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R’s Propose 100 Amendments To Budget Bills; None Pass

May 7, 2024

The House Appropriations Committee voted out the second half of its budget bills Wednesday, with the House Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), General Government and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budgets the only three successfully amended, despite Republican efforts to the contrary.

The only successful amendments to the LEO budget were proposed by Rep. Will Snyder (D-Muskegon), with two making technical drafting changes and one setting up a $100 placeholder to consider creating a statewide hydrogen refueling network.

Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) successfully added money to the General Government budget for an actuarial study on cost of living increases for state employee retirees. Brixie said many state employees live in her district, and she felt that it was important to be included.

Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Ann Arbor) added a $100 placeholder for permanent supportive housing to the DHHS budget.

Republican members did not see similar success with their amendments, but proposed more than 100 of them.

Of those, many made by Reps. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton) and Bill G. Schuette (R-Midland) would have restored boilerplate and reporting requirements that had been removed.

Schuette also proposed several amendments prohibiting state grant dollars from being awarded to immediate family members of legislators or executive office-holders.

Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Osseo) proposed several amendments he said would address the current border security crisis by prohibiting that programming or grant dollars be awarded to non-U.S. citizens unless they have qualified alien status. Rep. Cam Cavitt (R-Cheboygan) also proposed an amendment requiring the Newcomer Rental Subsidy Program to adhere to detailed reporting requirements, after House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo) expressed concern about the program’s aid recipients.

Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mount Clemens) was the only Democrat to vote yes on several Republican-proposed amendments, including Cavitt’s.

HB 5499, Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids)’s bill setting up appropriations for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, eliminates the $80 million proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to increase landfill tipping fees from $0.36 per ton to $5 per ton.

Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) expressed concern during the hearing that the budget doesn’t include the tipping fee increase.

“Until we change that, we’re going to continue to be the destination for trash, rather than people,” he said.

Hood said while many can agree that $0.36 per ton vastly undervalued the state’s resources compared to other states, more discussions are necessary that won’t likely be completed during the budget timeline.

She brought up the potential for a graduated approach to increasing tipping fees “that will ease the economy forward.”

The $1.074 billion in spending proposals is a $22.6 million increase from the previous year, or 2.2 percent larger.

HB 5501, Rep. Will Snyder (D-Muskegon)’s bill appropriating funds to the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential (MiLEAP), is a $619 million investment, greater than Whitmer’s $577 million proposal.

While the House subcommittee concurred on a great many of the governor’s proposals, it differed on increasing child care provider reimbursement rates. The House proposed a 20 percent increase with a $75.9 million ($37.9 million General Fund) appropriation, greater than Whitmer’s initial proposed 10 percent increase with a $37.9 million ($19 million General Fund) investment.

Snyder called the effort a “doubling down” on child care provider reimbursement.

The House’s plan is $42 million more than what is in the governor’s recommendation, much of which is the House transferring administration of the $61.5 million Michigan Reconnect community college scholarship program to the MiLEAP budget.

HB 5502, Snyder’s bill setting up appropriations for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, removed over $163.5 million in job creation spending proposed by Whitmer and replaced it with 30 of its own projects worth $236 million.

Of that House-proposed sum, $150 million in one-time funding would go into expanding the state’s affordable housing stock, which Snyder highlighted as helping the Michigan State Housing Development Authority address the state’s housing shortage by constructing new single-and-multi-family housing units, renovating existing units and completing energy efficiency improvements.

HB 5503, Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park)’s bill appropriating funds to the K-12 School Aid fund, is a $20.5 billion recommendation that reduces school districts’ required contributions to the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System (MPSERS), along with payments coming directly from school employees’ payroll.

The House Appropriations Committee did not make further changes, agreeing with the governor and the subcommittee that the state does not need to deposit $631.7 million from the School Aid Fund (SAF) to cover debt related to public school retirees’ healthcare benefits.

The proposed budget allocates $290.8 million from the SAF towards reducing districts’ Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability contribution cap from 20.96 percent to 18 percent. It also includes $51.6 million to reimburse public school employees for a portion of their 3 percent required MPSERS deposit.

Weiss highlighted the 2.25 percent ($217) per-pupil foundation allowance increase, funded with $280 million ($69,400 General Fund) and a slight decrease from Whitmer’s proposed $316 million ($69,400 General Fund) to provide a 2.5 percent ($241) per-pupil increase.

