Michigan Senate passes $20 billion School Aid budget bill

By Michigan Advance

May 16, 2024

BY KYLE DAVIDSON, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—The Democratic-led Michigan Senate has passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2025 state budget after voting on Wednesday the final bill in the proposal.

While the Senate passed the majority of its budget bills last week, and five additional bills yesterday, the School Aid Fund—Senate Bill 751—was the sole proposal left for a vote, passing the Senate along party lines in a 20-16 margin, with Sens. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) and John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) excused from attendance.

Although Republicans offered a number of amendments, including proposals on cyber-school funding, school safety appropriations and incentives to institute no-phone policies, 12 of the 13 amendments proposed were defeated, with another withdrawn.

Democrats did adopt one amendment to the School Aid budget, offered by the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), that clarified some of the language included in the bill.

The House approved its own $80.9 billion budget proposal on May 9. The proposal includes slightly more funding than Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed $80.7 billion budget. The Senate’s version of the budget totals more than $81.9 billion.

While Whitmer proposed roughly $20.6 billion for School Aid, the Senate Bills contain $20.3 billion in funding, compared to the $20.5 billion for School Aid passed by the House last week.

The Legislature has until July 1 to pass a new state budget; however there is no penalty if lawmakers fail to meet the deadline. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The Senate and House will negotiate the difference between their budget proposals in conference committee before the budget is returned for a final vote in both chambers before heading to the governor’s desk for her signature.

After the vote to pass the School Aid bill, Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) offered an explanation for his opposition to the budget bills passed by the Senate in recent weeks, with Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) concurring.

Nesbitt accused Democrats of failing to help working families and properly support schools and infrastructure. He also criticized Democrats for blowing through the state’s $9.2 billion budget surplus which mostly consisted of federal funding from COVID-19 relief. The budget for Fiscal Year 2025 will draw from a $418 million surplus, as determined by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference scheduled on Friday.

“It took less than two years for this governor and this Democratic majority to break the bank, and they have nothing to show for it,” Nesbitt said. “Surprise, surprise, it takes more than corporate welfare and [Diversity Equity and Inclusion] training to improve our state’s economy.”

“This budget and the process the past year and a half has been an insult to taxpayers and a gigantic waste of their money. They deserve better,” Nesbitt said.

Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed highlights of the Senate’s budget proposal and called on members of the chamber to commit to finalizing the budget in a bipartisan manner.

“This budget fosters the growth of our people and creates opportunity for all Michiganders, regardless of their race, their zip code, their gender and how much money they bring home every week. This budget builds on a strong foundation we began last fiscal year and adds innovative proposals that addresses the complex challenges facing the hardworking people of Michigan,” Anthony said.

“I’ve appreciated the passion from some of our Republican colleagues and I’m eager to engage in an open meaningful conversation with any and everyone that’s interested in finding solutions that build up the people of our state. Colleagues, as we move forward in the next steps of this process, let’s commit to a civil, collaborative tone,” Anthony said.

While Whitmer’s FY 2025 budget request includes funding for free pre-K and community college, Anthony and Camilleri said the Senate took a different approach from the governor’s proposals.

“It’s one thing for us to say we want to do Universal Community College, but the devil’s in the details in terms of how we make sure that every student—regardless of whether you’re in district, out of a community college district—that you have money to make college more affordable,” Anthony said.

Under the Senate’s proposal, tuition aid for community colleges would differ depending on a student’s residency. Students attending a community college in the district where they live could receive full tuition coverage, but may not receive full coverage if they attend a college outside of that district.

When looking at schools, one of the biggest differences between the Governor’s budget proposal and the Senate’s is how universal pre-k is handled, said Camilleri who chairs the Senate Appropriations Pre-K-12 Subcommittee.

“We are hoping to get to pre-K for all at one point in the future. However, the difference is that we’re taking a more measured approach, increasing it to a different poverty threshold and allowing our schools and communities, organizations to really online more classrooms to allow for—once we open up the opportunity for all Michigan residents—we will have enough slots, classrooms, teachers available in the pipeline,” Camilleri said.

According to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, this proposal would increase eligibility for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness program—which provides pre-K for four-year-olds—to 400% of the federal poverty level.

Democrats also touted investments into student loan assistance for teachers and a 3.1% increase in per-pupil funding for K-12, allocating $9,910 per student.

READ MORE: Michigan lawmakers look to break (another) state funding record for public schools

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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