Snyder’s Michigan: Budgets for executive branch and Legislature grow

The Legislature and governor’s office say there are good explanations for why their budgets have increased during Snyder’s tenure.

GOP lawmakers have espoused their belief in reining in government spending and offering tax cuts to residents for years.

Yet budgets for the Legislature and the governor’s office increased significantly during Gov. Rick Snyder’s time in office. Granted, their budgets are a drop in the ocean of overall state spending, but they raise questions when, as a Bridge analysis found, those increases exceeded 40 percent from 2012 to 2018, when adjusted for inflation.

[Editor's Note: This is just one story in a series examining Michigan's budgets during Gov. Rick Snyder's tenure as he prepares to release his final budget proposal.]

Anna Heaton, the governor’s spokesperson, said much of the increase stems from some government offices and programs being moved into the executive branch’s budget.

For example, the Office of Urban Initiatives, which promotes economic development and job growth and has staffers in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, moved to the executive office budget from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget in 2017.

In addition, she said, the Michigan Civil Service Commission approved a 3 percent pay raise for all state employees, including executive branch employees, in October 2017, the start of the current fiscal year.

The Legislative increase is primarily due to salary increases for legislative staffers, said Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, chairman of the Senate's appropriations committee.

Lawmakers’ salaries are set at $71,685. A request for salary history of Senate staffers was not returned by deadline.

House Appropriations Chair Laura Cox, R-Livonia, did not respond to an interview request from Bridge.

“The key thing to point out is that it’s not the legislators, it’s the people who support the legislative system,” Hildenbrand said, adding that staffers went without raises in lean years. “It hasn’t come in exchange for (or) at the cost of any other important program. It hasn’t resulted in less in K-12 (education) or less in infrastructure or less in public safety.”

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