A First Look at the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget

Governor Proposes Positive Investments Despite Revenue Losses

Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016 includes many important investments in families and children, despite lower than expected revenues, including:

  • A new $49 million initiative to improve reading by third grade;
  • $100 million in additional funding for children at risk of falling behind their peers academically;
  • Funding to expand the number of child care licensing inspectors the state needs to keep children safe;
  • Increases in child care provider payments and policy changes that allow families to keep their child care even if their incomes increase;
  • Increased investment in dental payments for adult Medicaid enrollees to promote access;
  • An expansion of dental care to children ages 0-8 receiving Medicaid in the state’s most populous counties of Wayne, Oakland and Kent;
  • An increase in funding for mental health services for people not eligible for Medicaid;
  • $6 million in new funding for community college independent part-time student grants; and
  • Increased funding for universities contingent on limits in tuition increases of 2.8% or less.

Despite these wins for lower-wage families and their children, there are many critical state services that continue to be underfunded, ultimately thwarting the state’s economic growth. Children are living in deeper poverty in Michigan in part because of policy changes that reduced eligibility for income assistance programs – including stringent lifetime caps on assistance and the elimination of income support for an entire family due to the truancy of a single child. Fewer families can receive food assistance and food assistance benefits have been reduced, in part the result of a state asset test. And, while there have been small increases recently in support for public schools, universities and communities, in most cases, they have not fully restored cuts taken during the Great Recession even without factoring in the pressures created by inflationary increases in costs.

While the governor has proposed a balanced budget for 2016, there are many threats to the state’s fiscal health on the horizon. Top among them is the potential loss to the state and its economy if voters do not approve the bipartisan, compromise transportation package, leaving the state with few other options to fix the roads without further depleting scarce state funds needed for other vital state services.

Also acting as an anchor dragging on the state budget are the deep business tax cuts adopted in 2011, along with the expected costs of outstanding business tax credits, which are now projected to be up to $600 million a year through 2030, at a total state cost of $9.4 billion. Without offsetting revenues, cuts of this magnitude could so weaken basic public services in Michigan such as public safety, transportation, education and public health that the state’s economy could be crippled for years to come.

The 2016 Executive Budget

While Michigan’s economy is growing, shortsighted tax policy decisions by state lawmakers created budget shortfalls in excess of $300 million this year and $500 million in the upcoming fiscal year. Most of the shortfall is the result of deep cuts in business taxes that were approved by the Michigan Legislature in 2011 – in the face of known outstanding business tax credits that are expected to be a drain on the budget for many years to come.

As part of the effort to balance the current year budget, the governor issued an Executive Order on Feb. 11 cutting nearly $103 million in state funds, with additional cuts to be taken through mid-year budget-cutting legislation. Together, these cuts will essentially zero out overall funding increases in the current budget year, and many of the reductions are maintained or expanded in the governor’s 2016 budget proposal.

The total budget proposed by the governor is $53 billion, including all state and federal revenue. Over 40% of the budget is supported by federal funds. In addition, Michigan has two major State funds for services: the General Fund ($9.5 billion in the governor’s budget), and the School Aid Fund ($14.4 billion). The School Aid Fund can only be used to fund public education, including more recently postsecondary education.

The governor recommends a $95 million deposit to the state’s “rainy day fund,” bringing the balance to nearly $616 million by the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

Among the governor’s stated objectives for the 2016 budget are investments in: (1) education, with a focus on early learning 0–3; (2) skilled trades; (3) public safety; and (4) health and human services.

SCHOOL AID

The governor’s 2016 School Aid budget includes total state and local funding of $13.96 billion, an increase of $88.6 million over the current year or less than 1%. The governor recommends that in 2016, School Aid revenues be used to fund universities ($205 million) and community colleges ($256.7 million).

In the current fiscal year, approximately $2 of every $3 in the School Aid budget are used for the per-pupil foundation allowance, which is the bedrock of school operations. Other major expenditures include special education (10%), programs for children at-risk of educational failure (2%), and early childhood education programs (2%).

Per-Pupil Funding: Each year the Michigan Legislature determines the level of per-pupil payments school districts will receive. After reductions in the per-pupil payments of $470 between 2009 and 2012, in the current school year districts receiving the minimum payment are still receiving $65 less per pupil than they were in school year 2010-11, and those at the maximum payment level are receiving $390 less per-pupil.

The minimum per-pupil state payment to districts this year is $7,251, while the maximum is $8,099. One goal for school financing reforms adopted in 1994 in Michigan was to close the funding gap, and this year the gap between districts receiving the maximum and minimum payments was reduced to $848 per pupil.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • A $75 per pupil increase for all districts, bringing the minimum payment to $7,326 and the maximum to $8,174 ($108 million total investment).
  • A 60% cut in funding for school districts implementing best practices, from $75 million to $30 million. The best practices criteria are changed by the governor to focus on school district fiscal stability, as well as early reading and kindergarten entry assessments.
  • The elimination of funding for performance grants ($51 million).

