By Paul Egan
Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a 2013-14 state budget that doesn't address two of his major priorities -- expanded Medicaid coverage and raising more than $1 billion in extra revenues for repair and maintenance of state roads and bridges.
But there were positive signs for Snyder on the Medicaid front after a House committee on Wednesday approved a compromise expansion package that the full House was expected to take up Thursday night.
And Snyder said plenty of other aspects of the $49.5-billion budget, which includes a $9.4 billion general fund, please him.
"These are very solid budgets," Snyder said at a news conference about separate bills dealing with general government and K-12 education. "I'm proud of the hard work that's gone in to make them happen."
However, "there's still work to be done," on Medicaid and roads, he said.
Snyder and Republican leaders say the budget is structurally balanced, was completed by early June for the third consecutive time after years of pushing up against the Oct. 1 deadline, increases spending in education and other key areas, and pays down debt while adding to the state's savings.
Snyder said funding for K-12 education is up about 3% this year. He also pointed to $65 million extra to provide early childhood education to 16,000 more children and added dental coverage for 70,000 children.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said getting the budget done early isn't everything.
"It's not a good budget," Greimel said today. "I would rather they take a little more time and actually address the priorities that reflect Michigan values."
Greimel repeated claims that Snyder and the GOP Legislature have cut more than $1 billion from K-12 education since the governor took office -- a charge the administration insists is false.
Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said Democrats are not counting funding provided to school districts to prepay post-retirement costs, or money districts qualify for on top of their per-pupil allowances by adopting "best practices."
When those are included, "the average per pupil funding has gone up $632 since the 2011 fiscal year," Weiss said.
Greimel said it's fine to pay post-retirement cost, but money is needed now inside classrooms. Snyder says every $1 a district doesn't spend on benefits can be spent educating children.
The $9.4-billion general fund is up 2.2% from 2013.
On roads, bills to increase funding from registration fees and fuel taxes are lingering in a House committee. The chairman, Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, says a recent spike in gas prices is making a tough task more difficult.
As a one-time step, the Legislature allocated an extra $350 million for roads after tax revenues came in higher than anticipated.
Lawmakers also put $75 million into the Rainy Day Fund, bringing its balance to $580 million. The savings fund was $2 million when Snyder took office.
(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press