Highlights and upcoming challenges in state budget

Added May 3rd, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

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We are likely in the last month of the state budget process and there are many issues of great importance to our state’s most vulnerable residents still to be decided. The League is fighting hard for those who have not experienced the economic comeback. Our voice, and your voice, are so important.

As we have highlighted in the past few months, Governor Rick Snyder’s budget recommendation included a number of the League’s priorities. We need to ensure that those recommendations end up in the final budget.

MI Capitol and MI FlagInitially some of the budget bills passed out by the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees had left much to be desired and missed the mark on many of our top priorities. But negotiations continued and lawmakers ended up including some important funding increases in the budget bills that have been passed out of the House and Senate Appropriations committees and sent to the floor.

The House and Senate budget bills both include $6.8 million in funding necessary to fix the “Heat and Eat” issue, leveraging millions of dollars in federal funding and extending food assistance to 338,000 kids, families, seniors and persons with disabilities.

The House and Senate budgets also included funding for Double Up Food Bucks in Flint that will enable Bridge Card recipients to receive a matching amount (up to $20 per day) when they use their food assistance benefits to buy Michigan-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. In general, urban residents in Michigan have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. But healthy foods are even more essential in Flint because the nutrients in fresh produce help counteract the impacts of lead exposure.

Education is another focus of ours, especially increasing necessary funding for at-risk students. The governor proposed a $150 million increase to at-risk funding, and the House budget passed out of committee included the same. The Senate education budget included $100 million for at-risk funding.

The League also supports payment increases for child care providers, as well as a boost in income eligibility levels. The House agreed with the governor to include $27.2 million for rate increases for child care providers, while the Senate provided $23.8 million for increased child care provider rates and $5.8 million to increase the income eligibility threshold from 125% to 130% of poverty.

Protecting the Healthy Michigan Plan is another top priority for the League, at the federal level and in the state budget. Both the House and Senate budgets continued funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan.

The League continues to push for increased funding in the Department of Health and Human Services budget to support kids and families in need, and the House and Senate budgets differ on several line items that we will be weighing in on in conference committees, including increasing the annual clothing allowance for children in families that receive cash assistance from the Family Independence Program.

The House and Senate budget bills are still disconcerting in many areas, especially when compared with the governor’s budget proposal. With state revenues stable for the time-being, the governor’s budget sought to counter the years of cuts and disinvestments to many programs. But the House and Senate did not follow suit. The House’s drastic cuts to the governor’s proposed budget are especially frustrating, as they are likely being done to help pay for a meaningless state income tax cut that has already failed once.

The Legislature raided unemployment funds to supplant General Fund dollars for job training programs—with much of that money coming from workers who were falsely accused of committing fraud in the first place. The House and Senate budget bills increased the amount of money that is being diverted from the School Aid Fund and K-12 schools to postsecondary education, and failed to increase funding for adult education that enables workers to complete high school. The House also cut the governor’s recommended increases for two adult financial aid programs in half, and did not include any money for the Part-Time Independent Student Grant in its Higher Education budget.

We are also very concerned about potential federal budget cuts, both general cuts and changes to federal funding for food assistance and other important programs and services. Federal funds make up 42% of the state budget, and we continue to work hard to make sure Michigan members of Congress understand the impact of budget cuts on Michigan residents.

But the state budget continues to be our greatest focus for making a difference in the lives of Michigan residents, and we urge you to stay involved as well during the Legislature’s ongoing budget negotiations. Before lawmakers head up to Mackinac Island next month to hobnob and “talk” policy, I hope they’ll capitalize on this chance to pass good policy and ensure their constituents are healthy, safe and economically secure.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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