Although the governor proposes an across-the-board increase of $75 per pupil, for some districts that will be offset by the loss of funding from best practices or performance grants. Some districts could actually lose per-pupil funding if they are currently receiving both best practices and performance grants.

Funding for School Districts in Fiscal Distress: The governor proposes a significant increase in funding for financially struggling school districts. The 2016 budget includes $75 million for districts with severe academic and fiscal stress, although details on how those funds would be allocated are still to be determined, based on recommendations from a coalition of business, academic and civic leaders.

At-Risk Programs: Michigan provides funds to school districts for a range of instructional and noninstructional services for at-risk students based on the number of children qualifying for free- and reduced-price meals. This year, budget language was adopted to focus those dollars on: (1) improving third-grade reading proficiency; and (2) graduating students who are career and college ready. Funding for at-risk students has not been increased in over a decade, remaining at $309 million.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • An additional $100 million for at-risk students, bringing total funding to $409 million.
  • A continuation of current year funding for adolescent health centers ($3.6 million) and hearing and vision screenings ($5.2 million).

Early Childhood Education and Care: Over the last two years, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature approved a $130 million increase in funding for the Great Start Readiness preschool program for low-income and at-risk 4-year-olds. For 2016, the governor proposes a budget that addresses school readiness and third-grade reading proficiency comprehensively, starting in the earliest years of life.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Continued funding for the Great Start Readiness program ($239.6 million).
  • A new third-grade reading initiative with total funding of $48.6 million ($25 million state funds) that includes:
    • An expansion of home visits to at-risk families to encourage early literacy activities and identify children with disabilities and developmental delays, with funds going to Intermediate School Districts ($5 million).
    • New funds for parent education pilot programs for families with children under age 4. The programs would be open to families regardless of income, with fees on a sliding scale ($1 million).
    • Funding to test new elementary teachers on reading instruction capabilities prior to their certification to teach, as well as professional development for current teachers ($1.45 million).
    • Funds to train teachers and administrators in the use of literacy diagnostic tools ($1.45 million).
    • Funding for additional instruction time for students who need extra assistance with reading, including assistance before, during and after school, as well as summer school programs ($10 million).
    • New literacy coaches for K-3 teachers, coordinated through Intermediate School Districts ($3 million).
    • Funds to implement the Kindergarten Entry Assessment ($2.6 million).
  • A new oversight commission outside of state government to monitor progress toward improving third-grade reading proficiency. The governor’s proposal is based on a model in Kentucky where the commission has business and philanthropic support and leadership.

Career and College Readiness:

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Continuation funding of $22 million for adult education. Michigan has cut state funding for adult education drastically in the past 20 years, from $185 million in 1996 to $22 million this year. The state is currently in the process of changing how it allocates those funds statewide, focusing on the percentage of people in a region who are not high school graduates or lack basic English proficiency.
  • An expansion of career and technical education through early/middle college programs in the 10 prosperity regions ($17.8 million) as part of a total $36 million investment in the governor’s new talent initiative.
  • Funds to expand the level of awareness of available college and career choices and increase the number of college advisors in schools ($2.2 million).

EDUCATION

The budget for the Michigan Department of Education grew significantly in 2012 with the launching of the Office of Great Start and the transfer of the state’s subsidized child care program from the Department of Human Services. Two of every $3 spent by the Department are from federal sources, with the Child Development and Care program accounting for $110 million (38%) of the total $287 million budget.

Overall funding for child care, as well as the number of families served by the child care program, fell steeply in recent years, in part because of changes in state policy and reimbursement rates that fall far below market rates. The governor’s budget begins to address those problems by providing funds to increase rates slightly and by allowing families to remain eligible for child care even, if their incomes rise in some circumstances.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • A new policy that would allow families to remain eligible for child care for up to one year, even if their incomes rises. The goal is to provide greater work and child care stability ($16 million).
  • In addition, once families are eligible for care under Michigan’s current low-income guidelines (121% of poverty), they could remain eligible until household income exceeds 250% of poverty ($1.5 million).
  • A rate increase for higher quality child care providers of approximately 25 cents per hour. This year, small rate increases were given to providers who received three, four or five stars on the state’s quality rating system. For 2016, the governor proposes to also provide increases for providers earning two stars ($6.1 million).
  • A 50% expansion in the number of child care licensing inspectors needed to ensure basic health and safety in child care settings. The governor includes $5.7 million to reduce the number of providers each child care licensing inspector is responsible for from approximately 150 to 98. Michigan has come under federal scrutiny for its failure to ensure compliance with child care licensing rules, and recent federal law changes require states to do both prelicensure and annual inspections.

HUMAN SERVICES

The governor’s fiscal year 2016 budget includes $5.73 billion in total funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS), including $978.9 million in state dollars, a reduction of 0.4% from initial current year funding of $5.75 billion.

The single largest program in the human services budget is the federally funded Food Assistance Program, which accounts for 45% of total departmental spending. Federal funds account for nearly 80% of the DHS budget, up from 70% in 2004. Other major programs include children’s services (20%), administration and field operations (18%) and other public assistance programs (8%).

