LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday finished approving subcommittee appropriations budgets, which brings the fiscal year 2022 budget one step closer to completion as lawmakers continue hashing out the final details.
“We’ve been working hard the last several months to mitigate the damage left in the wake of COVID-19,” said Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes. “We cut a lot of spending from the budget as a way to tighten our belts and I think we are in a good place financially as we continue to manage the uncertainties of the pandemic and our future.”
The plan would invest $15.8 billion in K-12 education, a total increase of $249 million. The bill increases per-pupil payments for students and includes additional funding to help schools deal with side effects of this pandemic, including the growing mental health issues among young people.
The Senate increased funding beyond the governor’s recommendations to support a permanent wage increase of $2.35 per hour for direct care workers. The Senate proposal would also fund a $2 per hour increase for front-line workers employed by child-caring institutions.
“Health care workers have really stood up over the last year, despite outbreaks, staff shortages, and other issues affecting the industry,” Outman said. “Even when they were stretched thin, these folks showed up to work to care for the sick. I think they deserve this and then some.”
Transportation funding also remained a priority for the Senate. In an effort to continue the overhaul of Michigan’s crumbling roads, the Senate dedicated more resources for state road and bridge construction and $2.2 billion for local transportation infrastructure projects.
Outman also joined lawmakers in calling for the secretary of state and unemployment offices to be opened as well.
“These offices have had their doors closed for over a year and it’s causing nothing but problems for the people both agencies are supposed to be serving,” Outman said. “People are waiting months to transfer a title and countless eligible recipients are being denied benefits as the UIA shells out billions in fraudulent payments. Opening these offices, at least in part, could have prevented the fraud plaguing the UIA and eliminate the logjam in service we are seeing with both departments.”
Other measures included in the budget are money for local health departments to maintain their ongoing efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic; more revenue sharing funding for local governments; funding to restore Gov. Whitmer’s cuts to the Animal Agriculture Initiative, which assists farmers and ensures food safety; money to train 120 new Michigan State Police Troopers, including resources for de-escalation techniques; funding for grants to help struggling veterans with expenses; and $77 million to assist with child care costs for struggling Michigan families.
“Our central focus is getting our state back to normal,” Outman said. “We’re working to continue getting relief to those in need, funding important measures, and furthering our resurgence from COVID-19 — all without raising taxes.”
SBs 77 and 79-94 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration