last year approved a record $82 billion spending plan that used up most of a state budget surplus, along with most remaining federal stimulus and COVID-19 relief funding. 

The governor’s office did not immediately provide comment on Tuesday. But budget negotiations are still in the early stages, meaning Whitmer could still convince lawmakers to restore some of her proposals before the spending bills reach her desk. 

Democrats have already incorporated some of Whitmer’s other big ideas into their budgets — a Senate subcommittee last week advanced the administration’s proposal to reduce the state’s contribution to retiree healthcare to free up funds for other education initiatives.

Whitmer has called for a “Michigan guarantee” of educational access and economic opportunities, telling lawmakers in February that her plan would “make people's lives more manageable and ensure every person has a path to prosperity in the state of Michigan.” 

Here’s where some of her biggest priorities stand. 

Landfill cleanup

The governor’s budget seeks to raise $80 million in new revenue by increasing the tipping fee, a tax paid by landfill owners, to bring Michigan into “competitive parity with neighboring states.” 

Michigan is home to more landfill garbage per resident than anywhere else in the country, and the Whitmer administration contends low fees have made the state a convenient dumping ground for other states and Canada.

Whitmer wants to use revenue generated by the proposed fee hike to pay for contaminated site cleanup, landfill mediation, and preparing sites for future economic development with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the lifespan of Michigan landfills.

A House budget plan forwarded to the appropriations committee Tuesday did not include the governor’s fee hike but would put additional money into water infrastructure and wetland restoration efforts. 

Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, told Bridge Michigan she’s open to discussing a gradual landfill tipping fee increase over time if local governments also got a share of the resulting revenue. 

“I do think that there is agreement that 36 cents in comparison to an average of $4 roughly in other states is a little bit embarrassing,” Hood said. “I think we're going to have to pull the conversation out of the budget cycle … so that we can come to agreements that work for all of us.”

Rep. Bill Schuette, R-Midland, applauded the decision to leave tipping fees out of the proposed House budget, arguing the plan would be “an unnecessary tax and expense.” 

Opponents of the governor’s plan say the higher fees would lead to higher trash costs for Michigan residents and businesses. 

Vehicle rebates

Several initiatives outlined in the governor’s budget plan would increase the state’s investment in electric vehicles, including $25 million for installing new electric vehicle charging stations and $20 million for transitioning state and local heavy-duty vehicles to greener alternatives. 

Some of those recommendations have been folded into early legislative budget plans, albeit with smaller funding allocations.  

But a House subcommittee skipped over Whitmer’s recommendation to put $25 million toward incentives for consumers buying new vehicles, which included additional incentives for buying hybrid cars or electric vehicles. 

This is the third year in a row the governor has proposed a rebate or tax break to encourage electric vehicle sales, but past efforts did not gain traction and never received needed funding.

Economic development

Whitmer’s budget plan includes $60 million for the Michigan Innovation Fund she first proposed in her State of the State speech, as well as $25 million to prepare various sites for potential development.

Other proposed spending in Whitmer’s budget includes $20 million to attract business and $10 million for an “economic transition fund” to be used for the move to green energy and to cover any job losses.

A House subcommittee on Tuesday declined to include the $25 million site readiness investment funding in a budget plan forwarded to the appropriations committee. 

Civil rights fixes

In the wake of a reported case backlog at the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the governor proposed an additional $5 million to fund 29 additional employees to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints. 

A state audit released last year concluded the department took an average of 19 months to resolve complaints of alleged discrimination, far exceeding its half-year turnaround goal and leading to delays in 62% of cases.

The House plan as currently proposed would net the department an additional $2 million and add additional stipulations for the money aimed at improving the investigation process. 

Universal preschool, free community college

On the education front, Whitmer is proposing a tuition-free guarantee for students who attend community college and wants free preschool for all four-year-olds included in the next budget. 

Whitmer’s plan would amend the state’s Michigan Achievement Scholarship to cover tuition costs for all community college students, regardless of family income. It would have also provided a $1,000 stipend for some students to be used toward housing and other non-tuition college costs.


A House subcommittee did not include the community college tuition-free guarantee but did make other changes to enhance the scholarship. 

A Senate appropriations subcommittee set aside the idea of covering preschool costs for all four-year-olds for now, instead proposing free pre-k for students who come from families who earn 400% or less of the federal poverty line. 

Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, said in a subcommittee meeting last week that the Senate’s proposal would allow a family of four with an annual income of $120,000 to receive no-cost preschool.

“That is huge … a massive step forward,” he said. “We believe that this is a sensible step forward to allow school districts to prepare more effectively for the transition to universal pre-K over the next several years.”

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