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Legislators predict more budget battles

LANSING — The Michigan Legislature began its 2020 session earlier this month. State legislators for the local area discussed their goals and expectations for the year ahead.

State Sen. Ed McBroom said he expects funds cut from the state’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to still be a major legislative concern.

“I think they’ll be starting off by continuing to work on restoring funding the government vetoed last year,” he said.

Whitmer vetoed almost $1 billion in funding last fall. She also used a board for the unilateral transfer of an additional $625 million.

“Last year’s budget process was an absolute debacle, and the blame squarely rests on the governor’s shoulders. The governor willfully engaged in partisan political theater that is worthy of a worst actor nomination. She walked out of budget negotiations, then slashed funding to our most vulnerable residents to try to force the Legislature to approve her ludicrous 45-cent gas scheme,” State Rep. Beau LaFave said.

LaFave said improving Michigan’s infrastructure is a priority for him, but that he would like to fund these improvements through budget cuts.

“We must continue our work to fix Michigan roads and bridges, and that means prioritizing our state’s spending just like U.P. families are forced to do every day,” he said.

A deal struck between Whitmer and state legislators in December restored more than half of the funding and set limits on the governor’s ability to move money between state departments. LaFave said he was involved with the restoration of funding to the MiDOCS GME Consortium, which gives loan repayment to primary care residents at Michigan medical schools if they work in underserved areas, including the U.P.

Funds not restored by the deal are up for discussion again this year, McBroom said. One funding-related issue he said he planned to work on was the restoration of pension funding for Michigan Works employees in the six western counties of the Upper Peninsula.

These funds were restored for employees of Michigan Works in the eastern U.P. Despite this, employees in the western U.P. were left without pension funding.

“The government vetoed that money in October, and I’m going to continue to work to see that it’s restored,” McBroom said.

LaFave said he is involved with efforts to reinstate funding for another project.

“I’m currently fighting to get the governor’s funding veto restored for a feasibility study to bring a much-needed veterans’ cemetery to the Upper Peninsula,” he said.

Funding for the “Pure Michigan” advertising campaign is also on the table. McBroom said the campaign’s entire budget — between $30 and $40 million — was vetoed by Whitmer in October.

“If the campaign is going to continue, that money must be restored as soon as possible,” he said.

McBroom expected work on the budget for Michigan’s 2020-21 fiscal year to start in the near future.

“The new budgeting process will begin sometime in February,” he said.

For the most part, he expected the budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year to look similar to the process for the 2019-20 budget.

“I expect it’s going to be a very big repeat of last year’s budget discussions,” McBroom said, noting he expects these discussions to be dominated by talk about road funding.

Aside from work on the state’s current and upcoming budgets, McBroom provided an update on legislative work related to the “dark store” tax theory.

“Bills have been introduced and SaintA provides courses on trauma informed care and teaches how a brain develops, functions and recovers from trauma to help children overcome adverse experiences and thrive.

SaintA Vice President of Educational Services, and Senior Trainer, Sara Daniel travels from Milwaukee, Wis., to train staff of school districts and early care businesses on how to work with students affected by trauma, behavioral challenges, and mental health issues.

“Schools across the country are choosing to learn more about creating a trauma sensitive school because they are recognizing that many students are impacted by significant stress and adversity in their lives,” said Daniel. “This stress can impact their developing brains and stress response systems in ways that get in the way of optimal learning.”

According to a recent National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 24.5% of surveyed children had witnessed violence in the past year in the family or community, 18.4% witnessed an assault, and 6.1% had witnessed a bomb threat at school. School-aged children experience a range of reactions when encountering trauma in their lives. Trauma can affect a child’s brain development, which can activate stress responses, resulting in behavioral and emotional issues.

“Creating a trauma sensitive school means that we are recognizing these potential challenges and creating school environments where all students can learn,” said Daniel.

Bark River-Harris Superintendent Jason Lockwood is concerned about the increase of challenges teachers face each day while instructing students.

“It’s a very important moment we’re going through. Kids are going through toxic stress trauma at an increased, alarming rate,” said Lockwood. “Teachers are effected by secondhand stress trauma, a challenging situation. All the more reason to have the training.”

Lockwood said the training provides insightful, medical reasons, physical and psychological reasons, and how to maximize teaching.

“There’s going to be a shift in the way we teach,” said Lockwood. “It’s not business as usual anymore. There is a general increase in student bad behavior and we’re addressing the problem by adding training and staff. Training helps us acknowledge and respond.”

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