Legislature OKs $3.7B spending bills, extra $40M for school resource officers

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan House and Senate advanced two supplemental spending bills by overwhelming majorities Thursday aiming to push billions toward water infrastructure and millions toward law enforcement recruitment and retention. 

The supplemental spending bills make use of some state surplus money, but are largely drawn on the $10 billion in COVID federal relief funds that have yet to be appropriated by the Legislature. 

It's not clear how much more of the remaining COVID federal relief dollars will be appropriated before the end of the year. 

The Senate voted unanimously Thursday in support of a $3.3 billion water infrastructure spending bill that included $1 billion for the replacement of lead service lines across the state. The House voted 97-3 to pass a $368.5 million spending plan to aid recruitment and retention of law enforcement, first responders and corrections officers. 

"This is a historic opportunity," said Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newago. The funding, he said, will "make major improvements to preserve and protect Michigan's water quality, our infrastructure and our natural resources."

Rep. Mike Mueller, the Linden Republican who sponsored the House legislation, noted the law enforcement proposal has grown over recent months, from a proposed $80 million in May to $250 million last month, to the total adopted Thursday of $368 million. 

The House expanded the package by $40 million Thursday in part to allocate more money toward school resource officers in the wake of the Oxford High School shooting Tuesday. The amendment was offered by Rep. Gary Howell, R-Deerfield Twp., whose son is a teacher at Oxford High School. 

“Having resource officers working in schools builds relationships between police officers and students that wouldn’t otherwise occur,” Mueller said in a statement. “Officers become mentors and are seen as more relatable and approachable.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office on Thursday said the governor was focused on funding the "fundamentals," including the state's aging water infrastructure, law enforcement support and the state's labor shortage. 

"The governor just signed an historic budget that shows we can continue working together with the legislature to put Michiganders first," Whitmer's spokesman Bobby Leddy said. "Now’s the time to keep our foot on the gas to pass these proposals that we all agree on and get the job done.”

The Senate's infrastructure plan includes a $1 billion allocation toward lead service line replacement that is expected to be distributed over a few years and among communities across the state.

Other large expenditures in the Senate's budget include $650 million for a loan fund to reduce dam risk, $400 million for a drinking water program within the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy and another $400 million for the Great Lakes Water Authority for water supply improvements and changes needed after the summer's flooding.

Another $200 million would go toward clean water infrastructure grants, $100 million toward sewer and wastewater grants, and $100 million for PFAS remediation grants. 

The largest portion of the House's law enforcement spending bill includes about $57.5 million for Move to Michigan incentives, which are meant to attract out-of-state officers by allowing them to keep their retirement benefits if they move to Michigan.

About $40 million would go toward police academy scholarships; $30 million to communications equipment, including $4.8 million for Isabella County; $35 million to signing and retention bonuses; and $14 million for equipment purchases such as cameras and body armor. 

About $10 million each would go toward community policing, explorer or job shadow programs, reimbursement for unpaid COVID-19 quarantines and school resource officers. 

Another $7.5 million would go toward mental health assistance and $2.5 million for police dog grants.

The bill also would push $25 million to Macomb County to be used as a 50% match for the construction of a central intake assessment facility.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com