On Tuesday, Governor Whitmer will present her budget, which marks the official start of our favorite season: BUDGET SEASON! We at the League love budget season because it’s a chance for our state to prioritize what matters and to invest in our future.
And what’s better is that we’re going into this process with a sense that compromise can be made. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. COMPROMISE? That doesn’t happen anymore. We’re inundated with messaging that tells us all that’s left in our system is bitter partisanship and rage.
But we’ve seen some signs that compromise is making a comeback.
First, there’s been continued support for the effort to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in Michigan. Currently, 17-year-olds in Michigan are automatically tried as adults, regardless of their crimes. A broad coalition of organizations and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are fighting hard to raise the age to 18, and, although the bipartisan package of bills didn’t make it out of lame duck last year, there’s renewed energy on both sides of the aisle that the new iteration of the bills will pass in 2019.
Another recent compromise came with the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which was passed in December. The Farm Bill strongly supports Michigan’s farmers and agriculture, our second-largest industry, but it will also create jobs and economic activity at a variety of companies and communities around the state. We are grateful especially to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who has always been a strong voice for Michigan farmers, for her leadership in shepherding a compromise on the legislation through as the ranking Democrat on the Farm Bill conference committee.
Last week, two new reports from the Hudson Webber Foundation revealed some common goals for improving Michigan’s adult and juvenile justice systems. The reports came out of an event last September when representatives from conservative and progressive organizations alike got together at the Michigan Safety and Justice Roundtable to find consensus on solving issues within our state’s justice system. We discussed issues like post-incarceration barriers to employment, the connection between poverty and incarceration, improving data collection, and pursuing alternatives to incarceration.
Our state has a Michigan Department of Corrections, not a Department of Incarceration, and we need to do a better job of helping advance the lives of the roughly 3 million Michiganders who have some type of criminal record. It’s the right thing to do for them, their families, and our state. It was refreshing to see groups that often have opposing viewpoints working together to find solutions.
Of course, a cursory glance at Twitter or a quick session of flipping through the channels on TV will prove that compromise still isn’t the norm. But we’re hopeful that this year will bring with it a stronger air of cooperation. We’re especially watching the 2020 state budget process, because we have hopes that the governor and members of the Michigan Legislature will not only set our state’s fiscal course, but prioritize our values together.
Among the things we at the League value? Access to affordable, quality child care for working families. Healthy food and water systems around the state. Investments in education from cradle to career. Fair tax systems. Protecting health care coverage. And general supports for folks who struggle every day to make ends meet.
To give lawmakers guidance on those values, the League has put together a comprehensive package of budget briefs laying out our goals for the state. We hope you’ll take a look and help us build a stronger Michigan for all in 2019!