Whitmer signs record $76B state budget; tax relief talks ongoing



DETROIT— Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the final OK Wednesday to Michigan’s largest ever state budget, totaling nearly $76 billion overall, which allots record funding for students and places an emphasis on infrastructure spending.


The portion of the budget signed July 20, House Bill 5783, on the ballfield of the Police Athletic League in Detroit totals roughly $54.8 billion.


It comes on the heels of Whitmer giving the OK to a more than $22 billion education budget through Senate Bill 845, which earmarks $19.6 billion toward K-12 schools, about $530 million for community colleges and $2 billion for higher education.


Passing the legislature earlier this month, the general government budget touts several high-dollar figures including $130 million for investing in public safety and community policing resources; $6 billion toward rebuilding local roads, repairing bridges and improving airport/transit systems; $2.65 billion to pay down public employee pension systems; and $300 million for economic and community development.


Whitmer, prior to signing the bill, praised the budget for being fiscally responsible and “not raising taxes by a dime” while still being delivered on time. There is a self-imposed deadline for completing the budget, July 1, though there is no real mechanism for punishment if that finish line is not crossed by that date.


A final budget, however, must be signed by October 1.


“This budget has something remarkable for every community across the state of Michigan,” she said. “You will see the benefit of the investment that we’re making in our people, in our infrastructure ... and in our collective potential. Because when one part of our state succeeds, every part of our state succeeds.”


In questions from reporters, Whitmer said the budget process has been structured strategically so as to make sure one-time funding was not put toward ongoing expenditures.


Whitmer was joined Wednesday by a number of state and local politicians including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; State Budget Office Director Chris Harkins; House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township; Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee; and Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.


As part of the signing, Whitmer is also expected to veto more than $20 million in funding for pregnancy and adoption services over concerns it limits a woman’s ability to choose abortion as a means of family planning.


Asked if the vetoes were expected following the budget signing, Stamas said he understood that those line items in the budget “were not necessarily agreed upon,” though he hoped that a more middle ground could have been found.


“We’re certainly going to continue to fight in trying to help offer support to women and children wherever we have the opportunity, whether that’s in a supplemental that may come or within legislation,” he said.


Both he and the governor were also asked about the roughly $7 billion in funding that still sits on the proverbial table as a result of a surplus from budget negotiations. Each were cagey when asked where talks stood on finding a way to offer Michiganders some form of tax relief.


Whitmer indicated that an “open dialogue” was ongoing between Harkins, legislative leaders and their staff. Even with the legislature not in session, she added, “that doesn’t mean that they’re not working.”


Stamas, too, indicated work was continuing behind the scenes, floating ideas that have come up in conversations like these before such as restructuring how the state taxed gas to lowering the income tax rate. He did admit, however, that the closer Michigan inched to the primary and general elections, the more difficult reaching a consensus on that work could be.


“It always gets a little bit more challenging, certainly, and I think this is no different than any other year,” he said. “But I think it also provides that opportunity and a little motivation to actually try to accomplish something as well.”