The 2014 State Budget: Some Opportunities Missed

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The 2014 state budget, as passed recently by the Michigan Legislature, includes some positive investments in Michigan’s future, but also misses the opportunity to improve economic security and health for many Michigan residents. The Legislature completed its work on the $48.7 billion budget in record time, meeting a self-imposed deadline of early June.

The final budget consists of two omnibus budgets, including: (1) the Education Omnibus Budget ($15.4 billion), which funds School Aid ($13.4 billion), community colleges ($336 million), and higher education ($1.4 billion); and (2) the General Omnibus Budget ($33.3 billion), that funds all other state departments and services, including Community Health ($15.4 billion), Human Services ($6 billion), and Transportation ($3.6 billion). Both budgets have been presented to the governor for his signature. In Michigan, the governor also has the power to make line item vetoes.

Sadly, in formulating the state budget for next year, state lawmakers turned their backs on more than $1.5 billion in 100% federal funding available to expand Medicaid eligibility to very low-income parents and childless adults up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

This expansion would reduce the number of uninsured adults by 46%, and result in savings in the state’s General Fund of $206 million in Fiscal Year 2014 alone by allowing the state to use federal funds to provide comprehensive services to a population that is currently eligible for very limited state funded health benefits. Cumulative savings to the state’s General Fund would grow to $1.2 billion through 2020.

It is not too late, however, to accept the federal funds available to Michigan to expand Medicaid eligibility, and legislative discussions continue. House Republicans proposed legislation, H.B. 4714, that initially would have partially expanded Medicaid eligibility to nondisabled adults (ages 21-65) and imposed a 48-month time limit.

Now redrafted, the bill modifies the 48-month time limit, and instead requires those with incomes between 100% and 133% of poverty who are eligible under the expansion to purchase private insurance through the healthcare marketplace, or increase cost sharing or out-of-pocket expenses after 48 months. Some relief may be available if enrollees adopt healthy behaviors or assist the state in detecting medical fraud and abuse.

The final Fiscal Year 2014 budget also included unexpected funds based on more favorable revenue projections adopted at the May 15th Revenue Estimating Conference. The new revenue consensus by state fiscal experts assumes that Michigan will have an additional $702 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, including $579 million in state General Funds, and $123 million in the School Aid Fund.

With these unexpected revenues, along with the potential infusion of federal Medicaid funds, the Michigan Legislature had the opportunity to build a 2014 budget that begins to reverse some of the damaging policy decisions made during the worst of the Great Recession to balance the budget and provide business tax cuts. With this budget, lawmakers had the opportunity to reinvest in the educational and human services that have been shown to improve economic competitiveness.

While some progress was made, including a significant expansion in funding for Michigan’s state-funded preschool program, an expansion of dental care to low-income children, and a small restoration of K-12 per-pupil allocations, the opportunity was largely missed to reverse tax and policy changes that disproportionately hurt low- and moderate-income working families, children and seniors.


Michigan tax policies hurt working families and thwart economic growth: Because Michigan’s Constitution requires that the state budget be balanced each year, tax policy decisions drive budget decision-making. In the long run, Michigan will not be able to consistently make the types of investments needed to create a competitive workforce and build the community infrastructure, services and amenities needed to attract and retain businesses until it updates its outdated tax system to ensure sufficient revenues in good economic times and bad.

The tax changes adopted in the last several years have unfortunately moved Michigan in the wrong direction by making the state’s tax system more regressive and creating additional barriers to employment for low-wage workers. More significantly, by relieving businesses of the obligation to pay their fair share for the community services they rely on, recent tax changes further jeopardized the basic public services needed to grow Michigan’s economy, including basic human services, K-12 education, access to higher education and vital community services.

In 2011, the Michigan Legislature adopted an unprecedented tax shift that reduced taxes on businesses by 83%, while increasing taxes on individuals by 23%. As part of that shift:

Tax credits for many low- or moderate-income workers and families were cut or eliminated.

  • Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit, an effective anti-poverty tool that helps hard-working families whose incomes put them and their children below or moderately above the federal poverty line was cut by 70%.
  • The Homestead Property Tax Credit was restricted for some low-income families and reduced for others.
  • The child deduction of $600 per child for children ages 18 and under was eliminated.
  • Credits for city income taxes and college tuition and fees were eliminated.