Income Assistance: The Family Independence Program (FIP) provides minimal income assistance to low-income households with dependent children. To be eligible for FIP, an average family of three must have income below $9,780 annually and financial assets of less than $3,000. The maximum benefit for a family of three is $492 per month.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • A 6% cut from current year FIP spending (from $146.6 to $138 million), partly due to a reduction in the number eligible, which the governor projects will be 31,400 families next year. Policy changes made in 2011 resulted in dramatic decreases in FIP cases, despite continued high poverty rates, particularly among children. Between 2007 and the current budget year, spending on income assistance declined by 66%.
  • An expansion of the Pathways to Potential program with $20.6 million in private contributions and federal funding. In addition to schools, staff will be located in health clinics, hospitals and with private employers to determine eligibility and assistance obtaining services.
  • Elimination of Extended-FIP that gives households who are no longer eligible for income assistance due to increased earnings a nominal $10 per month in assistance for six months after they leave the program, ostensibly to help them access other state services as well as allowing the state to continue counting the households in its federally mandated work participation rate. This minimal assistance does, however, count against the state’s more stringent lifetime limits and could hurt children in the long run.
  • Continued funding of $2.88 million for the annual children’s school clothing allowance. The assistance is available only for children who are living with grandparents and others who are not eligible for assistance.

Food Assistance: The Food Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) is completely federally funded, with an average monthly benefit for a two-person household of $245. More than 70% of FAP recipients receive no other cash assistance from the state. The number receiving food assistance began to fall in Michigan in 2011, the same year that the state imposed a new asset limit. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, cases dropped by 13%.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, food assistance recipients no longer receive $1 in federal energy assistance (LIHEAP) that previously helped recipients claim the maximum utility deduction, which subsequently increased their food assistance. The 2014 federal Farm Bill increased the required amount of LIHEAP funding for eligibility purposes from $1 to $20, which essentially left states with the option of increasing the minimum energy assistance benefit to $20, or accepting food assistance cuts for many Michigan residents, along with the associated loss of federal funds. Michigan chose the latter.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Continuation funding of $2.56 billion for food assistance.
  • No change in the policy that rejects additional federally funded food assistance because of a needed increase in the minimum energy assistance benefit.
  • No change in the asset test that was imposed on individuals applying for federal food assistance, and which is a state option.

State Disability Assistance: The State Disability Assistance program, a completely state-funded program, provides cash assistance to adults with disabilities who are permanently or temporarily unable to work and who have annual incomes of less than $5,400 and under $3,000 in assets. The average monthly payment for a single person is $225 per month, and the average length of time on SDA is approximately one year.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of people receiving state disability assistance fell by 14% and has steadily declined since. There was a 35% drop in the number receiving assistance between fiscal years 2011 and 2015.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • A small increase in funding for the State Disability Assistance program – up from $14.4 million this year to $14.89 million in 2016.

Energy Assistance: Michigan uses federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant funding for four programs: the Home Heating Credit, State Emergency Relief, the new Michigan Energy Assistance Program, and weatherization.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Continuation of current year spending of $175 million in federal funds for energy assistance.
  • Continuation funding of $50 million for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which was created in response to a state law (P.A. 615 of 2012) requiring DHS to establish a new consolidated program with a single, simplified application.

Child Welfare Services: Michigan’s child welfare system includes protective services, foster care, adoption, and family preservation and prevention services. To comply with requirements related to a lawsuit against the state for its failure to protect children, the state has been required to increase child welfare funding for staffing, training and other programs.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • FOSTER CARE: A reduction in foster care payments attributed to a decline in number of children under state supervision. The governor’s budget recommends a change in the foster care payment system to focus on actuarially sound rates and performance-based outcomes.
  • CHILD CARE FUND: A decrease of nearly 3% for the Child Care Fund (from $182.2 to $177.3 million). The Child Care Fund reimburses counties for 50% of their costs related to the care and treatment of children who are wards of the court, including out-of-home and in-home services. In the current fiscal year, several foster care rate increases were implemented that deviate from the 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement. The governor’s budget reduces the private agency administrative rate from $40 to $37 per day, and returns to a 50/50 state and county cost-sharing model to save $10.4 million ($8.7 million state funds).
  • ADOPTION: A 3% decrease from the initial current year funding for adoption subsidies (from $247.7 to $239.9 million). Subsidies are provided to families who are adopting children with special needs and include both cash and medical assistance. The number of families receiving adoption subsidies has been relatively stable since fiscal year 2011, between 26,000 and 27,000. The governor’s budget includes savings of $6.9 million ($6.5 million state funds) by restricting eligibility for a supplemental payment now available to parents whose children display additional medical needs after adoptions are completed.
  • YOUTH IN TRANSITION: $15 million for Youth in Transition programs, a slight decrease from initial current year funding. The Youth in Transition program assists 14- to 20-year-olds who are currently or were previously in foster care. Funds are used to provide independent living services, housing assistance, education or employment support, mentoring and other assistance to meet basic needs. Youth in Transition dollars also fund intervention programs for runaway or homeless youths. The governor’s budget continues the practice of setting aside $750,000 for Fostering Futures Scholarships for youths attending college in the state.
  • PREVENTION SERVICES: The governor’s budget provides continuation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children ($12.35 million), as well as $38.86 million for family preservation programs, including Families First ($16.98 million), Child Protection and Permanency ($12.89 million) and Family Reunification ($6.49 million).

