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Senate advances budget bills for several state departments

Budget tiles
Simon Cunningham

The Michigan Senate advanced the bulk of its budget proposals for various state departments Tuesday.

Those include funding plans for higher learning, general government spending, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) chairs the Appropriations Committee. Before the votes, he highlighted four parts of the proposals.

“Record funding for K-12. A scholarship program to help our children, higher ed, community colleges, trade schools and to reduce their debt. Cutting taxes for Michigan families. Paying down long-term debt for our state,” Stamas said from the Senate floor.

Some of the final proposals cut back on recommendations Gov. Whitmer made in her executive budget.

In response, senate Democrats introduced close to 30 amendments to increase some spending areas.

Most of them were not successful. For example, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) proposed a $25 million appropriation to the Post Acute Care Auto Injury Provider Relief Fund to help providers for the catastrophically injured. She argued requirements in a previous supplemental bill were so strict the fund was not useful.

“Unfortunately, this money has not necessarily gone out to providers even though the industry notes that more than 100 of them have gone out of business or stopped accepting auto accident patients,” Chang said.

Many Democratic proposals met opposition from Republican appropriations subcommittee chairs. They often reasoned the proposals needed to be more fiscally responsible in the current stage of negotiations or that more discussions were needed.

“This is one step in the budget process. I’m more than happy to talk through this proposal as we move through the negotiations and along with the House and administration,” Sen. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) said while urging a no vote on a proposed amendment from Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit).

Some Democratic-sponsored amendments did make it through, however.

Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) got $2.5 million for the state’s Tri-Share Child Care program added into the proposed Department of Labor and Economic Development budget.

Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) secured $140 million for local rail grade separation. Meanwhile, Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) got placeholder appropriation amounts put in for the construction of veteran’s homes in Detroit and Marquette.

Many of the spending bills passed along close to party-line votes.

A few, like transportation and higher education items received broader bipartisan support. That’s without adding back in Democratic priorities like the Chavez-King-Parks program.

Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Niles) said the increases in the higher education budget aims to expand Michigan’s workforce.

“Enrollment declines means that there will be fewer people to fill job vacancies requiring credentialed workers. This budget recognizes that by making post secondary degrees more accessible and affordable,” LaSata said.

In all, the Senate sent 14 of 17 different budget bills to the House of Representatives during the hours-long session Tuesday.

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said he wished the process was going more quickly.

“Schools need to know at the end of the day what their budgets are going to look like next year. Cities do as well. Last year, we went well past the deadline. I’m hoping we actually meet the deadline that’s in the statute this year,” Hertel told reporters after session.

The Senate could take up its spending proposals for school aid and the state Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Wednesday.