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Conference Committee Advances Bipartisan Budget Deal

Lansing in fall- Michigan State Capitol
Jake Neher
Michigan Public Radio Network

The Michigan Senate has voted to adopt to advance a budget proposal on general government spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Senate roll call vote passed 35-0, with one member excused.

Ahead of the vote, Democratic state Sen. Curtis Hertel took time to highlight before the full senate the bill’s $108.1 million investment toward increasing income eligibility for families to receive childcare assistance.

“Affordable childcare will be an option for many families for the first time, with 105,000 more children eligible for care,” Hertel said.

The funding comes from a broader $1.5 billion in federal COVID-19-relief funds the budget proposal puts toward childcare.

How the legislature plans to spend a remaining few billion in federal dollars remains to be seen.

Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) chairs the House Appropriations Committee and sat on the Conference Committee between both chambers of the legislature that pushed out two separate bills dealing with the budget today, including the one the Senate voted one.

He said the departure of State Budget Director Dave Massaron for a position with Wayne State University is going to impact planning for those negotiations.

“I think that slows it down a little bit. I think we have to figure out who’s going to be negotiating for the administration so we kind of have to wait and see how that plays out,” Albert said.

While SB 82 and HB 4400 respectively handle day-to-day general government and higher education spending, the expectation is that lawmakers will seek to use remaining federal funds for more ambitious goals.

Still, some boiler plate language that lays out exemptions for university and community college COVID-19 vaccine mandates did make it to the final version of the conference committee’s report on HB 4400.

“None of that is enforceable. You know, the funny thing about all of this is if they need to put some politics in the budget in order to do the right thing, that’s fine as long as it’s not real and this is not real,” Hertel said in response.

Meanwhile, the budget deal also sets aside $500 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund after the government borrowed heavily from it last year.

Both the $50.7 billion general government spending plan and the $2.2 billion in gross spending for higher learning institutions are expected to make it to the governor’s desk before the end of the week.

The rapid pace in which the public is seeing details about the proposed budget and lawmakers are voting on it has gathered some criticism that it may be rushed.

However, Albert said he feels he’s happy with how the bipartisan deal went.

“I would have preferred to have got it done on July 1. We did reach an agreement on the House side with the admin at that point in time. So, I think if there’s an area of improvement for next year, [we] may just like to get it done a little earlier,” Albert said.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss both HB 4400 and SB 82 when it reconvenes for session Wednesday.