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Top 10 items of difference between House, Senate budgets

April 26, 2016

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

Lawmakers’ plans to move the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget to the Governor’s desk by June 1 are on track after both chambers kicked their respective spending plans out of their appropriations committees to the House and Senate floor.

The House plan is clocking in around $120 million below the Governor’s proposed budget because it doesn’t assume a tax mistakenly awarded to car insurance companies in 2012 will be repealed. 

The Senate plan assumes the tax’s repeal, but still keeps state spending under the rate of inflation, which is something Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Dave HILDENBRAND (R-Lowell) took some pride in. 

Compared to years past, the House and Senate plans aren’t terribly far apart. And majority members have agreed to several Democratic-sponsored amendments along the way. Both chambers have generally agreed with Gov. Rick SNYDER‘s proposed increases in K-12 education, an expanded child dental program, Medicaid expansion and Flint water crisis emergency spending. 

For that reason, “I don’t foresee anything major that will hold up the process and prevent the budget from getting done in early June again,” Hildenbrand said. 

This year’s House Republican House budget boot camp was made voluntary and still 80 percent of the caucus showed up, which speaks to his caucus’ interest in learning about the issues, said House Appropriations Committee Chair Al PSCHOLKA (R-Stevensville). 

Democrats and Republicans have been working closer on the Detroit Public Schools and Flint water crisis issues, which has improved relations some, even if the R’s aren’t willing to go as far as the D’s are both issues. 

Still, some difference between the House and Senate exist. The following is a Top 10 list of the larger differences. 

1. Should Insurance Tax Cut Be Repealed? 
Possibly the largest unresolved issue is whether the auto insurance tax credit that was allegedly mistakenly given to auto insurance companies in 2012 will be repealed to free up some $140 million in the FY ’17 budget discussions. 

Pscholka called the tax cut “the richest giveaway ever,” but the budgets that passed out of the House mirrored House Speaker Kevin COTTER‘s hesitation for eliminating the credit. The Senate’s budget didn’t come with the $120 million in cuts the House made to accommodate keeping the insurance tax credit. 

2. DPS Added To ’17 Budget? 
Sen. Dave HILDENBRAND (R-Lowell) would like Detroit Public Schools (DPS) reforms to move at the same pace as the budget, which would put both passing the first week of June. Overly ambitious? The budget would need to include $75 million in 2017 if lawmakers are following along with the Governor’s plan, which all signs show they are. DPS’ school year ends June 30. That’s when their state supplemental appropriation runs out. 

3. 2 Prison Closures, Baldwin Lease 
Two yet-to-be-named prisons would close and North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin would be leased from the GEO Group as part of the Senate budget (See “Two Prisons Close Under Senate Budget,” 4/14/16). The House doesn’t include either change and the folks in Governor’s Department of Corrections think closing prisons may be a little premature even with inmate population numbers dropping. 

4. House Saves Statutory Revenue Sharing Money 
The 100 townships and one city Gov. Rick SNYDER proposed knocking off of the state’s statutory revenue sharing pot were given back their state money in the House (See “Revenue Sharing Restored In House Budget,” 3/23/16). The Senate reduced what was a 2.3 percent cut from the Governor to a 1.5 percent cut, but the cities don’t like that $10 million in voting machine replacement money was included in the mix. 

5. Will Universities Receive 4.4% or 3.4% Hike? 
The Governor’s suggested 4.4 percent funding hike for the state’s 15 state universities was embraced in the Senate. But with the House trimming $120 million out of the entire budget, the higher education increase was ratcheted down to 3.4 percent in the House, a $13.5 million decrease (See “U’s Funding Increase Trimmed To 3.4% In House, Senate Keeps 4.4%).  

6. Economic Development Dollars On The Butcher Block 
Around $22.5 million in various business incentives and worker training programs within the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED) were cut from in the House as part of its budget-trimming exercise. 

The Senate didn’t go that route, changing some of the funding streams for the various programs, but leaving the final dollar amounts at around the Governor’s recommended levels. 

7. Should M-STEP Be Stepped On, Replaced? 
The House is passing a budget that takes out the state’s two-year-old standardized assessment for K-12 students, the M-STEP. Senate School Aid Fund Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Goeff HANSEN (R-Hart) isn’t opposed to pitching the M-STEP and he’s getting a growing amount of support to go in that direction. 

However, some Republicans don’t like the idea of making such a substantive change through the budget process. They also aren’t sold that a replacement will be as rigorous as the M-STEP (See “Republicans Divided On Scrapping M-STEP,” 4/20/16). 

8. Private Schools Could Receive State Money 
The Senate stuck into the School Aid Budget $5 million for private schools to compensate them for complying with the state’s various mandates. The $5 million is what Rep. Tim KELLY (R-Saginaw) wanted last year, but he didn’t get any of it. This time he’s trying for $1 million. Democrats believe there are constitutional issues with giving private schools public money, which may be the argument that wins again this year. 

9. The Return Of Adult Dental Option Back On Table 
After some years without it, Medicaid recipients could have their dental coverage back under the Senate budget. The cost of $23 million ($8 million General Fund) wasn’t included in the House or administration recommendation. 

Compared to prior years the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget lacks the high-dollars issues of years past, but the dental program and increases for private duty nurses and primary care Medicaid doctors will give the DHHS subcommittee something to work out. 

10. Any Changes To DEQ? 
The Democrats have offered no shortage of amendments to make post-Flint reforms in the Department of Environmental Quality through the appropriations process, which Republicans have been hesitant to do. It’s doubtful the Republicans will budge from this position, but some last-minute changes are something to keep an eye on.

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