Print Friendly and PDF

Whitmer Touts Surplus Budget Proposal at Detroit Chamber State of the State

Michigan Chronicle 
Feb. 14, 2022
Sherri Kolade

What are Michigan’s budget values?

For Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a few of the state’s top budgetary priorities include creating pathways for reliable infrastructure, fair taxes, providing resources for teachers, and more for the state already seeing an upswing financially.

During a Detroit Regional Chamber’s State of the State: A Budget That Puts Michigan First discussion, Whitmer spoke during a virtual session on Monday, February 14 to the business community, providing a recap of her 2023 state budget proposal.

“(These are) not just numbers on a ballot sheet,” Whitmer said, adding that it’s about focusing on people of the state.

Whitmer initially presented the 2023 budget of $74.1 billion in proposed spending to lawmakers on Wednesday, February 9. Michigan currently has a good problem with a surplus on hand because of higher-than-expected tax revenue and federal COVID-19 aid.

Whitmer also answered questions in a moderated discussion by Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

“The governor has worked relentlessly at building a stronger Michigan and putting people first in unbelievable times,” Loepp said, adding that the “once in a lifetime pandemic” under Whitmer’s leadership allowed the state opportunities to flourish with a “wide range of improvements” ranging from a new automotive plant opening in Detroit in 30 years to more jobs being retained locally.

Whitmer described the budget proposal, (targeted for the next fiscal year) as an “opportunity” the state has not had in decades and does not raise the state’s taxes while boosting its credit rating.

“In fact, it gives us the opportunity to make our tax code more fair for seniors and working families,” Whitmer said, adding that she is “grateful” for the input and support that so many business leaders gave in developing this budget. “We worked closely together.”

Part of the budget proposal is building off of Michigan’s new economic plan, rolled out last September during the Mackinaw Policy Conference.

“It was business leaders. It was labor leaders. … it was Republicans and Democrats coming together,” Whitmer said. “And now Michigan’s got a much more competitive opportunity as we seek to get investment into our state that benefits every one of us. Budgets are about values, and this one I think is very clear.”

Whitmer said that her top priority is growing the economy with momentum growing with a $7 billion surplus instead of a projected $3 billion deficit from the pandemic.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us. We can tackle some of the biggest economic challenges. That our families, communities, and small businesses are facing,” she said. “One of the things I know about the people of Michigan. We are hardworking and I know we can make investments that directly address economic concerns like inflation,” she said.

Some of Whitmer’s proposed budget highlights include

Education

The budget recommendation incorporates a school aid budget that marks the biggest state education funding increase in more than 20 years—without raising taxes.

  • $580 million to increase base per-pupil funding from $8,700 to $9,135, a five percent increase that equates to $435 per student.
  • $222 million to fully fund support for economically disadvantaged students by providing an additional 11.5% of the base per-pupil amount per student and eliminating proration, increasing the total to $746.5.
  • $150 million to increase support for special education students by increasing the reimbursement of costs for special education students by five percentage points, bringing the reimbursement rate up from 31% to 36%.
  • $31 million for additional support for vocational education and career and technical education. This includes an increase in state reimbursed costs, additional funding for equipment purchases, and additional funding for millage equalization payments.

Economic and Workforce Development

The budget recommendation calls for funding centered on economic and workforce development, including:

  • $500 million deposit into the Strategic Outreach and Reserve Fund to provide funding for economic development projects that invest in Michigan’s future and attract transformational projects that keep Michigan at the forefront of manufacturing.
  • $500 million to provide hero pay for our frontline workers in support and recognition of their sacrifice during the pandemic.
  • $200 million for the Michigan Regional Empowerment Program to support the growth, development, diversification, and resiliency of regional economies through a competitive grant program.

Infrastructure 

The budget recommendation calls for historic investments in Michigan’s infrastructure, including:

  • $578 million in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to provide resources for several Michigan infrastructure projects that will continue to fix roads, bridges, railways, and local and intercity transit, while also providing capital improvements at airports.
  • $150 million to support economically critical projects, carry high traffic volumes, increase the useful life of key local roads, or will be completed in conjunction with bridge replacement projects.

Public Health 

The budget recommendation calls for funding centered on the health of Michigan families, including:

  • $243.3 million for increased access to dental services for Medicaid enrollees that replicates the success of the Healthy Kids Dental program for adults by procuring Healthy Kids Dental, HMP dental, and fee-for-service adult dental services through a single combined managed care contract. Another $4.3 million is provided to increase Medicaid reimbursement for outpatient hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.
  • $325 million for a new State Psychiatric Facility Complex, funds construction on a single campus, serving to replace facilities for the Hawthorn Center and Walter Reuther Hospital to increase inpatient capacity and improve the efficiency of services provided.

Community Safety

The budget recommendation calls for funding centered on safe communities, including:

  • $50 million for first responder retention, to provide payments to law enforcement officers and public safety personnel, including state troopers, conservation officers, firefighters, EMTs, and local and state corrections employees who have performed hazardous work related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $9.2 million for a state police trooper recruit school to graduate 50 new troopers in addition to the 120 troopers that are anticipated to be hired and trained using existing attrition savings.
  • $1 million for state police trooper recruitment to help broaden the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of the Michigan State Police to make it more representative of the communities it serves.

View the original article.