‘Budget for the People’: 6 Ways Michigan Lawmakers Are Spending Your Cash

Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony, right, speaks to the media along with Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, center, and Democratic state Sen. Darrin Camilleri after the passage of a record $82 billion budget Wednesday night at the state Capitol. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)

By Kyle Kaminski

June 30, 2023

The largest budget in state history is poised to pay big dividends for Michigan’s schools and infrastructure, as well as bolster access to healthcare, housing, workforce training—and a whole lot more. 

LANSING—This week, Democratic state lawmakers led the charge on an $82 billion state budget that centers largely on building a brighter future for Michigan—including several key investments in education, health care, housing, infrastructure, and workforce development. 

Lawmakers are calling it a “budget for the people.”

“The Make it in Michigan budget will build a bright future for our state,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “It lowers costs on health care, preschool, meals for kids, higher education, housing, and workforce training. It will help us keep fixing the damn bridges, replacing lead pipes, and protecting public safety. And it will power our comprehensive vision for economic development so we can win more projects, invest in people, and revitalize places.”

In addition to serving as the largest budget in state history, it also marked the first opportunity in decades that Democrats—who took charge of both chambers of the state legislature in November’s elections—have had to craft a spending plan that reflects their priorities. 

About $24 billion of the annual budget was reserved specifically for Michigan’s public schools. The rest (about $58 billion) was wrapped into a general budget bill that passed through the legislature on Thursday. Whitmer is expected to sign the bills into law before the end of the week.

Democrats said the latest spending plan will bring “transformational change” for Michigan, as well as the children, families, workers, business owners, and seniors who call it home.

“Our budget is the product of conversations and meetings with constituents across our state from all walks of life,” state Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “We have reinvested in communities and programs that have been overlooked for far too long while remaining fiscally responsible and implementing unprecedented transparency measures.”

Here’s are six ways the latest state budget is investing in Michigan:

Public Education 

Included in the budget is a record-setting $24 billion in funding for Michigan’s schools as lawmakers and Whitmer’s administration look to remedy learning setbacks from the pandemic. Public schools will receive a 5% increase in per-pupil funding, in addition to a targeted, $205 million funding increase across the state, specifically for at-risk students who need extra help.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reads to students at an after-school program in Grand Rapids. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), a former teacher and chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education, labeled the state education budget as “truly historic,” and said that Michigan is now “leading the nation when it comes to helping our at-risk students.”

“For the first time in decades, we have a budget that properly invests in our students, teachers and schools,” he said. “After listening to educators, parents and students in our communities, we crafted a budget that prioritizes our students who need the most support, incentives to keep educators in the classroom, and programs that will help build the schools of the future.”

Michigan’s public schools receive their state funding, in part, based on the number of students in their classrooms. The latest budget will boost that funding to its highest point in state history: $9,608 per student. That’s an extra $458 (or 5%) per student compared to this year’s budget.

It also includes plans to offer free preschool programming to about 5,600 Michigan students, saving their families about $10,000 a year. And for the first time, all 1.4 million Michigan public school students (regardless of income) will have access to free breakfast and lunch at school.

Additional investments wrapped into the budget will expand opportunities for career and technical education, as well as offer discounts for about 80% of community college students.

READ MORE: 8 Ways the New State Budget is Investing in Michigan’s Public Schools

Infrastructure

Hundreds of millions of dollars were earmarked to help accelerate a statewide transition to clean energy and boost up Michigan’s infrastructure—including more work to fix the damn roads

Road construction is shown in Detroit in 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

All told, this year’s budget includes $416 million for road repairs, and another $80 million to replace bridges across Michigan. Lawmakers also earmarked $50 million in grants set to support new investments in railroad, marine, intercity and local transit systems statewide.

Another $21 million is set to go toward clean energy and electric vehicle investments—including efforts to install the chargers necessary to support a broader transition to electric vehicles. 

Belle Isle State Park will receive $23 million for various improvements. Another $23 million was set aside to create an endowment fund to maintain and improve the new Flint State Park. And $150 million will allow for the reopening of the Palisades Nuclear Plant near South Haven. 

