Whitmer’s budget: more help for Michigan moms, not so much for local roads

mother

Mothers are some of the winners in the governor's budget. Whitmer wants to spend $10 million to expand paid parental leave to the state’s 48,000 to up to 12 weeks. The leave is now unpaid. (Shutterstock)

LANSING – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a $61.9 billion budget proposal Thursday that would provide more help to vulnerable mothers, childcare, contamination cleanup, special education and low-income students.

Local roads, though, wouldn’t receive a big boost, a notable gap after Whitmer launched a $3.5 billion bonding plan last month that will only pay for repairs to state highways.

School leaders are cheering the plan, but leaders of municipalities and universities say they are short-changed by the budget.

“These are the dinner table issues that I’m always going to stay focused on as governor,” Whitmer told reporters Thursday afternoon. While “this is not the end of the story... these represent major steps forward on the fundamentals that improve people’s lives in this state.”

The budget is 3.9 percent higher than last year, but state Budget Director Chris Kolb said the general fund — the $11 billion of the budget that is up to policymakers’ discretion — has been “basically flat for the last 20 years.” 

While some had hoped an influx of taxes from marijuana sales and online sales taxes would provide the state a windfall, Kolb said Medicaid caseloads and lawsuit settlements like those related to the Flint water crisis and juvenile sex abuse in the Department of Corrections mean the “budget confronts a perfect storm when looking at these cost pressures.”

Republicans said they need to review the plans in more detail.

“I didn’t hear any tax proposals in this, so we’ll take a look at all these programs on a case-by-case basis and work on it over the next few months,” said Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Under a new law passed late last year, the Legislature must send the budget to Whitmer by July 1 and she must approve it by the end of September. It may well change as it works its way through the Legislature.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers of Whitmer’s initial proposal:

Winner: Mothers

Michigan has the 13th highest rate of infant mortality in the nation, Kolb said, and black women are three times more likely than the national average to die from pregnancy-related causes. Women in Detroit are twice as likely as others in the state to die due to pregnancy complications. 

Whitmer wants to spend $37.5 million to expand Medicaid family planning benefits to women who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, (for example, up to $52,400 for a family of four) and extend postpartum coverage from 60 days to a full year after birth. 

The governor also wants to spend $10 million to expand paid parental leave to the state’s 48,000 to up to 12 weeks. The leave is now unpaid.

“This mirrors what Congress and the Trump administration has done for federal employees,” Whitmer said. “It’s my hope that we can build a model that can expand to ensure new parents across the state have this kind of a benefit in the private sector as well.”

Winner: Health care

Whitmer also wants to expand programs for opiate addiction, lead remediation and rural and mental health. She seeks: 

  • $12.3 million to fund response teams, treatment programs and housing loan programs for people with opioid addiction. Drug overdose deaths in the state fell 3.8 percent to 2,599 in 2018 after years of increases, fueled primarily by opiates. 
  • $10 million to encourage private lending for lead cleanup. Some 3.6 percent of children statewide have elevated lead levels in their blood, due primarily to living in older homes, a rate that increased briefly in 2016 after decades of decline.
  • $86.5 million for residencies in rural and underserved hospitals. One in four rural hospitals are at risk of closing in Michigan, the ninth-highest rate in the nation, Bridge has reported.
  • $30 million in improvements for the state’s psychiatric hospitals. Michigan for years has had an acute shortage of state psychiatric hospital beds and a lack of overall care.
  • Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told Bridge that the budget emphasizes “prevention as a tool that will allow people to lead healthier, happier lives and also to save taxpayers money.”

Loser: Local roads

One week after Whitmer announced her plan to bond for highway improvements, her budget anticipates a modest bump in spending for roads: $205 million more, $132 million of which was already planned under a 2015 road funding law. 

The state also expects another $48.8 million in federal funding and $24.5 million from fuel taxes or auto registration fees.

That won’t go far, though, and Republicans said they fear Whitmer’s bonding program could raise the cost of local road repair projects if construction companies are spread thin on highway work and raise prices. 

“How do we help our locals?” said Hernandez, the House Appropriations Committee chairman. 

“How does this budget address those concerns of our locals that are struggling on smaller projects, on getting competitive bids and their prices inflating, and does this $3.5 billion make it that much worse?”