Tax credits for many charitable contributions were eliminated, including contributions to:

  • Michigan college foundations, universities, public broadcast stations, and public libraries and state museums.
  • Homeless shelters, food banks and community foundation.
  • Medical savings accounts.
  • Individual or Family Development Accounts.

Taxes on pensioners were increased.

  • The full impact of the 2011 tax changes on individual taxpayers and low-income workers and their families is just being felt this year, as taxes for 2012 are completed.
  • EITC payments, which totaled $353.5 million statewide before the Great Tax Shift, are expected to fall to $106 million for the 2012 tax year. As a result, an additional 9,000 children are expected to fall into poverty, as their parents lose the struggle to cover work-related costs and make ends meet.
  • Donations to community foundations are down 28% statewide, with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan experiencing a 40% drop in donations to endowments for the 185 nonprofits they partner with.
  • In the face of rising poverty and restricted access to basic public income and food assistance, donations to homeless shelters and food banks are falling. For example, the Food Bank Council of Michigan reports that donations of $200 to food banks have dropped by 29%, while $400 donations have fallen by 47%.

During the debates over the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, lawmakers had an opportunity to reverse some of the 2011 tax changes that hurt low- and moderate-income workers, seniors and charitable organizations. Despite unexpected revenues of more than $700 million, and a transfer of funds into the state’s “rainy day” fund, the Legislature failed to do so.

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget fails to compensate for years of disinvestment in basic public services. While the Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes some increases for state programs and services, it fails to compensate for more than a decade of cuts and the erosion of purchasing power. Michigan’s economic problems began before the national Great Recession, and deepened dramatically during that period. Recent projections show that Michigan’s economy is inching forward, but it would be an exaggeration to say it is rebounding, and many Michigan families are grappling with higher taxes, fewer services, and lower incomes.

The rationale for the Great Tax Shift of 2011 was that the combination of reducing business taxes and increasing individual income taxes—with a net loss of revenue—would improve the state’s economy and spur job growth. The evidence doesn’t support that policy goal. Research shows that corporate income tax cuts are unlikely to have a strong positive effect on a state’s rate of economic growth or create many new jobs.

In fact, raising taxes on the working poor creates a clear drag on the state’s economy, in part because lower-income people spend nearly all the money they make, mainly on necessities, so for every dollar they lose due to a tax increase, total spending drops by around a dollar. Further, tax changes and cuts in public services that reduce available income and supports for working families and increase poverty have a negative effect on children’s health, school achievement, and ultimately their success in the workforce.

Over the last decade, Michigan’s outdated tax structure failed to produce the revenues needed to maintain basic services and invest in the human and other capital needed to grow the state’s economy. While total state spending (state General Fund and state restricted funds) rose by 7% between 2003 and 2013, with the exception of the Departments of Community Health and Corrections, every other major state department and service suffered cuts—even before calculating the impact of a 21% increase in the Detroit Consumer Price Index over that decade.

Instead of fixing the state’s revenue problems, lawmakers chose to make deep cuts in programs for low-income and working families, public schools, institutions of higher learning, and vital community services. To ensure Michigan’s competitive advantage, it is critical that the state begin to reverse those failing policies and reinvest in its most precious resource, its human capital. While much has been said about Michigan as a “comeback” state, the truth is that tax and budget decisions have forced hard-working, low-income families in Michigan to make sacrifices, and closed them off from the benefits of the “comeback.”


Economic Security and Work:

More very poor children will be denied access to basic income assistance. The Fiscal Year 2014 budget reduces funding for Family Independence Program by $41 million to a total of $214.3 million to reflect continued reduction in caseloads—projecting caseloads will fall from 53,298 in the current year (appropriated) to 45,710 in Fiscal Year 2014—a 14% reduction.

  • FIP caseloads have been declining dramatically in recent years, in large part the result of policy decisions, including the adoption in 2011 of changes in lifetime limits for assistance. Between 2010 and the projections for 2014, caseloads will have fallen from 79,233 to 45,710—a drop of 42% in just five fiscal years.
  • Approximately seven of every 10 FIP recipients are children, and 60% of those children are under the age of 9.
  • To be eligible for FIP, the average family of three must have an annual income of less than $9,800, and the maximum benefit is $492 per month, representing less than one-third of the poverty line. 

