A lot has been made about Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision early in his first term to shift more of Michigan’s tax burden from business to individual residents.
But the accountant-governor (along with fellow Republican lawmakers) has transformed how taxpayer money is spent in other significant ways since he took office in 2011, with a few surprises. During Snyder’s tenure:
- The state’s prison population, and prison spending, have gone down.
- Even though crime dropped over this period, the budget for Michigan State Police has risen sharply.
- And while Lansing Republicans call for smaller government at every turn, that mantra has not applied to the governor’s and Legislature’s own budgets, which have increased since 2011.
As he prepares to unveil his final budget Wednesday, a Bridge Magazine study of seven years of budget data under the term-limited Snyder shows Michigan is spending more money across nearly all state departments than at the beginning of his tenure. That’s largely a function of a steadily improving economy and corresponding increases in tax revenue.
Yet the state’s general fund, when adjusted for inflation, remains drastically below 2000-01 levels, when Michigan began to reckon with nearly a decade of economic malaise. Universities, for instance, saw funding cuts for years, including under Snyder’s predecessor, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. And under Snyder, higher education still receives less in total state spending than when Granholm left office at the end of 2010.
Snyder arrived in Lansing as Michigan was clawing out of an economic hole. He’ll leave next January having presided over an economy that has grown for eight straight years, and having imposed fiscal reforms that paid down debt and dramatically rebuilt the state’s rainy-day fund.
In his final spending proposal, Snyder plans to seek more money for roads and public schools, but there are headwinds. The chairman of the Senate’s powerful Republican-led appropriations committee, Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, told Bridge that Snyder’s proposal to accelerate state road funding has to be balanced against the expected loss of revenue from lawmakers’ plan to raise the state income tax exemption.
Here are six ways, large and small, that state budget priorities have changed since Snyder took office:
- Snyder’s Michigan: Fewer prisoners, less prison spending
- Snyder’s Michigan: Less crime, but more funding for State Police
- Snyder’s Michigan: Budgets for executive branch and Legislature grow
- Snyder’s Michigan: Business taxes fall, burden shifts to residents
- Snyder’s Michigan: More spending, but Michigan government remains small
- Snyder’s Michigan: Doubling down on agriculture