$54B budget OK’d with roads boost, cut to economic aid

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a $54.5 billion state budget next year that dedicates $400 million in general revenue to road repairs and delivers an 11 percent cut to state spending on economic development.

The $38.7 billion omnibus budget bill for all areas of state government, except education, spends about $8.6 billion in general tax revenue, with the rest coming from federal or restricted sources. Among the programs funded was an expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental Plan to Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties so low-income children up to 12 throughout the state can get dental care.

The 2016 fiscal year budget blueprint was approved on a 70-39 afternoon vote of the House, which also sent the Senate a $15.8 billion spending plan for K-12 schools, community colleges and Michigan’s 15 public universities. The Senate also approved the education package.

“The additional $278.9 million investment in the state’s priorities tops a budget that makes the most of every hard-earned taxpayer dollar,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville. “You’re going to see more construction crews out there. You’re going to see schools with access to healthy funding.”

The budget bills go to Gov. Rick Snyder for his consideration.

The Senate voted 22-16 on the general government budget bill as five Republican senators joined the 11 Democrats in voting no. The Republican “no” votes were Sens. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township, Judy Emmons of Sheridan, Joe Hune of Hamburg Township, Phil Pavlov of St. Clair Township and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights.

Upset with budget-busting business tax credits, lawmakers made targeted reductions to the state agency responsible for the subsidies. The budget plan reduces general fund spending on the Michigan Economic Development by $24.1 million — an 11 percent decrease — to $198.5 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Subsidies for film production were reduced from $38 million this year to $25 million in 2016 — with $19 million going to help the state retirement systems retire a bond debt obligation for a Pontiac film studio and $6 million left for incentives. Lawmakers also are trimming the MEDC’s business development fund by $16 million, leaving the agency with less money to lure companies and jobs to Michigan or expand operations.

The grant-based program replaced Michigan’s business tax credits, which Snyder and lawmakers began phasing out in 2011.

Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, said reductions in spending at the Department of Human and Health Services would lead to the elimination of 233 welfare case workers.

“With our citizens in need and our workers overburdened, we should be increasing staff, not the other way around,” Gregory said.

House Democratic opponents complained that the spending plan will shutter the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School at Whitmore Lake and inadequately address the state’s $1.2-billion road repair shortfall.

Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said closing of the state’s Maxey center for juvenile offenders between ages 12 and 21 is a “huge mistake” that will send juveniles to alternative programs “that already have failed them.”