Legislators push for more immediate funding for Flint, K-12 schools
LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled his Fiscal Year 2017 budget today during a joint meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The budget has a heavy focus on funding for the water crisis affecting the city of Flint, where Gov. Snyder proposed $195 million in funding.
“I’m pleased to see Gov. Snyder retool his budget for the upcoming fiscal year to put a focus on the needs of Flint, but the problem is the need is now, while some of the money for Flint won’t even go into effect until October,” state Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio) said. “This cannot be a public relations-only win for the governor while the people of Flint continue to suffer daily. They can’t wait another day.”
In that $195 million, it will specifically:
- Put $37 million toward water sampling for every resident, inspection and replacement of school and daycare water fixtures, prioritize infrastructure, and stay connected to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department through the end of 2016.
- Put $15 million toward school food programs, summer meal programs for children, enlist a mobile food bank and additional food bank resources, and begin food inspections at licensed food establishments.
- Put $63 million toward expanding healthcare access, in-home care for children, school support programs, school nurses, crisis counseling, lead abatement, and lab and testing costs.
- Put $50 million in reserve funding for future needs in the city.
Besides Flint, public universities will be getting a $61 million increase in the governor’s proposal. This will bring them in line with their funding before the 2010-11 fiscal year, which was slashed by 15 percent in Gov. Snyder’s first budget.
“Reinvesting in education has been a priority for me since day one. After years of disinvesting in our higher education system, I’m relieved to see Governor Snyder recommend that we at least return to the funding levels for higher education that were in place before he took office and made deep cuts to our universities and community colleges,” House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said. “This is a good starting point, and in future budgets I hope we can push these funding levels even higher. We need to make sure that a college education is affordable without pushing our children into student loan debt.”
Also, the budget addresses one of the shortfalls of Gov. Snyder’s previous budgets: per-pupil funding. In budgets past, the increase has not kept up with inflation, causing an actual decrease overall. This year, the governor is proposing a $60-120 increase.
“Too many of our schools across Michigan are struggling financially and academically. The solution is to properly fund education to ensure our students get the best education possible and our teachers have the resources they need to teach. The governor’s proposal is a step in that direction, but much more needs to be done,” state Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) said. “You can’t pick and choose which kids deserve a leg up in their education.”
One area that is also a hot topic in the state is how to fund Detroit Public Schools (DPS) with its current deficit. Instead of using the K-12 foundation grant, a $72 million-a-year for 10 years proposal is being recommended to be withdrawn annually from the tobacco settlement fund, and an additional supplemental has been proposed to pay $50 million for DPS’s current year debt.
“We are sprinting toward a deadline where DPS can no longer function, and while plans are being made for the district in the governor’s budget, that budget help will come too late,” state Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit) said. “We have to act yesterday to keep our schools functioning today, and no matter the plan that the governor can recommend, it must be one of urgency. Detroit schoolchildren deserve the same access to a quality education, and we should not cheat them out of that opportunity.”
The budget proposal also focuses on:
- Making the necessary state match of $108.7 million to continue the Healthy Michigan Plan.
- $25.6 million to expand Healthy Kids Dental to all eligible children in all of Michigan’s 83 counties.
- $165 million to create the Michigan Infrastructure Fund for statewide infrastructure needs.
- An increase of 4.3 percent in total funding to state universities.
- An increase of 2.4 percent in total funding to community colleges.
- More than $70 million to support the Grand Rapids and D.J. Jacobetti Homes for Veterans.
- $660 million to the Michigan State Police, including the expansion of the Secure Cities Partnership to six new cities.
- A total of $115.5 million to grow Michigan’s economy through business attraction and community revitalization efforts.
- An initial investment of $1.3 million to implement recommendation of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Taskforce.
- The governor’s budget does not include a deposit to the Rainy Day Fund.
- The governor proposes approximately $130 million dollars to pay for specialty pharmacy drugs for those with hepatitis C and Cystic Fibrosis who are on Medicaid or in our prison system.
- The budget includes an increase of 3.9 percent in constitutional revenue sharing which is a mandatory payment. Statutory revenue sharing was not increased in the budget proposed.