Coronavirus Response Money A Part Of $321M Supplemental Deal
March 17, 2020
A combined $25 million in Coronavirus response money found its way into $321.3 million ($180.6 million General Fund) in supplemental spending bills that the House voted overwhelmingly to support.
The long-awaited deal with the Senate and Governor’s Office also includes $16 million for the Pure Michigan marketing program, $35 million for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan Reconnect job training program for non-traditional students, and $15 million for the Going Pro program started under the previous administration.
SB 151 and SB 373 also include $25 million for the John Does v. Department of Corrections settlement, $14 million for the presidential primary, and $500,000 for more security cameras around the Capitol, according to the House Fiscal Agency.
The bipartisan deal gives $1 million to the Attorney General to investigate clergy abuse of children, a 7% increase in Medicaid outpatient hospital reimbursement rates ($47.5 million), and $11.3 million to start replacing the beleaguered MiSACWIS computer system within the Department of Health and Human Services.
“There are some really important programs for the state of Michigan in this supplemental,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing). “There is something in here that every member of my caucus can be proud of. I appreciate the Governor’s Office and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle working with us on this supplemental.”
On the Coronavirus response money, $10 million is being set aside for immediate preparedness and response activities, including monitoring, laboratory testing, contact tracing, and infection control. The other $15 million is going to a Coronavirus Response Fund that will be set aside in case more money is needed later. The combined $25 million came at Whitmer’s special request.
Combined with $50 million from the federal government, Rep. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) said preparing the state was important.
“Very happy to see this supplemental come through,” he said. “Together, you saw bi-partisan support for this. That’s what it’s all about.”
If signed into law as expected, the two supplemental bills will tie a bow on the prolonged Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget negotiations that have stretched 5½ months past the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.
Originally, Whitmer had wanted $175 million for a full year of programming for her Reconnect Michigan program. Last summer, the Legislature passed $36 million for a full year of Pure Michigan advertising, $5 million more than the $31 million Whitmer proposed. Whitmer had vetoed $37.26 million from Going Pro.
In true legislative spirit, a special $37 million went into 85 “enhancement grants,” money for special in-district projects that some may refer to as “pork,” but something legislators can take home to herald their effectiveness. The lengthy list includes projects of less than $1 million for parks, pathways, emergency vehicles, neighborhood improvements, and infrastructure repairs, among other things.
Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland Twp.) was among the smattering of “no” votes for the bill. He called a significant amount of the spending — the $37 million in particular — “wasteful pork.”
“It was just pet projects left and right,” Johnson said. “The budget was done with absolutely no transparency. There was no committee process at all. It’s just not the way the budget should be done.”
Other notable additions include:
$8 million for improvements to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, the Illinois dam seen as the last line of defense in preventing Asian Carp from swimming into the Great Lakes
$6 million to cover the legal settlement in the case of Damon Grimes, the Detroit teenager who died from injuries sustained by falling off the ATV he was riding when a State Police trooper shot him with a Taser.
$5 million to repair public infrastructure damage caused by high waters or soil erosion.
$5 million for environmental cleanup projects, specifically the Michelin-Uniroyal site in Wayne County and the Spartan Chemical site in Kent County.
$3.895 million to give private-duty nurses a 15% pay increase for services provided to Medicaid recipients under the age of 21.
$4 million for a one-time behavioral health pilot program at the McLaren Greenlawn Campus in Lansing.
Republicans were able to get $250,000 into the budget to reimburse nonpublic schools for the costs of complying with state laws or administrative rules, which raised the eyebrows of the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators (MASA).
“On behalf of public-school employees and students across our state, I feel compelled to express disappointment and frustration that the supplemental budget includes public dollars for private schools,” said MASA Executive Director Chris Wigent. “The voters of Michigan have spoken several times on this matter. We call on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to exercise her veto authority on these unconstitutional appropriations.”
SB 151 and SB 373 represent the second supplemental deal stemming from Whitmer’s $947 million in vetoes and $625 million in inter-departmental transfers on Oct. 1.
The first supplemental restored $573.5 million in funding ($261 million General Fund, $70 million School Aid Fund), but more than 100 specific line items that the Legislature had passed in its FY ’20 budget were not restored.
SB 151 passed 99-6 with Reps. Tom Albert (R-Lowell), Johnson, James Lower (R-Eureka Twp.), Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), Brad Paquette (R-Niles) and John Reilly (R-Oxford) voting no. SB 373, the K-12 portion of the supplemental, passed 101-4 with Johnson, Lower, Reilly and Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) voting no.