By Kathleen Gray
Road-weary drivers will get at least some short-term relief, the state's Rainy Day fund will get a nearly $100 million deposit and children in Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties will be added to the state's Healthy Kids Dental program as part of the $38.7 billion general fund budget passed by the Legislature Wednesday -- four months before the 2015-16 fiscal year begins.
The general fund budget includes all the state departments, except education-related items that are part of the School Aid Fund budget, which also was approved by the Legislature Wednesday. The combined budget is $54.5 billion, which represents a $1.6-billion increase over the current 2014-15 spending plan.
"This is the plan to keep Michigan on the track to recovery," said Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who personalized his support of the bill by saying that his 28-year-old daughter, who hadn't been able to find a job in Michigan when she graduated from college and moved to Chicago, has now found a job in the state. "And now she lives about three minutes from mom and dad."
Both budgets are now on their way to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. "This continues a track record of outstanding budgets getting done in a timely fashion, which is in the best interest of all Michiganders," Snyder said.
Brian Dickerson: Thank stocks, not tax cuts, for Michigan's surplus The budget includes : a total of $400 million in general fund dollars for roads, $95 million for the rainy day fund -- which brings that fund up to $500 million -- and $37 million to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program to Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties, the remaining three counties that haven't been included in the program.
But it also doesn't include things like a full $50 million for incentives for the film industry. Instead the amount has been cut to $25 million and the lion's share of that -- $19 million -- is dedicated to paying off the investment from the state pension funds that the state made in a struggling Pontiac film studio. It also includes a $7.5 million savings by closing the W.J. Maxey Training School for juvenile offenders.
"The Maxey facility offers intensive rehabilitation and education programs as well as substance abuse counseling," said Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, who joined all of his fellow Democrats and five Republicans in voting against the budget, which passed 22-16 in the Senate and 70-39 in the House.
Rep. Brandon Dillon also criticized the inclusion of $400 million for roads in the budget because it doesn't address the much more costly long-term problem -- an estimated $1.2 billion annual cost for 10 years -- of the state's crumbling roads and budgets.
"We're simply putting more band aids on the roads," he said. "I don't think that money is going to be spent efficiently."
State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, who has been banned from the Democratic caucus after collaborating with Republicans, called the budget a "whale of a budget," and made an analogy to the classic tale "Moby Dick," comparing Captain Ahab with House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills.
"Be careful of the leader you are following because he might take you down with his ship," he said.
Some of the other highlights of the budget, which represents a 2.9% increase over the 2014-15 fiscal plan, are:
--Agriculture: $1.5 million for increases in food licensing and inspection fees to hire eight people to support food safety programs; $1.2 million in increased pesticide and plant management fees; reduction in grants for county fair improvements to $170,000; $500,000 for fruit research grants.
--Corrections: Reduce the budget by $7.4 million and five positions to reflect operating efficiencies and elimination of administrative vacancies; reduces funding by $500,000 for the Goodwill Flip the Script program in Detroit to provide education, job training and mentoring to troubled 16-29 year-olds; $2 million in savings by closing the Kinross Correctional Facility and transferring those prisoners to the Hiawatha Correction Facility.
--Education: $2 million for educator evaluations; $9 million for aid to libraries, which is an increase of $1 million from 2014-15.
--Environmental Quality: Increase in air emission permit fees, generating $2.5 million; reduce the number of employees in the department from 1,291 to 1,224.
--Attorney General: $1.7 million and 5 employees to test backlogged sexual assault kits in communities across the state, except for Wayne County, which has received funding in previous years.
--Civil Rights: Eliminate public affairs, librarian, executive secretary positions for a savings of $310,000.
--Executive Office: Shift the Office of New Americans from the governor's office to Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
--Legislature: $4.5 million for increased costs of legislative staff and other operations.
--Auditor General: Increases of $681,700 due to increased costs of staff and other operations.
--Secretary of State: Increase of $1 million to accommodate more usage of credit and debit cards by customers in branch offices: $1 million for inspecting and regulating businesses installing ignition interlock devices in vehicles.
--Technology, Management and Budget: $11.5 million increase for maintenance and upkeep of state-owned properties; Increase funding by $4.5 million for IT upgrades; shifts $2.4 million to the department, which will take over the School Reform Office from the Department of Education; $500,000 for a study on how much it costs to educate students in Michigan.
--Treasury: Increases constitutional revenues sharing payments by $25.6 million; revenue sharing to cities, villages, townships and counties is maintained at 2014-15 levels, despite the House version voting to decrease payments to the city of Detroit by $5 million; removes $3 million for distressed cities, villages and townships; Adds $7.1 million to take over income tax collections for the city of Detroit and $2 million for the Financial Review Commission to ensure that Detroit is meeting the requirements of the grand bargain that sent $195 million to Detroit to emerge from bankruptcy; $300,000 for an urban search and rescue task force that provides technical assistance in the event of an emergency or a natural disaster; $250,000 grant for the Chaldean Community Foundation; $10 million to pay for the 2016 presidential primary; removes $18.6 million in funding for state Lottery promotion and advertising.
--Talent and Economic Development: $13.8 million reduction in the business attract and community revitalization programs; shifts $4 million from 21st Century Jobs Fund to Pure Michigan tourism campaign for a total of $34 million; $25 million for film incentives, down from $50 million, with $19.1 million of that dedicated to paying off the debt from a Pontiac film studio; $15.6 million for skilled trade training program.
--Health and Human Services: Increase of $1.3 billion in federal funding for Medicaid, MIChild and Federal Medicare pharmaceutical costs and the Healthy Michigan plans; $1.5 million for a prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment; $1.5 million for health and wellness initiatives; $2.1 million for a newborn screening program; $500,000 for a immunization and vaccine education program; $150,000 for an Alzheimer's Disease in-home care pilot; $2.5 million for a Hospice Room and Board; $37 million for to expand the Healthy Kids dental program to kids, ages 0-12, in Wayne, Kent and Oakland counties; $275,000 for a suspicion-based drug testing program for welfare recipients; $7.5 million in savings and the elimination of 69 jobs because of the closure of the W.J. Maxey Training School for Juvenile justice offenders. The 40 clients in the facility will be transferred to other facilities; $800,000 for a specialized employment training program for clients with significant barriers to employment.
--Insurance and Financial Services: $150,000 for an annual report on the impact of expanding medical coverage through the Healthy Michigan Plan; --Judiciary: Savings of $351,800 from the elimination of one Court of Appeals Judge, four district court and five circuit court judgeships. Most of the savings occurred in last year's budget.
--Licensing and Regulatory Affairs: Shift $10 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund budget for career and technology and skilled trades training; $2.1 million for at-risk youth initiative.
--Military and Veterans Affairs: $400,000 for veteran service grants; $3 million for National Guard armory maintenance.
--Natural Resources: An increase of $1 million in federal funding to support recreational shooting opportunities at ranges in 12 counties; $100,000 for non-motorized trail enhancements; $3.6 million in federal funds for improvements in state game and wildlife management areas; $5 million for improvements to Kalamazoo river watershed;
--State Police: $7.7 million for a new trooper school, which will graduate 88 new troopers by the summer of 2016; $1.1 million for a motor carrier recruit school, which will graduate 10 new motor carrier officers; $500,000 for a sexual assault prevention and education initiative; $1.5 million to implement MSP's expanded authority for concealed pistol licensing.
--Transportation: $260 million for distribution to road projects in counties, cities and villages, $113 million to provide match for federal road funds; eliminates $1.1 million for Regional Transit Authority.
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