A better budget for all Michiganians

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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In our world, “winning” isn’t clear-cut. There’s no finish line, no time limit, no line judges, and certainly no landslides. Our victories are determined not by a final score, but by a day-to-day analysis of how Michiganians are impacted by policies and programs. And when the state budget bills were passed by the Michigan Legislature in late June, they included several victories for us and the people we’re fighting for.

diversity 428x200Though we still have concerns about certain elements of the final budget, we are pleased that this budget was largely created with the well-being of Michigan residents in mind.

Food Security

One of our most important policy priorities is that of food security, and the new budget certainly earns solid marks in that area. A major goal of the League this year has been to support “heat and eat” to secure additional food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities. Seeing this program funded is reassuring. The budget contains support for other valuable food programs, including “double-up food bucks” in Flint, which helps residents who receive food assistance make their dollars go further when purchasing fruits and vegetables that help combat the effects of lead exposure.

We had hopes that the Legislature would fund the Corner Store initiative, which provides grants to small food retailers, allowing them to make fresh, nutritious foods available in low- and moderate-income areas. However, we are grateful for the acknowledgment that this is an important program and hope that funding becomes available for it in the future. Another positive point in the healthy foods column is funding for farmers markets to purchase wireless equipment, allowing them to accept Bridge Cards.

Child Care and Education

Child care is another big focus of the League’s, not just due to the learning environment it provides for kids but because of the significant expense and concern it means for most parents. The final budget includes $8.4 million in state general funds and $19.4 million total to increase child care provider reimbursements—paving the way for more access to higher-quality care for families with low incomes. In addition, $5.5 million in federal funding from the Child Care Development Fund is appropriated to increase the entry eligibility level from 125% to 130%of poverty.

The expansion of At-Risk funding for students in struggling families is encouraging, as is the increase in per-pupil funding, particularly at the high school level. While the increase is not yet on par with inflation, it is certainly a move in the right direction. Another gain is the Legislature’s decision to increase funding for the Pathways to Potential program, which places ‘success coaches’ in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families. This important program—left out of an earlier budget draft—will help students access important services, and the League commends Gov. Rick Snyder for recommending its expansion.

Healthcare

The decision to continue funding the Healthy Michigan Plan is a positive for all Michiganians—especially the 670,000 residents who rely on the plan for healthcare.

Department of Corrections

We are pleased that the Residential Alternative to Prison program was expanded. It provides low-risk probation violators an opportunity to avoid going to prison and instead enter a residential program in which they receive occupational training and cognitive behavioral programming. The budget not only continues this program in Wayne County, but adds $1.5 million to replicate it in 13 counties on the west side of the state.

Federal Cuts Loom

Unfortunately, the gains made in this budget could be undone by the senseless and insensitive policies being considered in Washington. If the Trump budget or the U.S. Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) are passed, the people of our state will lose many valuable resources and benefits. These federal cuts and program eliminations would dramatically shift costs to our state budget and force the Michigan Legislature to make cuts of their own.

While we celebrate the victories in the 2018 state budget, we urge you to take action against these proposals that would undo the good progress we’ve made. Please keep up the pressure in the fight against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the elimination of the highly successful Healthy Michigan Plan. And if you haven’t already, please contact your members of Congress and tell them you strongly oppose the Trump budget and its historically harmful cuts to the services our residents depend on.

Our success in the state budget process shows the power of persistence and advocacy. We will continue to put that same energy into policy work at the federal level, and we hope you will, too.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Moving from mass incarceration to mass education

Michigan needs to spend less on prisons and more on schools.

Between 1986 and 2013, Michigan’s spending on prisons jumped 147% when inflation is counted, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, per-pupil foundation spending in Michigan remains lower than before the Great Recession began. (more…)

Michigan House and Senate Reach Agreement on FY 2014 Corrections Budget

 Full report in PDF

On Thursday, May 23, the joint House/Senate Conference Committee for the Department of Corrections approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The Corrections conference report was subsequently adopted by the full House of Representatives as part of HB 4328, an omnibus bill that includes the budgets for all state departments and services except higher education, community colleges and K-12 School Aid. A vote by the full Senate is expected this week. Agreements reached by joint House/Senate conference committees can be either approved or rejected by the full House and Senate, but cannot be amended on the floor.

The Conference Committee budget includes $38 million in additional funding compared to Fiscal Year 2013. The governor had recommended a Department of Corrections budget totaling $2.03 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, a 0.5% increase over the current year budget. This relatively small increase in the executive budget was in part due to the $24 million in expected savings from the expansion of Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty line.

