Michigan House OKs budget that cuts Detroit aid

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
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Lansing — The Michigan House on Tuesday passed a $37.8 billion general government spending plan that slashes state revenue sharing for Detroit by $4.1 million — four months after Michigan's largest city emerged from bankruptcy.

On a 59-51 vote, the Republican-controlled House approved the omnibus budget, which includes about $8.1 billion in state general fund spending.

House Republicans rejected a Democratic amendment to adopt Gov. Rick Snyder's recommended $1.7 million increase in funding for Detroit's city operations.

The House GOP plan reduces Detroit's $195.7 million funding an extra $4.1 million and redistributes $5.8 million to 101 small cities, villages and townships across the state.

Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, said Detroit receives 55 percent of the state's statutory revenue sharing, while having 7 percent of Michigan's 9.9 million residents.

"The truth is, Detroit has been receiving a disproportionate piece of the pie for too long," said Cox, chairwoman of the House general government appropriations subcommittee.

Detroit receives $1 million more per square mile than Grand Rapids, the state's next largest city, Cox said.

"The numbers prove the system is flawed," Cox said of the state's tax revenue-sharing formula. "It has been catering to Detroit for way too long."

Rep. Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit, said targeting only his city for a cut "contradicts" the bipartisan cooperation lawmakers displayed last year when they pumped $195 million into Detroit's pension funds to help settle the city's bankruptcy.

"To reduce revenue sharing for the city of Detroit would be a step in the wrong direction," Durhal said.

Republicans rejected an amendment Durhal sponsored to restore the $5.8 million for Detroit by reducing the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s grants for business attraction.

"Members of our caucus have no ill will toward trying to set Detroit back, we want to see them thrive, and it's just all part of the process and how we're going to prioritize state spending," said House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant.

Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said the Republican-crafted budget had $6.3 million in unspent funds that could have been used to hold Detroit harmless from cuts.

"You had an opportunity to fully fund Detroit the way the governor did," Singh said. "What I see today is a departure from all of the hard work we did last year. ... My only hope is we can work with the Senate and the governor to rectify this wrong."

In late March, a Senate panel recommended giving Detroit the $1.7 million increase to $197.4 million in total revenue sharing for the 2016 fiscal year.

Senate Republicans don't plan to begin holding votes on their budget plans until next week, spokeswoman Amber McCann said Tuesday.

House Democrats and Republican sparred Tuesday over other areas in the budget, including a GOP amendment to block the flow of state funds to certain health care facilities that perform abortions.

Democrats claimed the spending plan is not balanced because Republicans budgeted for 475,000 Medicaid recipients in the "Healthy Michigan" plan, when enrollment is approaching 600,000 residents.

Democrats also sought amendments to the budget plan prohibiting spending on a new Senate office building, even though senators have already green-lighted that project separate from the state's annual operating budget.

"This chamber has decided to spend millions of dollars on legislative offices," said House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills. "That is outrageous, it is unconscionable."

Cotter said the Senate's desire to move into newer offices a block away from its existing office building is beyond his control.

"The Democrats are attempting to turn this into a political football," Cotter said.

Republican Reps. Todd Courser of Lapeer, Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell, Martin Howrylak of Troy and Joel Johnson of Clare joined 47 Democrats in voting "no" on the general government funding bill."

The House is planning to vote Wednesday on a $15.8 billion budget bill for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.

"Tomorrow we get a chance to spend the most money we've ever spent on kids and schools," said Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.


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Staff Writer Gary Heinlein contributed.

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