Approximately  30,000 very poor children will have their fall clothing allowance restored. The Michigan Legislature included $2.9 million in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget to restore the clothing allowance provided to children in child-only FIP families in the 2013-14 school year. The Snyder Administration chose to eliminate the clothing allowance this fall—the only direct client benefit cut as a result of federal sequestration.

  • 30,000 children will have their clothing allowance restored in school year 2013-14, but because of earlier policy changes limiting the benefit to FIP cases that do not include adults, 120,000 children who had previously received a fall clothing allowance will still be left behind.
  • The fall clothing allowance is an important support for low-income children, particularly in light of the failure to raise FIP grants.

The number of Michigan residents with access to basic food assistance will continue to decline: The final budget reduces funding for the Food Assistance program (formerly called the Food Stamp program) by $683.7 million in recognition of the loss of temporary federal funds, as well as caseload reductions—largely based on changes in FAP eligibility, including the adoption of an asset test. The Legislature assumes that caseloads will fall from 1.1 million cases appropriated this year, to 876,650 in 2014—a 19.4% reduction. The actual average monthly FAP caseload through April of this year was much lower than appropriated at 912,339.

  • Between 2004 and 2011, FAP caseloads grew by 135%. In 2011, Michigan adopted an asset limit for FAP, limiting access to food assistance and creating an unreasonable hardship for some families, as well as turning away federal funds available to assist low-income families. Since that time, FAP caseloads have been declining.
  • Over 70% of FAP recipients receive no other state cash assistance, and the average monthly benefit for a two-person household is $267.

Low-income working families will continue to struggle after losing significant income with the 70% cut in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit: In 2011,the Michigan Legislature slashed the state Earned Income Tax Credit from 20% of the federal EITC to just 6%. The state EITC is a refundable tax credit for working families, designed to promote and reward work and offset other taxes paid by low wage workers that consume a higher percentage of their total income. Despite unexpected new state revenues, the Legislature did not recommend EITC restorations.

  • The EITC is a proven tool in the fight against poverty. Last year, at 20% of the federal credit, the state EITC kept 14,000 children from falling into poverty. This year, at just 6%, only 5,000 children will escape poverty, leaving another 9,000 behind.
  • The EITC serves as a temporary income supplement for most families—three out of five use the credit for just 1 or 2 years while they get back on their feet.
  • The credit has been shown to increase employment, reduce the need for public assistance, boost local economies, and benefit businesses by helping low-wage workers cover work-related costs such as transportation and child care.  

Healthy Workers, Families and Children:

Thousands of currently uninsured Michigan residents may not have access to healthcare that is fully federally funded: The Legislature rejected, as part of the budget process, the governor’s recommendation to accept Michigan’s share of federal funds to expand healthcare coverage to 320,000 low-income parents and individuals through the Medicaid programs. A separate bill to expand eligibility for Medicaid is currently under discussion.

  • More than 1.9 million Michigan residents (19.4%) now rely on Medicaid for their basic health services.
  • Because Medicaid expansion would be 100% federally funded, it would result in savings to the state of more than $200 million in Fiscal Year 2014 alone, allowing the state to use federal funds to provide comprehensive services to a very low-income population that is currently eligible for very limited state funded health benefits.
  • The Legislature’s decision to date denies coverage for uninsured Michigan residents for both Medicaid health and mental health services. Michigan’s mental health system is underfunded, and without this expansion more people will be forced to go without needed services, be added to waiting lists for services, or receive services through the corrections system. Funding for community mental health services for persons not eligible for Medicaid was reduced by nearly $54 million between fiscal years 2010 and 2012.
  • By giving more women access to healthcare before and between pregnancies, Medicaid expansion would improve both the preconception health of mothers and birth outcomes, including a reduction in infant deaths. Approximately 60% of women eligible for Medicaid deliveries report that their pregnancies are unintended, compared with 27% of privately insured women.
  • Medicaid expansion could increase economic activity and decrease the state’s long-term healthcare liabilities—with federal funds covering 100% of the costs through 2016, phasing down to 90% in 2020 and beyond.
  • The Department of Community Health estimates that Medicaid expansion would cut Michigan’s uncompensated care costs—caused by those who must turn to emergency rooms for their care — by $320 million through 2022.

Approximately  70,500 more low-income Michigan children will have access to dental care: The Legislature ultimately approved the governor’s proposal to add $11.6 million to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program to cover an additional 70,500 children in three Michigan counties—part of a multi-year plan to cover all children in the state.