Road construction costs could initially rise, but should level off, said Kolb. He told lawmakers that prices did not spike when spending soared under the 2009 federal stimulus package from former President Barack Obama.

Whitmer on Thursday again challenged the Republican-led Legislature to present a long-term funding solution after taking no action on her 45-cent fuel tax increase proposal last year.

“They didn’t like mine; that’s fine,” Whitmer told reporters. “But they need to counter with something, and until they do I’ve got to do everything I can in my position with every tool at my disposal to fix the damage.”

Lawmakers will likely look at ways to provide additional funding to local road agencies, Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas, R-Midland, told reporters. 

“As we go out and talk to our residents, they've seen the orange barrels on the highway for a long time,” he said. “They're looking to see their local roads be the improvement. So I think that's where the focus has to be.”

Winner: Environmental cleanups

Whitmer said her budget “prioritizes cleaning up our drinking water and counteracting the effects of climate change so we can build a stronger, more sustainable future for our kids.”

She seeks: 

  • $40 million in grants to help communities fund infrastructure projects to prepare for climate change
  • $40 million to improve air and water quality in schools and treat lead and asbestos
  • $10.6 million to reimburse farmers for conservation practices
  • $5 million for renewable energy projects
  • $20 million for rapid environmental contamination cleanups

“We don’t have to think any further than 696 in Madison Heights and green ooze,” Kolb said, referencing the brightly-colored contamination found at the Electro-Plating Services site in Oakland County that he said may have been able to benefit from the fund. 

Loser: Local governments

Whitmer proposed a 2.5 percent increase in statutory revenue sharing for cities and counties, totaling $267.6 million and $232.2 million respectively, and a 1.9 percent increase in constitutional revenue sharing. 

While that money is “appreciated,” said Michigan Municipal League Executive Director Dan Gilmartin in a statement, “it is still about $50 million less than it was nine years ago, when Gov. Rick Snyder took office.”

It’s also $700 million less than what local governments could be getting under a revenue sharing formula passed in the late 1990s that “is repeatedly ignored,” Gilmartin said. 

“This budget and our overall state and local revenue picture continues to need work so that we can stem the population losses Michigan is experiencing when compared to other states,” Gilmartin said.

Winner: Low-income K-12 students

Whitmer’s education proposal would spend another $290 million to increase per-pupil funding to a minimum of $8,336;  provide universal preschool in high-poverty districts, and invest another $125 million programs to support special education, at-risk students and English language learning. 

The proposal earned early bipartisan support. 

“I think this is a good education budget, because we are putting the money where it counts, where we're going to see results,” said Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, chairs the appropriations subcommittees for the Department of Education and the School Aid Fund. 

Rep. Jon Hoadley, Democratic vice chair for appropriations, joked lawmakers should pass it next week: “Let’s just do it.”

Whitmer also re-upped her request for $35 million for the Michigan Reconnect program, first announced during the 2019 State of the State address, that would fund adults seeking industry certifications or credentials and proposed $27.9 million to reinstate funding for Going Pro, a skilled trades job training grant program she vetoed from last year’s budget. 

The budget doesn’t include the Michigan Opportunity Scholarship, a plan introduced alongside the Reconnect program to fund two years of college for graduating Michigan high schoolers. 

Legislation to create the program has been introduced in both chambers but has not progressed.

Loser: Higher education

Whitmer wants to spend $10 million to allow the refinancing of student loan debts at lower interest rates. 

In Michigan, though, student debt has climbed in part because colleges boosted tuition to compensate for declining state aid, as Bridge has reported. Just 10 years ago, state aid comprised one-quarter of university revenue. Now it’s one-fifth.

Whitmer is proposing a 2.5 percent budget increase for higher education. Last year, she proposed a 3 percent bump, but the Legislature approved a 0.5 percent increase.

“In Michigan and nationally, higher education is the balancing wheel for state budgets,” said Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.

“During tough economic times, higher education is the first to be cut, and in good economic times, funding increases more. But we’re in good economic times and Michigan universities are still waiting, as are families and students.”

Bridge reporters Robin Erb and Ron French contributed to this report.

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Comments

middle of the mit
Thu, 02/06/2020 - 9:34pm

Get a load of this.