Juvenile Justice Services: The governor recommends slightly decreased funding for the state’s three DHS-operated juvenile justice facilities: W.J. Maxey Training School, Bay Pines Center and Shawono Center. Funding previously provided to expand in-home community care programs to rural areas is reduced by 60%, from $1 million to $400,000.

COMMUNITY HEALTH

The governor’s budget recommends a mixture of initiatives, funding and program reductions, and significant funding shifts. Total recommended funding for the Department of Community Health is $19 billion, including $3 billion in state funds, which is lower than the initial appropriation for the current budget year. The bulk of DCH’s funding is for the state’s Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan programs (78%), followed by mental health and substance abuse services (16%). In 2016, federal funds will make up over 70% of the DCH budget.

Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan: Nearly one in every four Michigan residents relies on Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan for healthcare coverage. In the current budget year, the governor projects that 1.7 million Michigan residents will be covered by Medicaid, with an additional 540,000 recipients enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan. The governor’s budget for 2016 projects a very small increase in Medicaid enrollees (about 13,000) and continued growth in Healthy Michigan Plan (40,000) enrollees (40,000), bringing total enrollment for the Healthy Michigan Plan to 580,000.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Continuation of $100 million savings in state funds for Medicaid based on lower projections of the number of persons who will be enrolled in the current year.
  • $3.5 billion for the Healthy Michigan Plan, which is financed with all federal funds for the final year. For the program to continue, Michigan must submit a second waiver to the federal government and it must be approved by the end of 2015.
  • Removal of prescription drugs from the Medicaid managed care contracts and development of a separate pharmacy benefit contract. This proposal is expected to generate higher drug rebates, as well as administrative savings for a total of $22.1 million in state funds.
  • $36.8 million for autism services, restoring the reduction made in 2015 due to the slow start of the program. The budget also recommends increasing coverage to age 21 from the current age 6. One-time funding is continued to train autism services providers through Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University. Total funding for training is reduced from $7 million to $2.5 million, with $500,000 allocated to each university.
  • Funding of $8.3 million in state funds ($24.2 million in total) to provide full-year funding to continue approximately half of the rate increase for primary care providers. This critical state investment is intended to encourage primary care doctors to serve the Medicaid population.
  • Funding is recommended starting July 1, 2015, to develop a statewide managed care contract for dental services for adult Medicaid enrollees to increase dental access for adults. An investment of $23 million, of which $7.9 million is state funds, is recommended and is financed from savings in other program areas.
  • Elimination of $11 million in total payments, $3.8 million from state funds, to rural hospitals for the special payment implemented in the 2015 budget year for obstetrical services.

Healthy Kids Dental: Michigan currently provides enhanced dental services to more than 600,000 children in 80 counties. Access to dental services is essential to prevent tooth decay, the No. 1 chronic disease in children. Healthy Kids Dental improves access to care by partnering with Delta Dental of Michigan to increase provider reimbursement rates and simplify administration. With the expansion in in 2015, all counties are now covered except Wayne, Kent and Oakland.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program to an additional 210,000 children ages 0 through 8 in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties with an investment of $15.7 million ($5.4 million in state funds). With this expansion, the program would cover over 800,000 children, but not all eligible children in the state. Yet to be covered would be more than 170,000 older children in Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services: Implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan resulted in dramatic reductions in the state funds needed to serve those not eligible for Medicaid, as the vast majority of individuals were expected to transition from state-funded services to Healthy Michigan Plan services, which are 100% federally funded. The transition has not been smooth, and concerns have been raised that state funding reductions were too large and too fast.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Restoration of $20 million in state funds to cover services provided to those not eligible for Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan.
  • Funding to continue to implement the recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission ($12.7 million in state funds of which $1.5 million continues to be one-time funding).

Public Health and Children’s Services: Two of every $3 spent on public health services is federal. Over the last decade, nearly all increases in total public health funding have been from federal grants or other sources, while state investments have not been made.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Restoration of the $1.5 million increase provided in the 2015 budget to local public health departments for essential services, which was subsequently eliminated in Executive Order reductions. The governor’s recommendation brings funding for local public health essential services to the level it was 10 years ago.
  • Continuation funding for a pilot program begun in 2015 to improve child and adolescent health services by working with existing school-based clinics to develop satellite locations that will provide nursing and behavioral health services ($2 million in one-time funding).

Services for the Aging: The governor’s budget continues funding of $84 million for senior in-home and nutrition services. The state is working to become a “no wait” state for services.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Expansion of PACE (Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to more areas, funded through corresponding savings in nursing home costs.

POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION

Because Michigan does not have a state agency that exercises financing or policy authority over its universities and community colleges, the Legislature funds those institutions through the Higher Education and Community Colleges budgets.