  • Approximately 70,500 children in Ingham, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties will have access to preventive oral health care.
  • Currently, more than 440,000 children are covered by the program in 75 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Many of the state’s most populated areas are not yet covered, including Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties—with a disproportionate impact on children of color.
  • Access to preventive dental care reduces dental emergencies and related costs. Children enrolled in Healthy Kids Dental are 60% more likely to receive preventive dental care by age 3, and 25% less likely to have dental emergencies.

Michigan infants, and particularly infants of color, will continue to die unnecessarily: While the Michigan Legislature adopted—at a reduced level of $2 million—the governor’s recommendation for new funding to begin to implement Michigan’s infant mortality reduction plan, this increase is more than offset by lawmakers’ current decision to reject Medicaid expansion to uninsured Michigan residents, including women whose infants would be born healthier if adequate preconception care was available.

  • Despite being a key indicator on the governor’s dashboard, Michigan’s infant mortality rates continue to be higher than most states. Michigan ranks 37th among the states in infant mortality, with death rates for African American infants that are more than two-and-one-half times higher than white babies.
  • Michigan’s efforts to reduce infant mortality remain underfunded. The plan includes regional perinatal care, initiatives to reduce medically unnecessary deliveries before 39 weeks, the promotion of safe sleep practices for infants, and expanded home visiting programs.

Additional funding will be available to prevent toxic lead poisoning: The final budget includes $1.25 million in state General Funds to remove lead hazards from homes in areas with high incidences of lead-poisoned children—funding that was not included in the governor’s budget. Last year, the Michigan Legislature approved an additional $2 million for Michigan’s lead abatement program, known as Healthy Homes, for total funding of $4.9 million. The governor vetoed the expansion, and the program is funded at $2.9 million this year.

  • Lead has a particularly devastating effect on young children when it can compromise the developing central nervous system and cause irreversible damage to cognitive capacity and behavior.
  • Of the nearly 69,000 children targeted for lead poisoning testing (who are insured by Medicaid or live in one of 14 targeted communities), 57% were tested in 2012. Testing for lead poisoning peaked in 2010, and has decreased slightly since. Nearly 150,000 children under the age of 6 were tested in 2012.
  • Prevention works. While, the number of children with confirmed elevated lead blood levels has declined dramatically, some areas of the state still have very high rates of lead poisoning. The city of Detroit had over half the state’s lead poisoning cases in 2012; the second highest total was in Grand Rapids.

A Top-Notch Cradle to Career Education:

More low-income 4-year-olds will benefit from early childhood education: The final Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes the governor’s proposal to increase funding for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program by $65 million, but reserved $25 million of the increase in a newly created GSRP reserve fund which could only be tapped through legislative action if there is sufficient need for the preschool slots. Total funding for the state-funded preschool program is increased from $109.3 million in the current year to $174.3 million in Fiscal Year 2014, opening up approximately 16,000 new half-day slots for 4-year-olds.

The Legislature made several changes to GSRP policy, including: (1) raising the payment for a half-day slot from $3,400 to $3,625; (2) eliminating the current competitive GSRP program that provides funds to private sector providers, instead requiring Intermediate School Districts to establish a local process to contract out at least 30% of their slots to public or nonprofit community organizations or for profit businesses; (3) targeting GSRP funds to the lowest income children by lowering the income cap, requiring that at least 90% of children served are from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and the lowest income children are served first; (4) requiring GSRP providers to have quality ratings of at least three out of five start through Great Start to Quality, Michigan’s quality rating system; and (5) requiring GSRP providers to use a sliding fee tuition scale for children who do not meet the income eligibility requirements.

  • Evaluations of the GSRP show that participants are more likely to be ready when they enter kindergarten and pass 4th grade MEAP tests. In addition, fewer GSRP participants were retained in grade and more graduated on time from high school.
  • A growing number of economists and business leaders, including heads of Fortune 500 companies, the Federal Reserve Bank, and Nobel Prize-winning economists agree that early childhood programs can generate government savings and produce returns that exceed public investments, with savings accruing from lower costs related to such public services as special and remedial education, high school graduation rates, lower unemployment, higher earnings, and reductions in the need for public assistance.

Michigan public schools will continue to struggle to balance their budgets: Although the Legislature, in contrast to the governor, included a partial restoration of the per-pupil foundation allowance for public schools, the increase was not enough to make up for the cuts already suffered by school districts. The Legislature increased the maximum (basic) foundation allowance by $30 to $8,049, and the minimum foundation by $60 to $7,026. The final budget also includes $6 million to ensure that all districts receive a minimum increase of $5 per pupil.

