GOP seeks to restore $260M in Whitmer's cuts covering charter school, hospital, autism aid
Lansing — Republicans paved the way Tuesday for introducing roughly $260 million in supplemental spending bills, seeking to reverse cuts by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to charter schools, rural hospital grants and an autism program.
The 23 supplemental spending bills introduced in the Senate and House largely address some of the most controversial cuts Whitmer made last week through 147 line-item budget vetoes.
The bill introductions — coupled with moves preparing for potential veto overrides — are being floated in case House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, are unable to reach consensus on a way forward with Whitmer during a Thursday meeting.
While last week's quadrant meeting with the governor focused largely on policy, this week's gathering with legislative leaders is expected to focus on the budget, said Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann.
"The objective is to keep all options on the table, including options like veto overrides" and restoration of vetoed funding through supplemental spending bills, McCann said.
On Thursday, the governor expects to introduce her own supplemental bill, which she's been working on with Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing.
The Whitmer-backed supplemental is likely to include funding for roughly 4,000 new monitors for parolees, educational programs in state prisons, stronger cyber security and more literacy coaches, according to Whitmer's office.
"If the Legislature wants to protect people, the governor is more than happy to negotiate on their priorities," according to a Whitmer office statement.
The supplemental bills introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, Tuesday total $257 million, including the restoration of $1 million for an autism program, $35 million for $240-per-pupil increases for charter school students and $15 million for summer school literacy programs targeted at third graders who don't score "proficient" on state reading tests. A $15 million PFAS and emerging contaminants grant for municipal airports also is back.
The legislation further seeks to restore funding for rural hospital grants, rural policing grants, county veterans services, opioid response grants, school security grants, state tuition grants and payments in lieu of taxes the state makes in communities containing state-owned land.
The House bills introduced Tuesday largely duplicate those in Senate, with the exception of an additional House bill to restore $7 million in funding for isolated school districts, which is expected to be introduced Thursday.
The proposed restoration of isolated school district funding will be the only supplemental bill sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette.
House Democratic Leader Christine Greig of Farmington Hills and Sen. Hertel expressed optimism Tuesday that the supplemental bills would advance negotiations with Whitmer, but said they would not support a veto override.
"We're focused on the supplementals right now and talking to our Republican colleagues and making sure that we have the budget that we need," Greig said.
Hertel continues to work on drafting a supplemental bill that would restore funding for which Whitmer has advocated.
"I’m glad they put a list of priorities on the table," Hertel said. "The governor’s done the same, and I think its time for everyone to get back in the room and start negotiating."
Whitmer's supplemental funding priorities largely were not addressed in the legislation in part because the governor set general priorities without giving much in the way of specifics, McCann said.
"We're being very narrow with some of our choices" to limit damage from any veto Whitmer might use, she said.
"Also, the governor has been using her authority to move money around via the State Administrative Board so we want to be very clear about what we're restoring and whether or not she supports it," McCann said.
When asked whether the Legislature would consider sending back items through supplemental bills that had been line-item vetoed, the Senate majority leader's spokeswoman responded: "Give her a second bite of the apple to take money away from autistic therapy? Anything is possible."
Republican leaders are also considering re-referring signed budget bills back to committee for possible veto overrides. The bills have been kept on the chamber floors since Whitmer's signing of them last week.
Overrides require a two-thirds support in each chamber, meaning Republican lawmakers would need to convince some of their Democratic counterparts to back the overrides.
The Senate did not re-refer those bills Tuesday, but the House did so at the end of their Tuesday session. The chambers will not meet Wednesday in observance of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
The emerging plans come roughly a week after the Democratic governor slashed $947 million through the line-item vetoes, ruled 72 items "unenforceable" and transferred $625 million within departments. The result was a $58.95 billion budget, down from the $59.9 billion plan approved by the Legislature and from the $60.2 billion original Whitmer blueprint.
Funding shortages for programs cut through vetoes could be felt by the end of the month, McCann said.
"We don't want the governor's actions to have an unintended consequence and effect on their most vulnerable populations," she said. "We want to make sure we have all options at the ready should we decide to move forward with this funding restoration."
Among those vetoes not addressed by the Legislature's supplemental bills were $14.8 million to county jails, $37.5 million for the Pure Michigan campaign and $37.2 million for the Going Pro skilled work training program.
Other vetoesaddressed by the Legislature's supplemental bills included $24 million for rural hospitals, $95 million in increased Medicaid reimbursements to rural hospitals, $4 million for county veterans services and $10 million for school emergency phone system grants.
But it was the governor’s $1 million in cuts to the Autism Navigator — a program that serves as the "glue" between individuals with autism and their case management plans and service providers, according to supporters — that received heightened attention last week.