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Political Roundup: Lessons learned from privatizing prison food service

Dave Nakayama
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The big news out of Lansing this week was Governor Rick Snyder’s eighth and final budget. His proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2019 is $56.8 billion, a slight increase from 2018’s budget.

Vicki Barnett, former mayor of Farmington Hills and Democratic legislator, and Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and former Republican legislative leader, joined Stateside to talk about the budget proposal. 

Listen above for the full conversation, or read highlights below.

On Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal

Three areas stood out to Barnett. The first was increased spending on K-12 education. The second was “a lot more money for roads, approaching almost $1 billion for this year,” which, Barnett added, “is just a drop in the bucket compared to our needs.” And third, Barnett said, was a proposal “to increase landfill dumping fees and an up to $5 per year phased-in fee on water bills for water customers.”

Both Barnett and Sikkema see the last issue as a “heavy lift” due to the fee increases. Nonetheless, Sikkema said, “the need for environmental cleanup of contaminated sites around the state and the need to improve drinking water infrastructure isn’t going away, and it will cost money.”

On changes to the Department of Corrections Budget

“Lansing is finally getting some control on that budget,” Sikkema said. The Department of Corrections recently announced it will close a prison in Muskegon, due in large part, he said, to a reduction in Michigan’s statewide prison population, which “is below 40,000 now for the first time in 25 years.”

That budget will also see the removal of privately contracted prison food providers. The privatization of these services, Barnett said, has been problematic from the beginning. In general, she said, “privatization is not the be all and end all of everything.”

Despite this failure, Sikkema said, “it doesn’t mean that the desire for privatization of some state services is going to go away.”  

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