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Senate passes book-closing bills

Henryk Sadura Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

The Michigan Senate passed spending bills totaling about $220 million Wednesday to close the books on the last fiscal year. One deals with general government spending. The other deals with education.

Similar legislation came up last month, but lawmakers adjourned for the session without getting it across the finish line. That left budgets for state departments like Health and Human Services and Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy unfinished.

Democratic Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) chairs her chamber’s Appropriations Committee. She said lawmakers had to get this done so they can focus on writing the state’s next budget.

“There’s no large amounts of spending. This isn’t something that should be alarming to taxpayers. Anyone who understands basic budgeting knows that you’ve sometimes just got to close your books,” Anthony said.

The bills represented the first policy votes of the current legislative term, and they passed the Senate along party line votes, with Republicans raising concerns about how quickly they moved.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp) said his caucus expected the bills to contain placeholder dollar amounts instead of actual appropriations.

“These were shell bills yesterday,” Nesbitt said. “The word was yesterday these were going to pass as shell bills. And so, they added in some items this morning and so this is the first step in the process. And my hope is that over the next week or two weeks that we negotiate it.”

Anthony said she did notify her Appropriations Committee minority Vice Chair Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon) of the plan Tuesday.

“I think folks need to work out their own politics but I’m here to govern and not throw shots and throw shade. That’s just not my style. I am going to be upstairs busy getting to work,” Anthony said when asked her thoughts on starting the year off on party line votes.

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where a spokesperson for the chamber's Democratic leadership says there isn’t a set timeline for getting the year-end book-closing done.

Meanwhile, one source of outside pressure comes from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. It crafted the state's new legislative names, but has spent months seeking money to fund a legal defense of them after being left out of the current budget.

The commission initiated its own lawsuit last year seeking around $3 million to pay for its legal fees.

The Senate bill passed Wednesday puts up $1.5 million for the commission.