Will conservatives complain about money going to mothers and children over local roads? Yes, they will. So much for helping the most at need and family values. Even though a good portion of that is coming to Northern MI.

]]]While some had hoped an influx of taxes from marijuana sales and online sales taxes would provide the state a windfall, Kolb said Medicaid caseloads and lawsuit settlements like those related to the Flint water crisis and juvenile sex abuse in the Department of Corrections mean the “budget confronts a perfect storm when looking at these cost pressures.”

Republicans said they need to review the plans in more detail.

“I didn’t hear any tax proposals in this, so we’ll take a look at all these programs on a case-by-case basis and work on it over the next few months,” said Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, chair of the House Appropriations Committee.[[[

The losers are local roads. I would say to them, why can't locals pay for their own roads? Mike Shirkey tells you the same thing and then gives you an option.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/09/23/mike-shir...

Why can't locals find more or wasted or grifted funds to fund their local roads? Don't local governments spend their money more responsibly? Then why are the State for more funding after 8 years of continual reductions in revenue sharing from the State by republicans?

And if republican areas don't need a State or Federal Government subsidizing them, why do they always look to those entities for funding?

]]]Whitmer said her budget “prioritizes cleaning up our drinking water and counteracting the effects of climate change so we can build a stronger, more sustainable future for our kids.”[[[

This could be a reason why. The State has to clean up after bankrupt businesses (PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY Duane) for their Personal or is it business polluting?

]]]Whitmer proposed a 2.5 percent increase in statutory revenue sharing for cities and counties, totaling $267.6 million and $232.2 million respectively, and a 1.9 percent increase in constitutional revenue sharing.

While that money is “appreciated,” said Michigan Municipal League Executive Director Dan Gilmartin in a statement, “it is still about $50 million less than it was nine years ago, when Gov. Rick Snyder took office.”[[[

How much did Gov Rick Snyder cut revenue sharing before Gov Whitmer was elected? That is the pertinent question. Maybe the fact checkers at Bridge could inform the rest of us, maybe not.

]]]Winner: Low-income K-12 students

Whitmer’s education proposal would spend another $290 million to increase per-pupil funding to a minimum of $8,336; provide universal preschool in high-poverty districts, and invest another $125 million programs to support special education, at-risk students and English language learning.

The proposal earned early bipartisan support. [[[

Yeah this is a horrible investment. snark tag

]]]Loser: Higher education

Whitmer wants to spend $10 million to allow the refinancing of student loan debts at lower interest rates.

In Michigan, though, student debt has climbed in part because colleges boosted tuition to compensate for declining state aid, as Bridge has reported. Just 10 years ago, state aid comprised one-quarter of university revenue. Now it’s one-fifth.[[[

One decade ago? That would be around the time republicans took over the State legislature, wouldn't it?

One thing left to say.

I vote blue 4 U!

Matt
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 8:11am

Sure! Totally agree let's let the localities cities counties raise their own revenues to take care of their own pollution issues, roads , lead pipes. schools, depressed moms, homeless pets etc etc. times 20. From a quick look most big cities have all the money they need to fund any new Lefty PC department that comes along, just nothing for their roads! This practice we see from Whitmer of whining and crying about a dozen different issues then skipping on funding those to fund 5 other unmentioned and new issues makes it hard to take her serious.

middle of the mit
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:16pm

Matt,
So what you are saying, so I don't get this wrong, is that the liberal taxholes have all the money they need and what happens to the republicans up here (that make up the majority of the republican voting base) that can't afford those things?

And you say this " From a quick look most big cities have all the money they need to fund any new Lefty PC department that comes along, just nothing for their roads!"

Yet this article tells us that the reason road funding is low in the cities is because the liberal taxholes are subsidizing rural, republican Northern Michigan.

https://www.politicscentral.org/macomb-ranks-as-no-1-donor-county-provid...

[[[Under the state’s road funding formula, Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties lead the list of counties in the southern portion of Michigan who subsidize the roads in the sparsely populated areas in northern Michigan.]]]

So while you are at it, are you going to tell your republican brethren up here to get hosed and pay for it themselves? Please tell us this!!! This is what and why I have posted on this blog. Tell the rural republicans exactly how you feel about them. Then when you come vacation and our roads have gone gravel like Mike Shirkey said they should, have fun fixing the chips in your paint!

