Some Democratic priorities addressed, but many areas still lacking
House Democrats are concerned that a continued lack of funding focus on several key areas around the state could produce a budget absent of the needs of Michiganders, while special interests are given a better chance to play politics that will negatively impact lives.
“Though the budget made progress on some key issues Democrats have been fighting for, I was disappointed that the majority rejected amendments for additional transparency and continued its practice to balance the state budget on the back of local communities by not funding revenue sharing at the appropriate level,” House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said. “I urge the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, to put the people of this state first and correct the mistakes of this budget by fixing the glaring holes that will leave hundreds of thousands of people struggling for the services they need.”
The budget proposal includes long-awaited funding for firefighter cancer presumption, an issue that has been pushed for heavily by House Democrats, who have consistently voiced their belief that taking care of those in public service is a duty.
“A small win is just that — small — and we cannot expect the people of our state, those who are counting on us to work in their best interest, to be happy with small victories while hoping for a miracle on other issues they need to survive,” Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said. “Our communities help protect their residents through fire, police and ambulance services, but those services come at a cost, and it’s impossible to put the people of Michigan first when the majority votes no on funding those vital areas.”
Other amendments adopted include:
- An amendment from Singh to fund treatment and prevention of the Zika virus, including mosquito abatement programs, education and screenings.
- Funding for sexual assault prevention programs, introduced in an amendment by Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), which is currently available in only 33 of the 83 counties in Michigan due to a lack of funds.
- A Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) amendment to include funding for an ombudsman for the two veterans’ homes in Michigan to address and investigate complaints.
- An amendment from Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) to invest $3.15 million into home heating assistance in order to leverage almost $140 million in federal food stamp assistance. This results in 160,000 people receiving an additional $76 of assistance every month.
Even with several key Democratic amendments adopted in the Appropriations committee, there were a slew of other amendments that were voted down on the House floor that are vitally important to the quality of life for middle-class families, veterans, seniors and our communities. These include:
- A Yanez amendment that would have added $5 million in senior services to be split between Meals on Wheels and other community nutrition programs.
- A Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) amendment to prohibit state legislators from moving into a building, such as the Capitol View building where lobbying firms reside.
- An amendment from Assistant Democratic Floor Leader Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit) to stop the failed practice of prison food contracts being issued to private companies, and instead bring back state workers in need of jobs.
- A Pagan amendment to reinstate the Michigan State Board of Education funding, which was unfairly stripped down due to the board’s support of gender-neutral bathrooms in state schools.
- A Pagan amendment to create an equal pay commission, the goal of which would be to bring solutions to the continued problem of women making less than men in the workplace doing the same job.
- A Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) amendment to adhere to the federal guidelines for staffing of veterans’ homes, which corrects the low staffing problems at Michigan’s two veterans’ homes.
- A Rep. Moss amendment to increase revenue sharing to Michigan communities to give them a chance to provide vital public services to their residents.
“We saw what happened when Aramark was in our state prisons, and we’re seeing now that Trinity Services Group is no better,” said Durhal. “This continued outsourcing of prison food service contracts is wasting taxpayer dollars, leaving many state workers out of a job and is downright dangerous for all parties involved. When you try to run a government like a business, you get what you pay for, and right now we’re seeing what happens when you cut corners.”