The Legislature also approved $36 million (up from the governor’s recommendation of $24 million) for equity payments to districts with foundation allowances of less than $7,076. The payment would be the lesser of $50 per pupil or the difference between the district’s Fiscal Year 2014 foundation allowance and $7,076.

The final budget retains funding for best practices grants at the current year level of $80 million, with districts eligible for $52 per pupil if they meet seven out of eight best practices. The governor recommended that best practices grants be reduced by 70% to $25 million. Lawmakers also increased performance funding for districts from $30 million to $46.4 million, to reflect the number of districts that are expected to be eligible next year.

  • In 2011 and 2012, Michigan public schools suffered total cuts of $470 per pupil in their foundation allowances, and this budget fails to offset those cuts.
  • In the decade between fiscal years 2004 and 2014, total state spending through the School Aid Fund increased approximately 4%, while the Detroit Consumer Price Index increased nearly 21%.
  • Lawmakers once again chose to transfer funds from the School Aid Fund, which has traditionally been used to fund K-12 education, to universities and community colleges. A total of approximately $400 million will be transferred in Fiscal Year 2014. Transferred School Aid Fund dollars now account for almost 60% of total funding for Michigan’s communities colleges, and 15% of university funding.

Many low-income youths and adults will not be able to afford a college education—the ticket to long-term economic security: Lawmakers included an increase of 7% (from $43.8 million to $47 million) in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the state’s Tuition Incentive Program, which provides financial aid to students who are Medicaid-eligible. While sorely needed, this relatively small increase is unlikely to substantially change Michigan’s ranking of 40th in the country in needs-based grants, or its placement last in the Midwest.

  • Over the last 10 years, states across the country increased investments in need-based grants by an average of 84%. Michigan, running counter to the national trend, decreased state funding by 20%—one of only two Midwest states to cut needs-based grant funding during that period.
  • In 2010-11, Michigan invested the least in grant dollars per student of all Midwestern states. The state spent 4.5% of its higher education budget on state grants in that year, while Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois all spent higher than the national average of 12.5%.
  • In 2010-11, only 14% of Michigan’s full-time students received some kind of grant aid, ranking the state second to lowest in the Midwest and 40th in the nation in the number of students receiving aid.

Without incentives for universities and community colleges to focus on the success of low-income and nontraditional students, many will continue to find barriers to the completion of postsecondary education: For Fiscal Year 2014, the Michigan Legislature again failed to incorporate performance standards that reward universities and community colleges for helping at-risk students. The final budget includes a 2% increase for both universities ($24.9 million) and community colleges ($5.8 million), with funding allocated based on performance metrics. In the current year budget, lawmakers included additional funding for universities and community colleges that meet specific performance standards, however only one of those performance standards—tuition restraint—addresses the unique needs of low-income and nontraditional students, including those needing remediation.

For Fiscal Year 2014, the performance measures for universities will remain largely the same, including tuition restraint; degree completions overall, as well as in key areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health; six-year graduation rates; research and development expenditures; and institutional support as a percentage of core expenditures. In the final budget however, the Legislature strengthened incentives for tuition restraint by making it a condition for receiving any performance funding and by lowering the tuition increase limit from 4% to 3.75%.

For community colleges, the metrics are also largely unchanged, and include degree completions, student contact hours, and administrative costs as a portion of total spending. For Fiscal Year 2014, lawmakers rejected a new metric proposed by the governor for job placements in the skilled trades.

  • Michigan’s economic growth depends on a skilled workforce, and the performance funding system put in place this year for public universities and community colleges does not adequately focus on the success of low-income students or those needing remediation.
  • The most recent data available show that 36.5% of community college students and 13% of university students in Michigan were enrolled in at least one developmental education course—at a cost to both the students and the institution.
  • Michigan’s decision to appropriate a portion of its higher education and community college funding using performance metrics provides an opportunity to address student success in the budget process and reward institutions that are successful in helping low-income and nontraditional students.

Low-income students or those needing remediation face more barriers to educational access and success, are more expensive to serve, and more likely to drop out. If there are no financial incentives for institutions to devote additional resources to this population, they could be viewed as a liability in terms of the other standards, including graduation rates.