Legislature reverses $82.3M transferred by Whitmer as part of budget deal

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The state House and Senate appropriations committees on Wednesday reversed roughly $82.3 million of the $625 million in interdepartmental transfers Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made in early October. 

Legislative leaders expect more of the remaining $542.7 million in transferred money to be restored later after further negotiations with Whitmer's office. 

"This was just the beginning of the conversation on the transfers," said Rep. Shane Hernandez, the Port Huron Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. "These were areas where we thought we could come to an agreement while discussing this initial supplemental.”

The legislative transfers will proceed to the State Budget Office, where they are expected to be accepted as part of a budget deal between Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature. 

The Legislature cemented that deal Tuesday by approving supplemental spending bills that would restore $573.5 million to items vetoed by Whitmer as well as some of the governor's funding priorities that weren't included in the Legislature's budget. 

The funding bills included boilerplate language that would allow the Legislature to reverse any future transfers through the State Administrative Board this budget cycle that ends in late September 2020. 

The Legislature reversed Wednesday $61.6 million in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to provide for adult foster care and camps regulation, childcare regulation, health facilities regulation and the nurse aide program.

The transfer reversals would restore another $3.9 million to the food and agriculture investment program in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and $299,800 to study wildlife and fisheries and improve deer habitats in the Department of Natural Resources. 

The chambers also reversed $16.3 million to the Department of Transportation to restore some funding for Michigan roads and bridges, airfleet operations, a Soo Locks project and marine passenger service. 

As part of the budget deal, the Legislature also passed Tuesday a bill that would require the governor to provide the Legislature with 30 days' notice of planned budget transfers via the State Administrative Board and require the Legislature to provide the governor with a budget proposal by July 1.

Two other bills would allow the Michigan Office of Auditor General access to certain executive records during audits, legislation that arose from delays by state departments concerned about handing over documents they consider confidential.

All of the bills passed Tuesday await the governor's signature. 

The $114.5 million supplemental spending bill for education and the $459 million general government supplemental would restore 27 of the 147 items vetoed Oct. 1 by the governor.

Among the restored spending are funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant, an aid increase for charter schools, summer school literacy interventions, early literacy coaches, isolated school districts, county jail reimbursements, rural hospitals, an autism support program, opioid response programs, secondary road patrols and payments made in lieu of taxes to communities contained state-owned land.

The supplementals contain funding requested by Whitmer, including money for new prison officers, tether replacements for parolees, the implementation of the Medicaid expansion work requirement, the implementation of no-fault auto insurance reform, 2020 Census activities and the independent citizens redistricting commission.

Items that remain vetoed even after the supplementals include funding for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign and the skilled worker training program Going Pro.