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Most R’s, Some Dems Jump Aboard ‘Big Bus’ Budget

May 3, 2016

The House passed its $38.8 billion “Big Bus” omnibus budget bill, 76-32, with 16 Democrats giving the budget a thumbs up. Two Republicans, Reps. Ray Franz (R-Onekama) and Lana Theis (R-Brighton), voted against the package.

House Speaker Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mt Pleasant) called the budget a “priorities” budget and said that he was “happy” with the vote count. 

“Today, 76 votes, that’s a significant level of bipartisanship,” Cotter said. “The floor speeches had me wondering if maybe we were headed in a different direction, but, today 76 votes after 72 votes yesterday — I feel good about that.” 

“Every time I get up here I talked a lot about the numbers,” said Appropriations Chair Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) prior to passage. “Its not about the numbers it’s about the people that we serve.” 

“You’re right,” Pscholka added. “There’s some stuff in this budget I don’t like and there’s stuff in this budget that millions of Michiganders do.” 

More than 30 amendments were considered on the floor — all but seven failed. Democrats’ sharpest criticisms of the bill revolved around familiar talking points, including the Governor’s request for $1.2 million for legal services connected to the Flint water crisis and the Capitol View project. 

House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) gave an impassioned speech to adopt an amendment prohibiting the use of state funds for an individual office holder’s criminal legal defense that failed. 

“The amendment I offered in subcommittee is also the amendment I offered today, which would prohibit any dollars going to the criminal defense of any individual officeholder,” Singh said. “We have a strong history of not providing criminal defense services for an office holder.” 

Comparing Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for $1.2 million to the State Administrative Board to the likes of corrupt Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Guy Hunt, Minority Leader Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) gave the criminal pair the upper hand saying, “At least they didn’t have the gall to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund their criminal defense.” 

Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) offered an amendment attempting to defund the controversial “Capitol View” project for new Senate offices. In his criticism of the package, Greimel referred to the project as a “Taj Mahal to themselves,” and said that funding the project while leaving other services, such as revenue sharing underfunded, is “absolutely nonsensical.” 

Gremiel also criticized the budget for only providing “lip service” to funding services for veterans, citing a rejected amendment offered by Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) that would require federal staffing level standards at both of the state’s veterans homes. 

However, the chamber adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) to give an additional $500,000 to help with staffing shortfalls at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home. Pscholka also pointed out in his remarks on the floor that the budget includes $9 million for veterans. 

Other amendments to the budget include. 

– Amendment 1-BB, offered by Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), amends the Department of Transportation budget to require that in the bidding process the contractor must complete a prequalification process prior to the request for proposal or proposal release date. 

– Amendment 1-EE, offered by Rep. Chris Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids) adds one FTE to the public service commission. 

– Amendment 1-FF, offered by Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) amends the Department of Health and Human Services budget to include a $100 placeholder for a pilot program to explore a cloud-based platform for analyzing Medicaid data. 

– Amendment 1-GG, offered by Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) amends the legislative budget to move up the completion date from September 30, 2018 to April 1, 2018 of a study to determine the costs to counties if 17 -year-olds were redirected from the adult justice system to the juvenile system. 

– Amendment 1-II, offered by Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) places a $100 placeholder in the foster care line-item portion in the DHHS budget. 

– Amendment 1-X, offered by Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) provides in the DHHS budget for a program to study the cost impact of insurance coverage for treatment for eating disorders.

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