Michigan’s three existing financial aid grant programs (the Tuition Incentive Program, the Competitive Scholarship and the Tuition Grant) are funded through the Higher Education budget, even though community college students may also apply for and receive those grants. The reinstatement of a grant for adult learners has been proposed in the community college budget.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • No funding increases for the three major financial aid grant programs – the first time in many years that the Tuition Incentive Program has received no increase. However, the community college budget funds, for the first time since 2009, the Part-Time Independent Student Grant, which helps older students. None of the grants currently funded through the higher education budget are available to students who have been out of high school for more than 10 years. Of the total funding for the higher education budget grant programs, $98.3 million comes from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families allocation, while $7.8 million comes from the state’s General Fund.
  • A 1.4% increase ($4.3 million) in total operational funding for Michigan’s 28 community colleges, half of which is distributed as performance funding for weighted degree and certificate completions, enrollment and administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures. This is a smaller increase than in 2015, which was a 3% increase of $8.9 million, or 3%. As in previous recent years, the majority of overall funding for community colleges (which includes not only operational and financial aid funding, but retirement funding, etc.) comes from the School Aid Fund, and only 35% ($137.1 million) is from the General Fund.
  • A total increase in funding for university operations of $28 million (2%) over the current fiscal year. As in previous recent years, this increase is in the form of performance funding using the following metrics: weighted undergraduate completions in critical skills areas, research expenditures, six-year graduation rates, total completions, administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. The budget continues the practice of requiring universities to limit tuition increases in order to receive any performance funding, but has lowered the limit from 3.2% to 2.8%. This “tuition restraint” prerequisite for receiving performance funding helps to keep post-secondary education affordable for low-income students.

CORRECTIONS

The governor reduces funding for the Department of Corrections by 3%, from $2.04 billion this year to $1.98 billion in 2016. The majority of the funding is for prison operations (76%), followed by parole, probation and community services (16%) and administration (6%). In the current fiscal year, more than 97% of the MDOC budget comes from state funds.

The corrections budget is the state’s second largest in terms of its share of state General Fund dollars. After about two decades of strong growth, corrections funding has grown modestly as the prisoner population has stabilized. Increased spending is mostly driven by increased costs in prisoner health and mental health care.

Prisoner Healthcare: Most prisoner inpatient hospitalizations, certain services for mentally ill and medically fragile inmates, and some re-entry services are now covered by Medicaid, which when expanded allowed an estimated 80% of inmates and parolees to obtain Medicaid for covered services outside of secure facilities.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • $309.4 million for prisoner health care services, the vaccination program, substance abuse testing and treatment, and clinical and mental health services and support.
  • $1.08 million for administrative costs related to eligibility determination and enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan.

Prisoner Education: State prisoner re-entry programs include education services to facilitate reintegration into the community. Prisoner education programs aim to provide marketable skills to offenders through academic, workplace and social competency training. In 2014, the governor signed legislation to allow qualifying parolees who complete a career or technical education course to receive a certificate of employability to help the parolee obtain a job upon re-entry to the community (PA 359).

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • A total of $35.9 million for prisoner education programs, which is an increase of $500,000 due to additional federal funds.

Parole, Probation and Community Programs: MDOC currently supervises about 47,000 offenders on felony probation and more than 14,000 offenders on parole.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • $323 million in total funding ($304 million General Fund) for parole, probation, and community programs, down approximately 7% from initial current year. Changes include the elimination of the Goodwill Flip the Script program ($2.5 million), the transfer of the jail mental health diversion project to the Department of Community Health ($1 million) and other reductions in re-entry services.

Mental Health Diversion Council: The governor created the Mental Health Diversion Council in 2013, tasking the council with developing methods to divert individuals with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.

For 2016, the governor recommends:

  • Transfers funding ($1 million) to the Department of Community Health to streamline mental health diversion programs and services. The current year budget funded a pilot project to connect inmates with appropriate mental health treatment as they are released into the community.

 

 

High cost of low pay for child care providers

The failure of the state and federal governments to address low wages for child care providers comes at a high price for the economy, the state budget, and ultimately for children and their families.

Nearly half of all child care workers in Michigan have incomes so low that they are eligible for and receive public supports, including Medicaid, MIChild, food assistance, or Earned Income Tax Credit benefits – at a cost exceeding $80 million annually according to a new study of the early childhood workforce. (more…)

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.

“Even as states spend more on corrections, they are underinvesting in educating children and young adults, especially those in high-poverty neighborhoods. At least 30 states (including Michigan) are providing less general funding per student this year for K-12 schools than before the recession, after adjusting for inflation…’’ a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes.

Dennis Schrantz of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency and Shaka Senghor of the Atonement Project at the League's recent policy forum.

Just last month, the League sponsored a policy forum on reducing mass incarceration. The upshot of the forum is that Michigan’s unusually long prison sentences mean that more dollars than necessary are being spent on corrections without improving public safety. And students are not getting what they need to avoid the “school to prison” pipeline.

Laura Sager, executive director of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, spoke about the need for a sentencing commission to examine Michigan’s sentencing structure with an eye on reducing the prison population.