The budget also maintains cyber school foundation allowances at $9,150, compared to the governor’s proposed reduction to 80 percent of the foundation allowance, or $7,879 per pupil, which would save $27 million from the School Aid Fund.

Several failed Republican amendments dealt with cyber and charter schools, including Rep. Nancy DeBoer (R-Holland)’s proposal to fund cyber and charter schools at 100 percent of the foundational allowance, instead of the 91.5 percent it’s funded at currently.

“I don’t want to set up a caste system in our education system,” DeBoer said.

Weiss’s HB 5506, which appropriates to the Department of Education (MDE), is a $167.8 million investment into MDE, approximately $5 million higher than Whitmer’s executive recommendation for the department, but still a 74.1 percent decrease from the $479.5 million proposed in Fiscal Year (FY) ‘24.

The budget is also over a 74 percent decrease in full-time positions, caused by MDE programs shifting to the new department, MiLEAP.

Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw)’s HB 5508, which sets up appropriations for the Department of Corrections, would be nearly $2.17 billion, above the approximately $2.15 billion Whitmer wanted.

It includes $16.5 million in one-time funding to the employees’ retirement system that would be associated with HB 4665, HB 4666 and HB 4667, legislation allowing state corrections officers to join the State Police Retirement System hybrid pension plan.

O’Neal highlighted $1 million in funding to expand educational programming in collaboration with state universities and colleges, along with $900,000 in General Fund dollars and six new full-time positions to expand the department’s ability to provide in-reach parole planning services prior to release. The planning includes addressing housing needs, clothing, bus passes and medical appointments, among others. The ongoing funding was accompanied by an additional $2 million in one-time funding.

Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Osseo) asked if O’Neal believes the budget addresses continued correctional officer staff shortages, and O’Neal said yes, he believes it does.

Through visits to 17 of Michigan’s 26 facilities thus far, he said the same sentiment has been repeated to him across the board, and he believes the budget will address the 1,000 plus staff deficit.

Fink told MIRS that while he appreciates O’Neal acknowledging the crisis-level shortage of prison guards, “I have to respectfully disagree that this budget will successfully address the issue.

“I have had multiple constituents on the verge of tears talking to me about how dire the circumstance is,” he said. “We have to get more recruits in the door and these guys can make as much working in any factory in any industrial park.”

He added that he would be open to more aggressive changes to the retirement plan, “but the most obvious thing to me is significantly raising the pay . . . “There aren’t many jobs out there where you’re in the kind (of) physical danger every single day that prison guards are, and the shortage also puts prisoners at risk of violence. It’s the definition of a crisis.”

HB 5515, Rep. Jimmie Wilson Jr. (D-Ypsilanti)’s bill appropriating to the judiciary, allocated $2 million to Operation Drive, a program out of the 52nd District Court in Oakland County that assists individuals with regaining their driving privileges. Half of the funding would go to the 52nd District Court, while another $1 million would go to district courts statewide that want to establish a program.

The total $370 million budget also removed the executive line item of $4.6 million and 19 new full-time positions for the statewide judicial case management system as trial courts transition from locally managed systems.

Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Ann Arbor)’s HB 5516, which sets up the state’s general government budget totaling $5.19 billion, mostly concurs with the governor’s recommendation, but one notable difference was the retention of full funding for the Department of the Auditor General.

The executive recommendation reduced gross funding for the Auditor General by $9.3 million and restricted funding by $2.4 million, something House Republicans vocally opposed.

The House’s proposal also reworked the state’s revenue sharing plan.

Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton)’s HB 5517, which establishes a budget for the state Department of Transportation totaling $6.86 billion, establishes a $5 million pilot program for assessing vehicle fees based on miles traveled.

Rep. Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland) attempted to remove the pilot program with an amendment which was shot down.

HB 5556, sponsored by Rep. Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo) to establish funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, would allocate $53 million more to opioid addiction recovery programs.

The budget is $37.76 billion, and also included $10 million to help low income Michiganders pay their water bill debt, $10 million to Wayne State University to support an effort to reduce nurse turnover and improve retention, $9.2 million to help medical doctors serving impoverished areas pay off their student loans and $8.1 million to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for private duty nursing services by 25 percent.

Along with individual budget bills, the Appropriations Committee also voted out Chair Angela Witwer (D-Lansing)’s HB 5500, which includes a placeholder to build the larger omnibus bill, along with Weiss’s HB 5507, which will soon become the School Aid omnibus, or the “School Bus.”


Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

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