Legislature OKs restoring over half of vetoed funds
LANSING (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to restore more than half of the state funding that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed, largely resolving a protracted budget process that broke down over fixing aging roads and morphed into a fight about gubernatorial powers.
Whitmer agreed to a provision that would let lawmakers undo any department fund transfers initiated by her State Administrative Board for spending related to the supplemental spending. Other bills would impose notification requirements on the board, require legislators to pass a budget by July 1 each year and clarify that the state auditor can access confidential or electronically stored information from the executive branch.
Whitmer called the deal “an important step forward for Michigan, which includes funding for health care, rural and urban hospitals, tethers to monitor dangerous felons, and our vocational villages. I support this bipartisan bill and will sign it, honor the terms and not challenge any of its provisions.”
She nixed an unprecedented amount of funding — $630 million, or 1.8%, of state spending ($947 million with federal funds) — at the deadline on Sept. 30 after being sent a budget without her input following a breakdown over road funding.
The gridlock began in March, when Whitmer — who campaigned on fixing the roads — proposed a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase that went nowhere. By September, with the clock ticking to fund government nearing, she and GOP legislative leaders tabled road-funding talks to focus on the budget. But negotiations quickly broke down when Republicans proposed diverting general funds to roads and bridges this budget year, and the Legislature sent her a spending plan she deemed a “mess.”
GOP lawmakers had expected line-item vetoes but were surprised at their magnitude. She also used a board to unilaterally shift other funding around, angering Republicans.
The legislation would restore $574 million — including $35 million so charter schools get the same funding increase that most traditional K-12 districts received, reinstate $7 million for 172 rural school districts and $38 million in need-based tuition assistance for students at in-state private colleges.
About $13 million would be revived to keep on the job 119 sheriff’s deputies who patrol roads. Nearly $15 million would reimburse jails for housing felons who otherwise may have been sent to state prisons.