Sager said that mandatory minimums and harsh penalties for drug offenses are not the cause of mass incarceration in Michigan. Unusually long prison sentences drive high costs without providing additional safety, she said. Judges set a minimum and maximum sentence but it is the state Parole Board has the ultimate decision on how much time a prisoner will serve after the minimum sentence is completed.Incarceration also costs $35,000 per inmate per year — more than a year of college at the University of Michigan.

A package of bills by Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, that could see action in lame-duck session next month, is aimed at reducing the time offenders spend in prison and jail. It would require “presumptive parole” for inmates who have served their minimum sentence unless there were “substantial and compelling” reasons to deny parole. The language of the package is still being negotiated, according to CAPPS, but the introduction is a very hopeful step.

Michigan’s parole system has long been criticized for allowing parole board members to pile on additional punishment beyond the judges’ sentences rather than look at the inmate’s prison record.

“The economic health of many low-income neighborhoods, which face disproportionately high incarceration rates, could particularly improve if states reordered their spending in such a way. States could use the freed-up funds in a number of ways, such as expanding access to high-quality preschool, reducing class sizes in high-poverty schools, and revising state funding formulas to invest more in high-poverty neighborhoods,’’ the Center’s report suggests.

Michigan spends $1.2 billion more on corrections in 2013 than it did in 1986, the report found. That’s a lot of money that could be better invested in our students and in our future.

– Judy Putnam

11% of Mich. vets in households receiving food aid

More than one in every 10 Michigan veterans lives in a household that receives food assistance, a new policy brief estimates.

The report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released today in time for Veterans Day, is a reminder that thousands of struggling veterans use food assistance (formerly food stamps) to put food on the table.

The program, called Food Assistance Program in Michigan and SNAP at the federal level, helps 73,100 veterans — about 11% of Michigan’s vets. Michigan is one of 10 states where more than 10% of veterans are in households on food assistance.

“For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families,’’ the report states.

Food assistance has been a vital lifeline to many in Michigan as the state continues to recover from heavy job losses and falling income from the Great Recession.

Despite high unemployment and stagnating poverty, Michigan policymakers have made it harder rather than easier to get food assistance:

  • For a relatively small amount of additional heating assistance, Michigan could have opted to keep a ‘heat and eat’ provision that secured extra federal food assistance to families needing help with utilities. Only four states, including Michigan, of 16 using this option declined to continue by increasing help with utilities.
  • Michigan is bucking the trend nationwide by requiring a harsh food asset test that is not required by the federal government. Considering that the benefits are 100% federally paid, it’s unnecessary for Michigan to make it harder for veterans and others to access food assistance.

As policymakers continue to look for ways to tighten eligibility for public assistance in Michigan, it’s a good reminder that among those being harmed are veterans, who deserve help when they need it in return for the sacrifices they have made.

– Judy Putnam

 

 

Ask Your Candidates

To address our crumbling roads, lawmakers are offering proposals ranging from increasing the sales tax, creating a wholesale tax on gas, raising vehicle registration fees, or diverting current sales tax revenue to road maintenance. Any type of tax increase, especially to the sales tax, will have a disproportionate effect on individuals earning low wages.

Do you support increased or new revenue to address Michigan’s crumbling road and infrastructure? Would you support increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credit to help offset the burden on people earning low wages?

Since the 1970s, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been considered a significant poverty reduction tool that encourages individuals to work. In 2006, Michigan created its own state-level EITC based on 20% of the federal tax credit. The governor and state lawmakers scaled back the EITC to 6% in 2011.

Would you support restoring the state-level EITC to 20% of the federal tax credit?

3 Michigan is one of only seven states that continue to rely on a flat income tax rather than a graduated income tax. States with graduated income tax structures tax at higher rates as income rises making it a more modern and equitable system.

Would you support reforming Michigan’s income tax structure from a flat income tax rate to a graduated one?

Sales taxes are typically considered to be the most regressive type of tax costing individuals earning low wages a larger proportion of their income compared to wealthier individuals. Expanding the sales tax to apply to services can serve to both increase revenue and make the sales tax less regressive. Even still, the sales tax will remain regressive, which is the reason some states offer sales tax credits to provide relief for individuals who earn the least.

Would you support extending the state’s sale tax to services with a sales tax credit for filers with low wages?

The Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit (HPTC) is a refundable credit available to eligible Michigan residents who pay high property taxes or rent in relation to their income. In 2011, it was eliminated for many middle-class families, veterans, and seniors whose total household resources were over $50,000 or the taxable value on their homes was over $135,000.

Would you support restoring the HPTC to provide relief to moderate-income taxpayers?

6 Out of 16 states offering families additional heating assistance to qualify for additional food benefits, Michigan was one of four that declined to add dollars to keep the program going when the rules changed. That means an average loss of $76 a month in food benefits for 150,000 families. It will take only $3.1 million to pull down $137 million in extra federal food assistance for these Michigan families.

Do you favor spending $3 million in the ‘heat and eat’ option to draw additional food assistance?

Michigan hasn’t adjusted its child care subsidy eligibility since 2003 even though spending has fallen dramatically. As a result, only working families in poverty or living just above poverty qualify.

