LANSING — Cadillac-area lawmakers say Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should approve the House and Senate’s budget proposals.
“There is no reason for her to veto this budget,‘ Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, told the Cadillac News by text message Friday.
House and Senate proposals started moving through committees and coming up for vote Thursday.
The governor, who is a Democrat (unlike most of Michigan’s legislature), hasn’t committed to Republicans’ budget ideas and stopped negotiating last Wednesday.
Sen. Curt Vanderwall, R-Ludington, says she may regret that.
“We are disappointed that our governor walked out of budget talks, however, we are committed to delivering record K-12 funding along with making sure we address the roads with $500 million more in funding along with delivering $120 million in clean drinking water issues,‘ Vanderwall texted the Cadillac News. “I am sure that when the budget is delivered by the Senate and House, our governor will be disappointed that she did not participate.‘
In March, Gov. Whitmer proposed a 45-cent gas tax to pay for Michigan’s deteriorating roads and bridges. Over the summer, she started easing back on the proposal, indicating that this year’s entire state budget wouldn’t live or die based on whether Republican legislators would agree to the tax hike.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Republicans proposed moving an additional $500 million in general funds to the transportation budget, which is already scheduled to receive additional income tax revenues under 2015 road-funding laws.
But Whitmer criticizes “one-time money.‘ Legislators have given so-called one-time infusions into roads every year since the 2011-12 budget, something the governor says “does not fix the problem. In fact, it makes it more expensive to do the work because it makes it more expensive to plan. ... This is the exact kind of gimmick that got us in this problem in the first place.‘
Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, says legislators do have their eye on long-term solutions.
“A lot of thought was put into the House budget so that we COULD put additional funds into fixing the roads,‘ Rendon said by text message. “We even looked at replacing outdated software systems that cost millions of dollars but are inefficient and not effective. Saving tax dollars in some areas allows funds to be shifted to schools and roads, a big priority for Michiganders.‘
The K-12 budget that won initial approval would boost funding by $395 million, including a $304 million increase in per-pupil grants to districts and charter schools, though Whitmer’s approval could have resulted in more funding for some schools because of “weighted‘ funds for special education, low-income, and career and technical ed students.
Thursday, House-Senate conference committees approved bills that include a $120 million boost to protect drinking water — which matches the total amount proposed by the governor. The money would be used to help implement tougher lead-in-water rules, to address contamination from chemicals known collectively as PFAS and to issue grants to water suppliers seeking low-interest loans for infrastructure projects.
Rep. Hoitenga indicated that the House budget would accomplish some of the governor’s goals.
“The House has brought forward a budget that gives record funding for schools and roads and also provides funding for things the governor wants without raising taxes,‘ Hoitenga said. “It’s time to get this budget done for the sake of our schools and state agencies.‘
EDIT: this story has been updated to clarify the timeline of budget activities.