Contact legislators to support vital services in the FY 2015 state budget

 Full report in PDF

Both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate have passed budget bills for Fiscal Year 2015. The next step in the budget process, beginning June 5, is the resolution of differences between the House and Senate versions in joint House/Senate conference committees.

Legislative leaders had hoped to have the Fiscal Year 2015 budget done by the beginning of June, but were slowed down by several big-ticket legislative issues that could affect the amount of money available next year, including efforts to address crumbling roads and bridges in Michigan, the dedication of “rainy day” funds to help offset the statewide impact of Detroit’s bankruptcy, and the need to grapple with revenues that are significantly below estimates made in January.

Final spending targets for each of the major state departments will be finalized soon, and will likely be lower than those used by the House and the Senate in the budgets already passed. On May 15, state economists and fiscal experts agreed that combined state General Fund and School Aid Fund revenues will be $317 million lower than projected in January in the current fiscal year, and $299.1 million lower than originally projected for Fiscal Year 2015.

With lower revenues, it is likely that many of the governor’s and Legislature’s priorities—including some good investments in Michigan families, workers and the economy—are at risk, such as:

  • An increase in the K-12 public school foundation allowance. After per pupil reductions of $470 between Fiscal Year 2009, when they were at their peak, and Fiscal Year 2012, the governor and the Legislature are recommending small increases in Fiscal Year 2015. Since 2012, per pupil increases have been weighted toward districts receiving the minimum foundation allowance, yet under the governor’s proposal for Fiscal Year 2015, the minimum payment would still fall $129 below its peak, while the maximum payment would be $357 below its peak.1
  • A 3% increase in funding for Michigan’s 28 community colleges and nearly $77 million for a 6% increase for universities. While funding for community colleges has increased over the last decade along with enrollments, funding for universities declined by more than 19% between Fiscal Years 2004 and 2014.2
  • Adequate federal funding for Healthy Michigan Plan services. The House and Senate budgets agreed with the governor on funding for Healthy Michigan Plan services. Serious concern has been expressed by managed care organizations and Community Mental Health that the recommended funding is inadequate. Sufficient funding, which is 100% federal, is critical to the success of the program.
  • Adequate state funding for mental health services for those not eligible for Medicaid or Healthy Michigan Plan. The House agreed with the Executive Budget savings for mental health services that could be provided through the Healthy Michigan Plan. The Senate budget includes a $4.8 million increase in response to concerns that the savings estimates are too high.
  • An expansion of preschool for low-income children. Taking the governor’s lead, the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget include an expansion of the Great Start Readiness program by $65 million. With these funds, an additional 16,000 half-day slots would be available for at-risk 4-year-olds, increasing their school readiness and later life success. Access to a high quality early education has been shown to be a powerful tool in creating more equity in educational outcomes regardless of race, ethnicity and income.
  • Dental care for low-income children. The House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget include an increase in the Healthy Kids Dental program that would expand dental coverage to an additional 100,000 children, but still leave out more than 400,000 children in three of the most populated counties—Wayne, Oakland and Kent—that are home to many low-income children and children of color.
  • An increase of $1.5 million for the Tuition Incentive Program. The governor, House and Senate have so far supported an increase in the Tuition Incentive Program for low-income students. While there is universal agreement that a highly educated and skilled workforce is the key to Michigan’s economic growth, over the past decade, Michigan cut need-based grants and scholarships by 20%, while other states increased theirs by 84%.
  • Funding to continue increased payments to primary care providers. The House and Senate budgets include funding, in different amounts, to continue a portion of the payment increase for primary care providers to make sure there are enough primary care providers to care for newly eligible Healthy Michigan Plan enrollees, as well as continue to care for Medicaid recipients.
  • Funding to reduce waiting lists for services for seniors and those with disabilities. The House and Senate budgets include funding ($5 million) to restore previous cuts and help an estimated 4,500 seniors on waiting lists for home-delivered meals and in-home services, as well $9 million in state funds (drawing down $17.2 million in federal funds) to eliminate the waiting list for the MIChoice program that helps seniors and those with disabilities remain in their homes rather than move to nursing homes.
  • Expansion of prisoner education program. The Governor and House budgets include$4.3 million to expand vocational education and workforce re-entry instruction for parolees. The Senate budget does not include this funding. The additional funds would be used to hire five instructors and 15 employment counselors who would connect parolees to employers.

Now is the time to use your voice to ensure that funding for programs that support low- and moderate-income families is protected; and that the state invests in the health care, education and community services needed to grow the economy.

To help you engage in the budget debates, the League has produced a series of Budget Briefs that summarize the differences between the House and Senate budgets that will be negotiated by the legislative conferees. Also available is a list of the conferees and contact information.

 

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1 Mary Ann Cleary, and Bethany Wicksall, Changes in K-12 Funding, memorandum to: Members of the House Appropriations Committee (February 11, 2014).
2 Ellen Jeffries, State Spending for State Resources Appropriations Total Compared in Selected Budget Areas, State Budget Overview, Senate Fiscal Agency (May 27, 2014).