Should Michigan expand its child care program back to 150 percent (just under $30,000 for a family of three) of poverty?

8 Two recent federal audits found that Michigan child care centers and homes visited without prior notification were not complying with all state licensing requirements related to the health and safety of children, including required criminal record and protective services checks of caregivers. The auditors concluded that the state has too few child care inspectors (known as child care licensing consultants) to ensure adequate oversight of child care homes and centers, with caseload ratios more than three times the recommended ratio of 1:50.

Would you support the appropriation of state funds to increase the number of child care inspectors and improve the state’s ability to oversee compliance with basic health and safety requirements in state law and policy?

9 Children living in families that must rely temporarily on state income assistance live in increasingly deep poverty as a result of the very low payments provided by the state (a maximum of $492 per month for a family of three through the Family Independence Program). Michigan used to provide a one-time payment to all school-age children from families receiving FIP to ensure that children could at least start the school year with a decent set of clothes. Since 2011, the school clothing allowance has been restricted to only those children living with grandparents or other caretakers who do not receive cash assistance.

Would you support the restoration of a school clothing allowance for all school-age children living in families receiving FIP benefits?

10 Over one-third or 35,000 Michigan third- graders did not demonstrate proficiency in reading in 2013. A House bill would require that third-graders who are not proficient in reading as measured by the state test would be required to repeat the grade at least once and no more than twice. Alternate tests and portfolios may be used to document reading skills but the school superintendent would make the final decision. Critics contend research on retention documents a higher likelihood of drop-out for retained students while supporters of retention decry the negative impact of social promotion.

Would you support the retention of Michigan third-graders who are not reading at grade level?

11 Child poverty in Michigan has escalated by almost 40% over the last 25 years. Almost one of every four children in the state lives in a family with income below the poverty level: $19,000 for a family of three and $24,000 for a family of four. Several policy initiatives to alleviate child poverty have been suggested, such as raising the minimum wage to $10.10—closer to its value in the 1960s and indexing it to inflation, reinstating the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal EITC and raising the child care subsidy and eligibility so parents earning low wages can have access to child care.

Would you support any of these initiatives?

12 Dental cavities remain the No.1 chronic disease in children, despite being preventable with proper dental care. In Michigan, 27% of third-graders have untreated disease; in the Detroit area, the percentage increases to 42%. The Healthy Kids Dental program, a partnership between Delta Dental and the state for Medicaid-eligible children, has greatly increased access to dental care for those covered. The program is available in all counties except Kent, Oakland and Wayne.  All Michigan children should have access to this program. The estimated state investment required is about $22 million.

Would you support statewide expansion of Healthy Kids Dental as a priority?

13 Michigan has been a leader in investments in preschool programs for 4-year-olds, but funding for families with infants and toddlers living in poverty or near poverty has declined—despite scientific evidence that the first three years of life are when children’s brains are growing most rapidly, affecting their lifelong development, learning and achievement.

Would you support additional state funds for proven programs for parents of very young children, including home visiting and parenting programs?

14 Michigan currently has nine coal-fired electricity generating units, with health-related costs associated with emissions from these facilities totaling $1.5 billion annually. These health issues range from asthma to cancer, and heart and lung disease, with people of color and those who are economically vulnerable being the most likely to suffer from these health complications.

Would you support transitioning from coal to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power to reduce pollution and improve the health of Michiganians?

15 Workers who are laid off, or who work in low-paying jobs, can often improve their financial situation by building skills at a community college or university. However, Michigan’s financial aid grants are not available to workers who have been out of high school more than 10 years. There is discussion in the Legislature of reinstating two financial aid grants that were discontinued several years ago that would help older workers go back to school and get a degree (the Adult Part Time Grant and the Educational Opportunity Grant).

Would you support the reinstatement of the Adult Part Time Grant and the Educational Opportunity Grant to help older workers get the skills they need for jobs that will support their families?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small problems get big with misplaced priorities

In kindergarten classrooms in one Michigan school district, work tables are now cleaned only weekly instead of daily due to severe budget cuts that have reduced cleaning staff and supplies. Teachers must buy their own cleaners and wash the tables to maintain sanitary conditions for the youngest students

The dirty tables was one of the anecdotes offered about Michigan’s misguided spending priorities during a news conference held at the Capitol this morning by Priorities Michigan. (more…)

Census numbers tell of stagnancy and slow recovery

Today is the big day that comes each year: the release of American Community Survey figures on income and poverty.

Ready for some numbers?

Michigan’s household median income in 2013 ($48,273) was a bit higher than in 2012, but is nearly $1,000 lower than in 2009. The income bracket that grew the largest from 2009 to 2013 was the share of Michigan households who make under $10,000 a year. The only other income bracket with a significant share increase was households making more than $200,000 a year. These numbers taken together suggest that the slow economic recovery in Michigan is primarily benefiting those at higher incomes. (more…)

Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high. (more…)

State Financial Aid Leaves Adult Learners Behind

 

Michigan needs to revamp its financial aid system to ensure that adult learners can build their skills, get a job and become economically secure.