The latest budget also includes nearly $600 million for water infrastructure fixes—including efforts to replace lead service lines, rebuild sewer systems, and protect access to drinking water. Another $20 million will clean up polluted sites in disadvantaged communities statewide.

In related infrastructure news: This week, Whitmer also announced a “game-changing” federal investment from President Joe Biden’s administration that’s designed to expand access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for at least 210,000 homes across Michigan.

Economic Development

With Michigan’s population growth lagging behind many other states across the country, lawmakers also earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars toward attracting new investments—including from both private businesses and the federal government.

A $500 million annual deposit in the Make it in Michigan Fund and a $350 million deposit in the Make it in Michigan Competitiveness Fund are designed to help the state secure some of the billions of dollars in federal funding still available through the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as entice more private businesses to expand in Michigan.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event about high speed internet infrastructure, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, June 26, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Statistics show that more than 82,000 jobs were created in Michigan between May 2022 and May 2023. John Walsh, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said the latest budget will only work to expand the state’s business potential—and inevitably create more jobs.

“As we stand at the cusp of the most transformative time in the history of manufacturing, there is perhaps nothing more impactful to the future success and prosperity of Michigan and its citizens than a thriving manufacturing sector,” Walsh said in a statement after the budget was passed.

Public Safety

As a former county prosecutor, public safety has long been touted as a top priority of Whitmer’s administration—especially on the campaign trail in pursuit of a second term. Now more than seven months past Election Day, that focus on safety is clearly reflected in the state budget.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks to new troopers after providing the keynote address for the Michigan State Police’s 140th Trooper Recruit School. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

More than $400 million is earmarked for various public safety efforts statewide—including $171 million in grants designed to provide every local community with the cash needed to keep families safe. About $18 million will help train local police officers, and another $10 million will boost up training programs for the Michigan State Police to deploy at agencies across the state. 

Another $10 million included in the budget is dedicated to hiring, training and retaining cops, firefighters, and EMTs in local communities, as well as upgrading their facilities and equipment. 

About $30 million was earmarked for new cameras along Detroit highways. And another $21 million was allocated to make improvements (and install more cameras) in state prisons.

In the wake of recent gun safety reforms, the state is also poised to invest about $7 million to create the Office of Community Violence Intervention Services to partner with community-based organizations that are already working to curb gun violence at the local level. Another $2.9 million is set to help the state implement a wide range of gun violence prevention policies.

A supplemental budget bill recently signed by Whitmer also included about $11 million geared toward helping communities continue to address gun violence for themselves. Most of that cash—about $8 million—will go out in grants to existing programs that are already in place.

More than $3 million will also go toward veteran housing and suicide prevention efforts.

Public Health

The latest budget focused hundreds of millions of dollars on the health of Michigan families.

About $157 million will be used to increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid services amid an effort to improve access to necessary health care. Another $140 million will be used to increase wages for direct care workers and others assisting those with disabilities and seniors at home.

More than $106 million will go out to local communities in the form of neighborhood health grants and mobile health clinics, as well as through a new initiative to support pregnant women, new mothers, and infants. Another $6.2 million will expand access to family planning services and cancer screenings—saving 25,000 Michiganders an average of about $2,000 a year. 

“Michigan can be the best place to choose to have and raise a baby,” said Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health. “Ensuring healthy moms and healthy babies is part of our mission and we are very grateful to have leaders who commit to the services and supports that will reduce inequities and improve outcomes.” 

Another $10 million is set to create a new foster care respite program to provide temporary and occasional relief to foster parents, and $4.9 million was earmarked for programs to boost access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Local health departments will also see their budgets increase.

Cash for a Rainy Day

The budget passed this week by the state legislature also deposited $200 million into Michigan’s Budget Stabilization Fund—otherwise known as the state’s “Rainy Day Fund”—which essentially serves as a state government safety net for unforeseen future economic conditions. 

That would bring the balance to an all-time high of nearly $2 billion in 2024.

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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