The governor’s budget proposal comes on the wings of a massive surplus in the state’s coffers. With that money, bold new programs could bring teachers to Michigan and fix flooding problems.
Need to Know
- Whitmer’s State of the State address revealed the budget would focus on tax breaks and in-person education.
- The state has a $7 billion surplus, the richest in its history, due in large part to federal pandemic relief.
- New programs would target mental health, flooding on roads, teacher shortages, and more.
LANSING—After much buildup, and a few hints to the press, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration officially rolled out her vision for what the state budget will look like in 2023 and beyond.
Released in a presentation on Wednesday to joint House and Senate appropriation committees, Whitmer’s executive budget is her last push of her first term to finish what she set out to do. With the November governor’s election looming, her budget proposal aims to close economic gaps, keep students in schools, and effectively rebuild infrastructure using federal funds—all issues Michiganders have followed carefully.
She also has aimed to effectively cut taxes for working families and retirees, as forecasted in her State of the State address last month.
“The budget I put forward today delivers on those tax cuts and makes strong investments in the kitchen-table issues that make a real difference in people’s lives,” Whitmer said in a statement.
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The governor’s aspirations—which quite frequently have been at odds with those of the Republican legislature—are buoyed by the state having an all-time high surplus, with $7 billion rolling over from the previous year’s federal pandemic relief funding and revenue. With the state on solid financial footing, it can fund major investments and programs without taking on debt.
The budgetary process requires agreement between the two legislative bodies, which then negotiate with the governor. Once all sides are in agreement, the budget is finalized.
Many of Whitmer’s priorities carry over from her first three years in office. In his address to the legislature, Christopher Harkins, state office budget director, pointed out that some of the line items are repeats from previous years that did not get passed.
Still, Whitmer did showcase several shiny new programs not previously broadcasted that caught the eye.
- Programs for Teacher Recruitment
As Whitmer advocates for in-person learning while schools struggle with staffing, the Michigan Future Educator Fellowship would incentivize people out of work and in other professions to join the educator ranks. The details of how the program would work have yet to be publicized, but Whitmer’s proposal contains enough funding for a prospective 12,500 people to acquire the necessary degrees to become teachers.
- Improved Pumps on Michigan Highways
After a year of heavy, dangerous flooding on Michigan highways and interstates, Whitmer’s budget aims to deliver generator backup power to clear water out of roads more quickly. The funds would power the state’s 164 pumping stations during periods of heavy rain, preventing water from building up on freeways and more quickly clearing floods.
- Regional Recovery Councils
Similar to Whitmer’s idea for a regional resiliency fund last year, a regional recovery fund would localize pandemic help in different parts of Michigan. Recognizing that crowded Metro Detroit and sparsely populated parts of the Upper Peninsula have experienced the pandemic differently, these public-private councils would troubleshoot the economic fallout from the pandemic and disburse money toward solutions.
- New Food Distribution Center to Support Northern Michigan
As existing food insecurity issues have worsened during the pandemic, the budget proposes establishing emergency stockpiles at every Michigan food bank with a warehouse. The same fund would also create a new food distribution center in northern Michigan, where resources are scarce.
- Single Statewide Judicial Tracking System
To lessen how long Michiganders must wait for hearings, Whitmer’s proposal includes developing a streamlined, uniform process for handling court cases. Relying on different software can create gaps in processing times in the criminal justice system, which can lead to case buildups. The proposal says this new system would let Michigan “better track and process” court cases.
- New Psychiatric Facility
With the extra cash in its coffers, the administration’s proposal includes the construction of a desperately needed psychiatric facility that would house more people than currently possible. The state-of-the-art facility would be built on a single campus at the site of the Walter Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Northville, and it would replace outdated features. The state currently has three state psychiatric hospitals.
- School Infrastructure Modernization Fund
Whitmer’s budget also apportions a sizable chunk of rollover revenue to fix up Michigan schools. The new fund, with a large one-time endowment to start, would be used to build common areas, computer labs, and classrooms. Then it would have an annual allotment of grants to send to schools and districts.