by Tyler Arnold
The Michigan Senate passed a budget package that secured some additional funding for roads, but falls far short of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed road funding and excludes her proposed 45-cent gas tax hike, which would nearly triple the tax.
“We are … investing an additional $132 million entirely to local roads – fully implementing $1.2 billion from the 2015 roads plan a year ahead of schedule,” Sen. Stamas, R-Midland, said in a news release. Stamas is the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee.
“Discussions can and will continue on additional funding for our roads, but we need to press forward and fulfill our other responsibilities with the resources that we currently have,” Stamas said. “It’s one of our top jobs to pass a balanced budget on time – and we owe that to all Michigan families.”
Whitmer’s plan would have increased the state’s gas tax from 26 cents to 71 cents to generate $2.5 billion in revenue that would be spent fully on road funding. But her plan would have eliminated $600 million of road funding from the general revenue and diverted that money to other issues, including education and ensuring the quality of drinking water. This means her plan would have increased total spending on roads by $1.9 billion.
Republicans are expected to produce a more comprehensive plan for road funding by the summer, but Whitmer has gone on record saying she wants increased road funding to be in the budget plan.
Whitmer’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but the governor’s office went on the record in March after this legislation passed the appropriations committee saying that she would veto the legislation if it didn’t provide adequate road funding.
The road-funding portion of the budget passed the Senate along party lines, 22-16. Republicans have a majority in both legislative chambers.
The budget package also included a nearly $400 million increase in education spending. The additional per-pupil funding for schools would depend on the school’s need, but would range between a $135 per-pupil funding increase and a $270 per-pupil funding increase.
This would be the largest per-pupil funding increase in the past 18 years and would be $107 million more than Whitmer’s plan.
The Republican plan deviates from Whitmer’s plan in a few structural areas that the governor addressed in her budget proposal. The plan does not divert any money from road funding from the general fund to education; it does not stop School Aid Fund money from going into higher education rather than fully into K-12 education; and it does not address Whitmer’s plan to provide more money to students who are expensive to educate.
The education bill passed almost along party lines with one Republican dissenting.
“I am proud of the smart investments made in this budget, and I look forward to working with my House colleagues and the governor to finalize a state budget on time that addresses the priorities and pocketbooks of the people of Michigan,” Stamas said.
The House is crafting its own version of the budget bill. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia, Ohio and Michigan for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Gretchen Whitmer.