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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan employs 48K people. A quarter of them work in prisons.

Michigan government is a big enterprise: A $60 billion annual operation with 48,436 employees that touches virtually every facet of residents’ lives.  The state government has a role and regulates everything from flushing toilets and driving on roads to education and breathing fresh air.

Perhaps surprisingly, the governor and the state’s 148 legislators have direct control of only about 18 percent of the budget, the $10.7 billion in the general fund. The bulk of the budget, some 41 percent, comes from federal grants.

Biggest expenses

Nearly half of total spending, $4 per every $10, goes to K-12 education. 

In the general fund, two big expenses –  public safety and health and human services –   account for 60 percent of spending, while higher education gets 15 percent, while all other departments get the rest.

On average, state civil service workers make $64,000 per year and tend to be women, outnumbering men 54 percent to 46 percent. The state has 48,436 workers, nearly half of whom work in either corrections (12,000 employees) or health and human services (10,723).

The governor’s office has 84 workers, according to the state budget office. 

Status quo

Although tax revenue has increased, Michigan in many ways is still dealing with the fallout from the Great Recession, when the state lost population for the first time (55,000 residents) and tax revenue plummeted.

Those losses and tax cuts have left Michigan’s general fund of $10.7 billion virtually unchanged from 20 years ago, despite a 50 percent inflationary increase in costs, according to the left-leaning Michigan League of Public Policy.

Michigan ranked 35th nationwide in per-capita state spending at $5,459 in fiscal year 2017, below the national average of $5,976, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation,  a health advocacy group that analyzed data from the National Association of State Budget Officers. 

Michigan is in the middle of the pack, meanwhile, in per-capita education spending: $13,016 per student, compared to the national average of $12,756, according to the periodical Education Week

Republicans point out that state budgets increase every year, and Michigan is still spending $1 billion plus per year on improving roads from a 2015 plan that raised car registration fees. 

In fact, they argue, the state is spending more on roads now than ever, when adjusted for inflation.

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