Pork projects gain favor
The budget standoff between the Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, appears resolved with two new funding bills. But in addition to more money for the Pure Michigan campaign and higher ed, they include $37 million in grants that some feel are unnecessary.
|Water Line Replacement – Clare||$2,500,000|
|Great Lakes Nature Center at Detroit Zoo||$2,000,000|
|Kalamazoo County Road Project||$1,800,000|
|Old Mission Road Repaving and Rehabilitation||$1,500,000|
|Houghton County State Infrastructure Bank Loan Repayment||$1,400,000|
|North American Auto Show||$1,000,000|
|Chaldean Community Foundation||$1,000,000|
|Holy Cross Services||$1,000,000|
|Van Andel Institute||$1,000,000|
|United Methodist Community House||$1,000,000|
|Western Upper Peninsula Workforce Development Retirement Shortfall||$971,000|
|Langley Covered Bridge||$750,000|
|Lansing Fire Department Ladder Truck||$750,000|
|North Flint Food Market||$700,000|
|Madison Heights Electroplating Services Building Demolition||$600,000|
|City of Lansing – Capitol Security Cameras||$500,000|
|City of Lansing – Enhanced Security at Capitol for Large Events||$500,000|
|Detroit Symphony Orchestra Elevator Replacement||$500,000|
|Detroit Public Television Early Childhood Programming||$500,000|
|Delta Township Fire Engine||$500,000|
|Southgate Sound Wall Project||$500,000|
|Six Points Park Development||$500,000|
|Special Operations and Response Vehicle – Bloomfield Township||$500,000|
|Garden City Fire Station||$500,000|
|Huron Valley Schools Infrastructure Project||$500,000|
|Oakland County is Better With Breakfast||$500,000|
|Rouge Park Picnic Shelters||$500,000|
|Parchment Water Treatment Plant||$450,000|
|Highscope Research Foundation||$300,000|
|Flint Development Center||$300,000|
|Riverside Arts Center||$300,000|
|Pershing High School Military Training||$270,000|
|Commerce Charter Township Roundabout Study||$250,000|
|Great Lakes Center for the Arts||$250,000|
|Plymouth Cultural Center||$250,000|
|Sterling Heights Greenspace Initiative||$250,000|
|Children's Center – Detroit||$250,000|
|Union Steel Building Demolition||$250,000|
|Council on State Governments Conference – Detroit||$250,000|
|Helmets to Hardhats||$250,000|
|Air Filters for Detroit Public Schools||$250,000|
|Michigan Center for Civic Education||$225,000|
|Henrietta Township Fire Truck||$200,000|
|Talen Development Coalition||$200,000|
|Naval Museum Infrastructure Grant||$200,000|
|Corridor Infrastructure Project||$200,000|
|Mount Clemens School Roof Repair||$200,000|
|Water Line Replacement – Burton||$200,000|
|Chest Compression Devices – Sterling Heights Fire Dept||$200,000|
|Castor Road Project||$200,000|
|Linden Creek Pathways||$200,000|
|Neighborhood Greenspace Initiative – Detroit||$175,000|
|Ingham County Sheriff's Department Body Scanners||$175,000|
|Road Lane Upgrade – St. Johns Dairy Processing Plant||$150,000|
|Broadband Cooperative Infrastructure Grant||$150,000|
|Child and Family Charities||$125,000|
|Bailey Park Upgrades||$120,000|
|Hope-not-Handcuffs -- Families Against Narcotics||$100,000|
|Beat the Streets||$100,000|
|Kent County Youth Sex Offender Diversion Program||$100,000|
|City of Clawson Downtown Development Authority||$100,000|
|Lathrup Village Bike Path||$100,000|
|Center for Transformation||$100,000|
|Washtenaw Youth Development Pilot||$100,000|
|Eden Park Infrastructure Projects||$100,000|
|Governor Warner Historic Mansion Renovation||$85,000|
|St. Louis Center||$50,000|
|Michilimackinac Historical Museum||$50,000|
|Washtenaw County Pest Control||$50,000|
|Living and Enrichment Center||$50,000|
|Depot Town Parking Ramp Study||$30,000|
|Binder Street Block Club||$25,000|
|Walled Lake Schools STEM Grants||$7,500|
One year after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer derided millions in “pork” spending, she appears set to approve $37 million on similar projects for parks, arts centers and special infrastructure plans.