Michigan’s job market is changing. For decades, many individuals became employed in the manufacturing sector immediately after graduating from high school at age 18, built up their skills on the job, and attained a livable wage with which they could support their families and retire with a pension.

Today, rather than teaching needed occupational skills on the job from “square one,” most employers who pay a livable wage expect their new hires to already possess those skills at some level. Sometimes prior experience is sufficient, but for many workers the attainment of required skills must be signified by a recognized credential such as a degree, license or certificate. These credentials are most often attained through completion of a postsecondary program at a community college, technical school or university.

Many workers find themselves needing to acquire new marketable skills with the expectation that doing so will lead to re-employment, higher pay or more job security. Some such workers may have been laid off, others may be trapped in low-wage jobs, and still others may be re-entering the workforce after an extended time as full-time homemakers. Many such individuals do not possess a postsecondary credential and will have a difficult time in the labor market (see Appendix 1).

 

Unfortunately, tuition has increased at community colleges by 31%, though it still compares favorably to other states. Universities increased by 49% since 2005, and Michigan’s public university tuition is the sixth-highest in the nation (Fig. 1). Due to the rising costs, these older workers often need financial aid to help pay for their training. Each year, more than 100,000 (and sometimes more than 150,000) individuals over age 30 in Michigan fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is also used to determine eligibility for state as well as federal aid. (Fig. 2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem

The decision to get trained in new skills is often made more than 10 years after graduation from high school. While state financial aid helps many students of traditional college age, there are no state financial aid programs to help students attend public community colleges or universities if they have been out of high school for more than 10 years. Two of the three existing grant programs explicitly exclude such individuals from eligibility, and the third is available only to those attending a private, not-for-profit institution:

Tuition Incentive Program: Eligibility rules require applicants to apply prior to high school or GED completion and before the 20th birthday, and the award must be used within 10 years of high school or GED completion—effectively preventing anyone older than age 28-30 from using the award.

Michigan Competitive Scholarship: Workers are ineligible if they are out of high school for more than 10 years, preventing students who graduated “on time” at age 18 from using the award once they pass age 28.

Michigan Tuition Grant: Workers and parents of any age are eligible, but their postsecondary education must be at a private not-for-profit institution. It is not available for use at community colleges, which offer programs specifically designed for students who are working or raising families (Fig. 3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, none of the three current grant programs are available to students enrolled less than half time or who are in short-term occupational programs. Students who are juggling employment, family and school must often go less than half time or enroll in a short-term program due to having to work and care for family members. As discussed in a recent paper by the Working Poor Families Project, while low-income adult students are likely to need employment to support their families and finance their education, working more than a few hours at a job can often result in lower grades and even dropping out. Not having financial aid may discourage adult learners from going to school less than half-time.1

In 2010, the Legislature eliminated a number of grant programs that were available to adult learners: the Adult Part-Time Grant, the Michigan Educational Opportunity Grant, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship and Work-Study. This may have been a factor in the 31% decline in FAFSA applicants age 30 and over for school year 2013-14. (See Appendicies 2 and 3).

It should be pointed out that there are employer-sponsored training programs in some areas of the state that are of low cost or no cost at all to the student. Michigan supports such programs through its Skilled Trades Training Fund and there are other programs available in some areas as well. However, for older working students who are in non-employer-based programs at community colleges and universities, there is no state financial aid available.

Policy Recommendations

Michigan should do the following to make it easier for adult learners to receive financial aid:

1.  Make need-based grants available to older workers by

a) reauthorizing funding for either the Adult Part-Time Grant or the Educational Opportunity Grant, both of which were specifically designed to serve adult learners in a wide variety of circumstances, or

b) modifying the eligibility rules of the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and/or the Tuition Incentive Program to allow older workers to qualify and to allow the money to be used for less than half time enrollment or for short-term occupational programs.

2. Implement a Work-Study program that subsidizes academically relevant work for low-income adult students while paying a livable wage. Studies show that working students are less likely to drop out or suffer academic setbacks if their work is related to their courses of study. Although the traditional Work-Study program was ended in 2010, Michigan could replace it with a carefully targeted program that connects employment to academics. (For more information, see the Working Poor Families Project paper Earn to Learn: How States Can Reimagine and Reinvest in Work-Study to Help Low-Income Adults Pay for College, Enhance Their Academic Studies.)2 

Conclusion

Helping older workers attain new skills leading to in-demand jobs will help grow Michigan’s economy. With the layoffs in manufacturing and other sectors, many workers with families are unemployed, under­employed or earning less than what they used to. This results in less tax revenue for the state and less economic stability for the families. Michigan should provide grants that enable working parents to get skilled jobs. It is good workforce development.

Endnotes

  1. Alstadt, D., Earn to Learn: How States Can Reimagine And Reinvest In Work-Study To Help Low-Income Adults Pay For College, Enhance Their Academic Studies, And Prepare For Post-College Careers, The Working Poor Families Project. Washington, DC: 2014. (http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/WPFP-Spring-2014-Brief.pdf, accessed April 18, 2014)
  2. Ibid.

 

 

 

Education Funding Lags in Michigan

 

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