MI Senate Could Vote On COVID Relief Next Week; Gov. Wants Negotiations

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer again called on the GOP-controlled Legislature to fully release federal dollars to help the state response to the coronavirus pandemic and negotiate with the administration while the Senate Appropriations Committee Trackchair said the legislative chambers are working out their differences first.

Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) said conversations are still ongoing with House Appropriations Committee TrackChair Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) and some areas of difference still need to be hammered out on the supplemental.

Mr. Stamas declined to provide specifics on what areas are still being negotiated.

“My hope is on this supplemental is to kick something out of the Senate next week,” Mr. Stamas said.

Whether it will be the Senate supplemental or a substituted version of the House legislation has not yet been decided, he added.

“We’ve not had a lot of discussions with the administration on this one,” Mr. Stamas said.

He said his hope is to begin to ramp up those discussions prior to the vote in the Senate next week.

Mr. Stamas explained that each supplemental is different and in this case with the differences between the House and Senate, he believed it was best to work to get both chambers more in sync prior to entering final negotiations with the administration.

At a news briefing, Ms. Whitmer again implored the Legislature to begin negotiations with her on the COVID-19 relief bill. She praised House and Senate Republicans for putting out their own proposals to spend some of the federal relief.

“It’s time that we figuratively get in the room and negotiate the details and get it done. Because every day that goes by is $5 billion that could be infused into our economy and our efforts to protect people,” she said. “Let’s invest the dollars that have been given to us. Let’s invest them in us, in our state, our schools, our health and our infrastructure. So I’m once again appealing to the Legislature to let’s get to the table and negotiate these details and get it done and not waste another precious moment.”

Ms. Whitmer said Budget Director Dave Massaron has had individual conversations with some legislators. And she said she continues to host meetings of the Legislative Quadrant in hopes that will ignite negotiations.

“We are eager to find some common ground here,” she said. “Every minute that goes by that we are not deploying those resources threatens our ability to get back to normal. That’s precisely why I’m continuing to call on them, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and get this done.'”

Mr. Albert said in a statement negotiations have progressed – the governor “just isn’t personally part of them.”

“As I have said before, we will afford the governor as much input on the budget as she has afforded the people of Michigan during this pandemic,” he said. “But I have meetings every day on this issue – talking to our partners in the Senate, Democratic members of the House, and the State Budget Office to continue to advance the budget supplemental to the finish line.”

While the House has passed its COVID relief bill supplemental spending bill, which includes an ultimatum for Ms. Whitmer tying funding for education to a separate bill that would allow only local health departments to close schools and halt school sports, the Senate plan does not include that provision.

The House plan also includes General Fund dollars for business assistance and spends about a quarter of federal money designed for things like vaccine distribution, rental assistance and testing.

On the Senate side, Mr. Stamas’ legislation also does not spend all of the federal funding available. It includes about $2 billion.


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