On the same day as Tuesday’s presidential primary, the state House approved $320 million in spending bills that include $35 million for a program Whitmer supports to help adults seeking higher education.
The bills, which are before the state Senate, also include $37 million in “enhancement grants” for a host of small projects in lawmakers’ districts.
Among them: $1.5 million to fix Old Mission Road in Traverse City; $1 million for a bridge in Ferrysburg, just off Lake Michigan, $2 millon for the Detroit Zoo, $1 million for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and money for 81 other projects including $700,000 for the North Flint Food Market and $500,000 for a Detroit Symphony Orchestra elevator.
Whitmer intends to sign the bills if the Senate passes them, said Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the state budget office.
The Democratic governor and leaders of the Legislature controlled by Republicans have worked for months to iron out leftover disputes caused by last year’s budget, Weiss said.
This week’s bills restore some funding from the impasse that included accusations from Whitmer that she was shut out of negotiations and vetoes from the governor totaling nearly $1 billion.
“This was a budget negotiation,” Weiss said, “a real negotiation, not like what happened last year.”
Six lawmakers voted against the spending plan, including state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, who called it a “garbage spending bill.”
“No transparency, and lots of pork spending,” he wrote in a text message to Bridge. “Sad day for the taxpayers.”
The spending bills also restore $16 million in funding for the Pure Michigan ad campaign that Whitmer had vetoed; $35 million for the Michigan Reconnect program for grants to adults over 25 who are seeing a certificate, like welding, or an associate’s degree; $25 million to handle the coronavirus threat and $31 million to settle lawsuits with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Corrections.
But the deal also includes a fair amount of supplemental grants that Whitmer last year criticized.
In her first month in office, in January 2019, Whitmer said she was frustrated by the $100 million in grants, including money to develop land tied to a former Michigan state Republican Party chairman.
At the time, Whitmer said the money would have been better spent on roads and improving water quality.
This week’s spending bills include a litany of small projects including:
- $25,000 for Mercure Park in southern Wayne County
- $7,500 grant for the Walled Lake schools’ STEM program
- $100,000 for Goudy Park in western Wayne County
- $100,000 for a bike path in Lathrup Village
There are other bigger items, including $2.5 million for a water line in Clare, $1.8 million for a Kalamazoo County road project and $1 million apiece for the Chaldean Community Foundation in Sterling Heights, Holy Cross Services substance abuse treatment nonprofit with mid-Michigan locations, Sloan Museum in Burton, Van Andel Institute biomedical research group in Grand Rapids, Educare preschools and United Methodist Community House in Grand Rapids.
House GOP spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said the timing had nothing to do with the presidential primary election.
“This is the date when the House, Senate and the governor were able to agree on a plan,” he said.
Enhancement grants are “projects that members feel are doing a good job serving their local communities and could use state support in a unique situation,” he said.
Several of the enhancement grants restore items vetoed by Whitmer, he said.
The spending plan also includes $250,000 in public funding to reimburse private schools for government mandates, like fire drills.
Previous appropriations of that kind have been suspended while the Michigan Supreme Court considers their constitutionality.
Whitmer has argued the Michigan Constitution strictly prohibits public funding for private schools, except to help cover transportation costs.
“I understand the courts are involved, but at the same time, it’s a good policy that the members in the chamber support and want to continue,” D’Assandro said.
Sarah Hubbard, a Lansing lobbyist, said the Capitol had been rife for days with rumors a deal was imminent. She said the timing on Election Day is likely coincidental but “there may be things far more nefarious at play.”
“I’m sure there’s going to be a couple things that seem out of left field,” Hubbard said, but added that all appropriations are listed online so “there’s no hiding this.”
Editor's note: This story was updated March 11 to reflect that six lawmakers voted against the spending plan.