Whitmer, GOP leaders lay out restored funding priorities in 'productive' meeting
Lansing —Republican legislative leaders reported a "productive conversation" with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday morning about where to restore spending following her $947 million in veto cuts.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake plan to meet with Whitmer again Tuesday and declined to give further details on the Thursday meeting.
"Right now, I'm focused on just the next meeting," Shirkey told reporters.
The meeting occurred two days after the GOP-led Legislature introduced more than $260 million in supplemental spending through 23 bills that would restore some of the services cut when Whitmer issued 147 vetoes last week. Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, introduced a 24th supplemental bill Thursday that appears to seek the restoration of roughly $7 million to isolated school districts.
Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, introduced two supplemental spending bills Thursday totaling $475 million. Some of the money would finance spending priorities in Whitmer's budget plan that the Legislature discarded, and the rest would be for programs that the Democratic governor vetoed or was transferred last week within a department's budget.
Hertel developed the spending proposals with Whitmer's office.
"It's an attempt to actually start real conversations and show that the governor's willing to negotiate," the two-term senator said.
Whitmer will meet with Legislators again on Tuesday to discuss the way forward toward a new supplemental. The negotiations follow the governor's drastic vetoes of nearly $1 billion in program funding and the transfer of $625 million within state departments through State Administrative Board transfer, a technique that hasn't been used since former Republican Gov. John Engler was in office in the early 90s.
The use of the State Administrative Board to transfer funds within departments ruffled feathers within the Republican majority. Last week on WKAR's "Off The Record," Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, said he didn't think it was appropriate for Whitmer or Engler to use the board for department budget transfers.
"I say they're probably both wrong," he said. "But right or wrong, it exists."
When asked whether supplemental negotiations would include demands that Whitmer abandon the transfer technique going forward or support legislation to stop future use of it, Shirkey's spokeswoman Amber McCann said "all options are on the table."
Hertel's supplemental would restore $1 million for the Autism Navigator, as well as full or partial funding for rural hospital rate increases, secondary road patrols in rural communities and county veteran services.
Hertel’s plan would designate $25.1 million for the Department of Corrections, $241.5 million for the Department of Health and Human Services, $2.1 million for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, an additional $2 million for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, $11 million for secondary road patrols in the state police budget and $73.2 million for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
A separate supplemental from Hertel would increase education funding $120.5 million, including an extra $10.5 million for literacy coaches and $110 million for the Michigan Reconnect Program, a Whitmer initiative that would help pay for community college.
The GOP’s 23 supplemental spending bills would restore some of the more controversial vetoes, including $1 million for an autism program, $35 million for $240-per-pupil increases for charter schools 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 current $58.9 billion fiscal year 2020 budget is about 3% larger than last year’s budget, which totaled $57.2 billion after a $1.2 billion supplemental was adopted in December.