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 more.
LANSING—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week signed a $57 billion state budget centered on infrastructure, public safety, and public health in what marked the first opportunity in decades that Democrats have had to craft a budget that reflects their legislative priorities in Michigan.
The state’s highest-ever budget—nearly $82 billion when combined with more than $24 billion in school funding that Whitmer signed July 20—was passed by the Legislature in late June after Democrats garnered enough Republican support for it to take effect by the next fiscal year.
The spending plan includes several investments that are designed to cut costs for Michiganders on healthcare, preschool, meals for kids, higher education, housing, and workforce training. It also focuses heavily on public safety and infrastructure, including fixing more roads and bridges.
Democrats are calling it a “budget for the people.” Whitmer said it’ll help to grow the economy, lower costs, deliver on kitchen-table issues, and ultimately help anyone “Make it in Michigan.”
“The budget protects public safety and improves access to health care, ensuring people feel safe in their neighborhood and have access to quality, affordable care that meets their needs,” Whitmer said in a statement on Tuesday. “It also supports our service members and veterans, connecting them and their families with the resources they deserve, and will build up all kinds of infrastructure so every family has safe roads, clean water, and affordable housing.”
Here’s are six ways the latest state budget is investing in Michigan:
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.
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.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were earmarked to help accelerate a statewide transition to clean energy and boost up Michigan’s infrastructure—including more funding to fix the damn roads.
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, which promises to help shore up the state’s power grid with a safe (and carbon-free) source of energy.
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 summer, 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.
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.
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 a former county prosecutor, public safety has long been touted as a top priority of Whitmer’s —especially on the campaign trail as she pursued a second term. Now nearly nine months past Election Day, that focus on safety is clearly reflected in the state budget.
More than $400 million is earmarked for various public safety efforts statewide—including $172 million in grants that will go to local law enforcement agencies. About $18 million will also 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 $11 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. And $14 million is set to make improvements (and install more cameras) in state prisons.
In the wake of recent gun safety reforms, the state is also investing 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.
The latest budget focused hundreds of millions of dollars on the health of Michigan families.
About $151 million has been earmarked for increasing reimbursement rates for Medicaid services amid an effort to lower costs and improve access to necessary health care. Another $106 million will go to local communities in the form of neighborhood health grants and mobile health clinics, as well as a new initiative to support pregnant women, new mothers, and infants.
Another $6.2 million will also expand access to family planning services and cancer screenings—saving 25,000 Michiganders an average of about $2,000 a year. And $140 million will be used to increase wages for direct care workers and others who assist patients at home.
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
Michigan’s current budget is $76 billion, but lawmakers began the budget process in February with an estimated surplus of over $9 billion because of high tax revenues. The new budget will leave about $300 million in general fund and $100 million in school aid fund dollars left unspent.
The budget signed this week by Whitmer 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.
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