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Snyder asks for $195M in Flint funding as protesters criticize him

February 16, 2016

Courtesy of MIRS News Service

Gov. Rick SNYDER today outlined the specifics of a budget plan that would raise the state’s total commitment to the city of Flint to $232 million over the next two fiscal years.

The Governor was forced to make his request to the Legislature over the shouts of dozens of protestors who chanted “Drink the Water, Rick,” “No Water, No Peace,” and “Fix the Pipes,” among other things. 

Snyder sounded audibly shaken for the first 10 minutes of his presentation, which he’s personally given ever year of governorship, but eventually settled into groove for the rest of his hour talk to a joint session of the House and Senate appropriations committee. 

In his budget recommendation for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, Snyder called for an additional $195.4 million to address the Flint water crisis through supplementals to FY 2016 and line items in FY 2017, with the money being separated into four separate buckets. 

The request includes the $30 million the Senate approved separately as a supplemental last week to give Flint residents rebates on lead-tainted water they didn’t feel comfortable drinking or using (See “Senate Votes Out Gov-Recommended $30M For Flint Water Bills,” 2/4/16).  

House Appropriations Chair Al PSCHOLKA (R-Stevensville) said he plans to take up the Senate proposal in his committee next week. 

The largest chunk is $63 million, which would be allocated to physical, social and educational services — treating children with high blood levels; expanding preschool programs; putting nurses in the schools; abating Flint homes of lead; making epidemiologists available to analyze blood lead levels; and paying for in-home behavioral services for children.  

Another $37 million is going toward making the Flint municipal water safe to drink. That means more water samples, inspections and replacing of filters in schools, studying what needs to be going on with Flint’s infrastructure and staying connected with Detroit until the end of 2016, when the city is scheduled to hook up to the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA).  

The $15 million bucket is for food and nutrition programs for Flint’s children, including a summer meal program, mobile food banks and food inspections.  

Another $50 million would be set in reserve for any future needs in Flint under Snyder’s proposal.  

Throughout the budget presentation, a throng of Flint residents and advocates from Progress Michigan and other organizations — some of whom donned “Flint Lives Matter” shirts — kept the chants going. 

Any monetary compensation the state provides is not enough for Flint resident Desiree DUELL, who said she experienced flu-like symptoms for an extended period of time and was not aware of potential dangers to using the water until a friend called to warn her of the issue. 

She and her son and others in Flint were unnecessarily put at risk, she said, arguing Snyder should be the one to take the fall. 

“Until he resigns, we continue to be victimized by our abuser,” she said. 

Another Flint resident at the protest, Nakiya WAKES, said she had a miscarriage in the second trimester of her pregnancy, which she believes was caused by the lead in the water she drank. 

Her other children all tested positive for lead, Wakes said. Even if she could afford to move out of the city, she said the negative impacts would continue far into the future. 

Asked about his reaction to the protesters following the presentation, Snyder said, “I had to speak up a little bit louder,” adding that it was their democratic right to speak out. 

Senate Minority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) said in a statement that the budget reflects many Senate Republican priorities and was a good next step in the conversation that needs to happen to bring additional aid to Flint residents. 

The plan lays out steps for a comprehensive plan for this year and next year, Senate Appropriations Chair Dave HILDENBRAND (R-Lowell) said, but it will likely need additional revisiting as needs change. 

“We have to allow as much flexibility as possible,” he said, noting that in crisis situations the best allocation of funding could change on a week-to-week basis. 

Senate Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint) said in a statement that the priorities in the proposal seem to match the areas he and others have been stressing for some time — health, education and infrastructure. 

“Although this is a step forward, I’m going to keep pushing for resources to get results for the people in my community,” he said. “Our challenge now is to make sure that the state delivers and we don’t take our foot off the gas.” 

Other Democrats were less kind in their reactions to the plan. 

“We need some kind of relief immediately,” Rep. Brian BANKS (D-Harper Woods) said. “We can’t keep giving out filter and bottled water without replacing the pipes in a timely matter, and I didn’t hear that from the Governor.” 

Sen. Coleman YOUNG II (D-Detroit) said he felt the whole budget was “a joke.” If the state has a surplus, it should be going to fix the pipes and any other needs the city might have, he said. 

“People are bathing in buckets,” he said. “This is the worst natural manmade disaster in the state’s history, and it’s business as usual. What about the people of Flint? Does anybody give a damn?” 

Rep. Pam FARIS (D-Clio) said she was glad there was a focus on the needs of Flint in the upcoming budget, but said the first glaring error is that the need is now, not in October when some of the money would go into effect. 

“This cannot be a public relations-only win for the governor while the people of Flint continue to suffer daily,” she said. “They can’t wait another day.”

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