House Democrats ask for vote on Whitmer's $5 billion spending plan

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Michigan House Democrats have asked the Republican majority to hold a vote on their nearly $5.7 billion pandemic recovery plan, which is almost identical to a spending plan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduced in January. 

The request comes a week after House Republican unveiled a $3.5 billion spending plan that countered the governor's proposal and tied $2.1 billion in education relief to conditions that would move school closure and student sports decisions from Whitmer to local health departments confined by certain benchmarks.

House Democrats decried the GOP plan Monday and urged the Republican-led Legislature to move quickly to disperse funding, the majority of which comes from a December congressional stimulus package allocated to the state. 

"Not a single Michigander is being helped by their tax dollars that have already been paid, have already been remitted to the federal government, (and) are waiting to come back here," said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski. "Many of these dollars are use it or lose it.”

Jason Wentworth (R) addresses his collegues as Speaker of The House as the Michigan Legislature holds its first of the 101st session at the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

House Appropriations Chairman Thomas Albert criticized the Democratic plan, noting it had some of the same elements as the House Republican supplemental without oversight of the money, with less support for small businesses and without demanding schools resume in-person classes.

"It’s mostly carrying water for the governor and getting her plan introduced in the Legislature — and that plan simply is not good enough for our kids, families or job providers," said Rep. Albert, R-Lowell. 

The House Democratic plan, introduced by Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, includes $2.1 billion for food assistance, $2 billion for public schools, $661 million for rental and utility assistance, $575 million to expand COVID testing and tracing, $270 million for small business help and $90 million for vaccine distribution. 

The legislation also would extend unemployment assistance from 20 to 26 weeks. 

"It hasn’t been easy for these and other small business owners across Michigan," Tate said. "In many cases, business owners have sacrificed profits to follow the advice from public health experts on how to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.”

It wasn't immediately clear what chance House Democrats had of getting the legislation considered during the House Appropriations Committee or getting a vote on the House floor. 

Lasinski said the plan does not tie bar or "tie the hands" of anyone making local or state health decisions, as the Republican plan would.

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