The state budget is a big deal here at the League. As an organization and as individuals, our team makes the budget our focus each year, as it is one of the best ways to make an impact on improving the lives of people in our state. But as an organization that loves budget work, the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that the Legislature put forth last week left much to be desired.
This morning, as we followed the Administrative Board’s meeting, we reflected on what this budget could have been had the Legislature prioritized people over partisanship.
We’re glad to see Gov. Gretchen Whitmer exercise her executive power, and more importantly, her role as Michigan residents’ top public servant, to right some of the significant wrongs in the Republican-led Legislature’s 2020 state budget. She addressed one of the biggest concerns with the budget passed last week by directing $6.1 million in vital funding to support the implementation of Healthy Michigan Plan work requirements and curtail the potential health coverage losses the lack of education and awareness could cause. She also allotted $9 million in workforce development funding to help Healthy Michigan enrollees get the training they need to find and keep a job.
Between her line-item vetoes yesterday and the Administrative Board’s action today, the governor also tempered some of the budget’s partisanship and nationalism that had weaponized Department of Corrections boilerplate against Michigan immigrants and local governments; restored funding to help kids receive more of the child support money they deserve; redirected transportation dollars to public transit efforts, an often overlooked need for many communities and workers; and freed up $314.8 million in Department of Education funding to go to the immediate needs of our kids and schools.
Most importantly, the governor used all the procedural tools at her disposal to avoid an unnecessary government shutdown while jumpstarting budget negotiations with the Legislature to revisit big, long-term funding issues facing the state’s services, roads and schools. We may not agree with all of Gov. Whitmer’s budget decisions and are certainly concerned about the fate of some proven, successful programs, but we are optimistic that this is just another step in the process and room for compromise is still there. Hopefully, the political will to negotiate is now there, too.