John
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 8:17am

Collectivism is a weakness and seriously undermines liberty and personal responsibility. I do not support my tax dollars being used for vote buying social equity causes. It just keeps expanding and expanding. People need to be responsible for their own decisions. Smaller government should be the goal.

Kris
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 8:43am

Everyone of the DNC candidates is talking about buying votes thru payoff methods, welfare and socialism. Not one about people empowering themselves to stand on their own. All are about bigger government to control your life at whatever expense others pay.

middle of the mit
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 9:57pm

John and Kris,
For the sake of saving space and since your comments are similar I am going to respond to them together.

First collectivism is what Government is all about. No one is telling you that they are going to nationalize industry. Has anyone said they want the government to make their shoes? If they have, I haven't heard it.

And if collectivism doesn't work, then could you tell me what associations are? Loosely defined, they are groups of individuals that work toward a common goal. That is what States are supposed to be. The individuals of the State working together to make the State a better place to live, work and play. You only like collectivism when it is corporations that are doing it. Or maybe you belong to some group or association that allows you to have benefits that you would otherwise not have, be able to afford or have access to. AAA is collectivism. The NRA is collectivism.

John doesn't want his tax money going to social equity causes because he prefers the collectivist nature of the laws that benefit him. That is mob rule. Those looking for social justice just want to be treated the same as you with the same rights and liberties. But you will use the laws that were passed by the collectivist people such as yourself that were designed to make sure you are special and therefore have special rights and liberties.

Now both of you say you want people to take responsibility for themselves, yet here is an article that says that republicans up here that believe like you do, they want MORE STATE AID for roads. https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/rural-michigan-gov-gretchen...

Why would individualists that believe in smaller government want more money from the government? To reimburse them for the tax money they paid into the State? NOPE. They get more back than they pay in.

https://www.politicscentral.org/macomb-ranks-as-no-1-donor-county-provid...

[[[Under the state’s road funding formula, Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties lead the list of counties in the southern portion of Michigan who subsidize the roads in the sparsely populated areas in northern Michigan.]]]

So exactly who are the collectivists? It's the same with red states across the nation, especially if they don't have many liberal taxhole economic engines.

I am sure California, New York and Illinois would be more than happy to not have to subsidize Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Idaho.

Are those terms good for you?

Rose
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:10am

You state, "Why can't locals find more or wasted or grifted funds to fund their local roads?" This makes sense in theory. I live in a lower income town that enacted a road tax last year which I voted for and will be paying for (on top of every other property tax assessment I pay) for ten years. Just two streets - two- were able to be reconstructed for this tax. Roads are state wide problems, as we all drive on roads that are not in our immediate communities. The last couple of weeks I have been seeing pothole after pothole open up on major, i.e., state and county, roads. Message to the legislators: Please fix the roads state wide.

middle of the mit
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:04pm

Rose,
You may have misconstrued what I was trying to say or I may have not put a snark tag on that sentence. I live up north, and by definition it is a low income area also. But it is hard core republican and I was just trying to ask why our republican areas can't live up to their own talking points. I fully agree with your thoughts, and I know where you are coming from.

That is why I vote Blue 4 U.

jesse atwell
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 9:00am

Oh my goodness, just how are the mothers to be going to get to the hospitals if there are no roads? Good grief, get your priorities in order.....fix the damn roads....the money is already there....we've voted for it ....where is the money? Oh yeah, it went for some other social program.....The money is already there!!!! Stop playing silly games with it and put it back where it was supposed to be in the first place.....STUPID POLITICIANS ARE THE PROBLEM!!!

Barry Visel
Fri, 02/07/2020 - 1:13pm

No mention of eliminating tax expenditures (credits, deductions and incentive). Please, Bridge, report on how much tax expenditures cost our taxpayers!

BTW...Governor Whitmer did a wonderful job of highlighting why we don’t need the Federal government involved so much in our lives. She outlined numerous examples of local and State leaders around the Country solving their own problems without Fed assistance. Our Founders would be proud that she recognizes the concept of limited Federal government, leaving problem solving to ourselves at the local and State level. Of course I’m not convinced she recognizes the irony of what she outlined in her speech with all those wonderful examples.