Michi­gan Spend­ing Bill Passed

The Bond Buyer - - Front Page - By Nora Colomer

Michi­gan law­mak­ers have ap­proved $1.3 bil­lion in ex­tra fund­ing for 2019 to fix roads and sup­port toxic cleanups, school safety and lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Se­nate Bill 601, which passed Fri­day with a vote of 84-23 in the House and a 34-4 vote in the Se­nate, uses rev­enues gen­er­ated from a new on­line sales tax and close to $100 mil­lion in un­spent funds that were al­lo­cated to var­i­ous state agen­cies last year.

The plan also re­lies on a sep­a­rate bill, also ap­proved Fri­day, that di­verts ex­pected rev­enues away from the school aid fund.

House Bill 4991, which passed the GOP-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture with­out any Demo­cratic sup­port, will di­vert roughly $140 mil­lion a year from schools. The bill would re­duce rev­enue to the state’s gen­eral fund by $42 mil­lion in fis­cal 2019 and $38.2 mil­lion in fis­cal 2020, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis.

“We are se­verely un­der-fund­ing our ed­u­ca­tion,” and the bill takes away a chance to partly fix

that, said Rep. Donna Lasin­ski, D-Ann Ar­bor.

“Tak­ing away from the fu­ture of Michi­gan’s chil­dren in the mid­dle of the night to fill gaps in the bud­get left by Repub­li­can lead­er­ship is the def­i­ni­tion of bad gov­er­nance,” said Rep. Ab­dul­lah Ham­moud, D-Dear­born. “Pro­tect­ing our en­vi­ron­ment or fix­ing our roads does not have to come at the ex­pense of school fund­ing. Yet, two years of in­ac­tion by the leg­isla­tive ma­jor­ity has put us in this po­si­tion. As our state faces ongoing en­vi­ron­men­tal and ed­u­ca­tional crises, we need to be putting more money to­wards both causes, not shift­ing ex­ist­ing fund­ing from one to the other.”

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers said the school aid funds would be off­set by the on­line sales tax.

“This is ad­di­tional rev­enue that did not pre­vi­ously ex­ist,” Ari Adler, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Sny­der, said in a state­ment. “That means we are not tak­ing it from the School Aid Fund.”

Michi­gan ear­lier this year be­gan col­lect­ing sales tax from on­line busi­ness which is ex­pected to in­crease the state’s tax rev­enue by al­most $250 mil­lion in the next three years.

A June de­ci­sion by the U.S. Supreme Court al­lows the Michi­gan Depart­ment of Trea­sury to col­lect sales tax from re­tail­ers lo­cated out­side the state if the re­tailer ex­ceeds $100,000 in sales or 200 or more trans­ac­tions in Michi­gan within the pre­vi­ous cal­en­dar year.

The bud­get sup­ple­men­tal in­cludes an ad­di­tional $114 mil­lion to help fix state and lo­cal road­ways, bring­ing the to­tal in­vest­ment for roads since 2017 to $2.6 bil­lion. “South­east Michi­gan driv­ers are re­minded ev­ery day of the need to fix our roads, and I am pleased that we were able to pro­vide this ad­di­tional fund­ing to help make that hap­pen sooner,” said Sen. Marty Knol­len­berg, R-Troy, in a state­ment.

The deal also cre­ates a $69 mil­lion “Re­new Michi­gan” pro­gram to tackle that chal­lenge. Un­der the deal, $45 mil­lion each year will flow to toxic cleanups, and $24 mil­lion would go to re­cy­cling and land­fill over­sight.

The ad­di­tional fund­ing will re­place a tapped-out $675 mil­lion bond fund for en­vi­ron­men­tal projects.

The sup­ple­men­tal also pro­vides $25 mil­lion in new school safety grants to sup­port emer­gency op­er­a­tions, safety train­ing, build­ing se­cu­rity and the con­fi­den­tial re­port­ing pro­gram, OK2SAY.

The added in­vest­ment brings the to­tal amount of money ded­i­cated to school safety this year to $50 mil­lion.

Other ap­proved fund­ing for schools in­cluded a $30 mil­lion in­vest­ment for men­tal health and sup­port ser­vices and an ad­di­tional $18 mil­lion in at-risk fund­ing. The funds will also be used to aid lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture projects.

“The gov­er­nor will care­fully re­view the fi­nal ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion and then de­cide whether to sign it,” said Adler.

The Repub­li­can’s two terms in of­fice con­clude Jan. 1, when Demo­crat Gretchen Whit­mer is sworn in as the state’s next gov­er­nor. ◽

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