The Conference Committee, reflecting the Legislature’s unwillingness to extend Medicaid, did not include the $24 million in Medicaid savings. Instead, it adds $38.1 million to the Corrections budget, including $40.8 million in state General Funds, for a total of $2.06 billion in funding from all revenue sources. This is 1.9% higher than current year funding.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Governor: The governor’s budget included 100% federal funds to support the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level. This influx of federal revenue would increase total Medicaid funding to $12.3 billion, and result in savings in the state’s General Fund of $206 million by allowing the state to use federal funds to provide comprehensive services.

The Medicaid expansion would cover some healthcare services for an estimated 80% of prisoners and parolees under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections, with expected savings in the DOC budget of $24.2 million. Although inmates do not qualify for Medicaid while incarcerated, offsite inpatient hospitalizations would qualify for reimbursements, as would substance abuse, mental health and sex offender treatment for parolees in the process of re-entry back into the community. Access to basic and preventive health and mental health services is a critical component of a successful transition back into the community and helps to lower recidivism rates. Unfortunately such access is currently limited, resulting in greater overall costs when parolees seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee did not accept the governor’s recommendation to expand Medicaid coverage to the estimated 49,500 prisoners and parolees who would qualify, and removed this projected savings of $24.2 million from the budget.

NEW EMPLOYEE TRAINING SCHOOL

Governor: The governor recommended a one-time increase of $9.03 million to train 400 additional corrections officers to meet staffing needs, bringing total spending in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to approximately $17.7 million. Funds for this program cover a range of expenses associated with the training of new officers, including salary and payroll costs for new officers during their training period, uniforms and training materials.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee concurred with the governor’s recommendation. Previously, the House and Senate had rejected the governor’s proposal in their respective budgets, citing Public Act 526 of 2012, which passed during the lameduck session last year, as the reason for this cut. PA 526 designates community colleges as alternatives to state-run academies where the training of new corrections officers would take place. It was not clear, however, that these community colleges would be ready to begin training officers in the coming academic year.

PRISONER RE-ENTRY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Governor: The governor’s budget reduced funding for two prison re-entry and community support programs, while retaining current funding for his public safety initiative:

  • Prisoner re-entry local services providers: The governor reduced funding for local services providers from $22.7 million in the current year, to $13.8 million in 2014. This reduction was the result of anticipated savings ($377,200) from an expansion of Medicaid, as well as internal transfers ($8.5 million) of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are currently available for 18 regional prisoner re-entry service providers responsible for assisting prisoners in transitioning back into their local communities after release from incarceration. Included are transitional housing support; employment training and education programs; transportation and family support services, including assistance with accessing public assistance and other services; and substance abuse and mental health services.
  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The governor reduced funding for DOC prisoner re-entry programs from $23.5 million to $9.7 million. This was the result of expected Medicaid savings of $3.2 million, as well as $10.6 million in internal transfers of previously allocated funds that are not expected to be spent in the current fiscal year. These funds are used for services within prisons, including risk and needs assessments, programs to reduce offender risk, and the preparation of re-entry plans. Funds are also used for a re-entry project for offenders with special needs (medically fragile, youthful offenders or those with mental health issues), and community-based sex offender treatment programs.
  • Public safety initiative: The governor provided continuation funding ($4.75 million) for a portion of the public safety initiative he outlined in his special message to the Legislature on public safety. This funding is used by distressed communities in high-crime areas to purchase jail space in neighboring counties to avoid backlogs.

Conference Committee:

  • Prisoner re-entry DOC programs: The Conference Committee provided $12.9 million for DOC prisoner re-entry programs (up from the governor’s recommendation of $9.7 million), and $14.2 million for prisoner re-entry local service providers (up from the governor’s recommendation of $13.8 million).
  • H.I.R.E. job training: The Conference Committee added $1 million to the Corrections budget to provide funding for the “Helping Individuals Return to Employment” (H.I.R.E.) job training pilot program to be operated by Goodwill Industries. This pilot is part of the Prisoner Re-Entry and Community Support programs. It will assist parolees with disabilities entering the job market by assessing their disabilities and vocational needs, and matching them with training, placement or other employment services.
  • Public safety initiative: The Conference Committee reduced funding for this initiative by $250,000, and transferred it to the Second Chance Employment program. This program, run by Goodwill’s oil filter recycling project, places reintegrating prisoners into employment and training and prepares them for future employment opportunities.

FOOD SERVICE

Governor: The governor made no major changes in DOC food services, but recognized agreements with the Department of Human Services to cover food service at Maxey/Green Oaks Center, and with the Department of Community Health for food service at the DCH Forensic Center.

Conference Committee: The Conference Committee reduced funding for food services by $6 million, the result of efforts to privatize prison food services. Originally, the Department of Corrections had rejected a bid from a private company to provide food service, claiming that it did not meet the mandated 5% minimum savings. The DOC subsequently reversed its decision and accepted a bid that, after alternative calculations, claimed to save the state 20% ($16 million) a year.