Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal Thursday, which clocks in at a whopping $61.9 billion.
That’s a 5.8 percent increase from the budget for the current fiscal year.
“This budget plan makes another strong investment in K-12 schools, with increased funding in the per-pupil allowance, special education, and at-risk youth. The goal remains giving every child a path to a high wage skill for a better life for themselves right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a letter announcing her proposal.
She touted the budget’s “strong emphasis on education,” which is reflected through a “preschool expansion and rate increase, training for literacy coaches, and supplies for educators.”
Overall, Whitmer has recommended $15.9 billion in total funding for public k-12 schools, a 4.9 percent increase from the current budget year. For higher education, Whitmer recommended $1.7 billion for the state’s 15 public universities, including $38.1 million in additional university operations funding, a 2.5 percent increase.
Her budget also calls for $35 million to develop a new “Michigan Reconnect Grant program,” which would provide grants for “non-traditional students seeking training toward in demand industry certifications or credentials.”
Whitmer wants to use another $10 million to establish a student loan refinancing program. According to her budget proposal, the program would “enable a qualified individual to refinance up to $50,000 of his or her student loans through the Michigan Department of Treasury with a new lower interest rate.”
“The program will be open to individuals with federal and nonfederal student loans used to pay expenses at a Michigan institution of higher education, who have resided in Michigan for at least 12 months, and have been making regular payments on those loans for at least 3 years,” states the proposal.
The governor’s budget proposal emphasizes support for clean environment initiatives, such as a $40 million request for “local climate resilient infrastructure grants” that would support “green infrastructure projects.”
“Top priorities include providing resources for decreasing phosphorous runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin, providing cooperative support of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to help prevent the spread of invasive species like Asian Carp, implementing grants that will protect local communities from the negative impacts of climate change, improving the energy efficiency of state facilities, implementing the Michigan Saves green bank to encourage lenders to provide favorable rates to private residents for renewable energy improvements, and funding abatement activities at contaminated properties,” the proposal elaborates.
Whitmer’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget proposal calls for $27 billion in ongoing funding and $128.3 million in one-time funding. That money would be used to fund programs such as “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies,” a $37.5 million initiative to “reduce infant mortality rates and racial disparities in birth outcomes through expanded maternal and reproductive health services and home visiting programs.”
Several outlets noted that the governor’s budget proposal makes little mention of funding for local roads, despite her campaign pledge to “fix the damn roads.”
She did, however, receive approval from the State Transportation Committee for her plan to use $3.5 billion in road funding through state road bonds. This plan allows her to fix state roads (not local) without the approval of the Legislature and without having to increase the gas tax.
“While I am proud of the investments in this Executive Budget, there is still so much more that needs to be done for the people of Michigan,” Whitmer said in her letter. “With a General Fund that has been flat for more than 20 years, accompanied by numerous spending pressures, a range of important state and local programs remain underfunded. Despite these revenue challenges, this budget maximizes our resources and invests in programs and policies that will have a positive impact.”
Whitmer and the Republican-controlled legislature have until October 1 to agree on a budget in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Her full budget proposal can be viewed here.
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