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Lawmakers send bipartisan budget deal to Governor Whitmer

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The next state budget is now in the governor’s hands, just one day after most its details became public.

Both chambers of the legislature voted Wednesday to approve budgets for both general government and higher education spending.

The agreement sets a few billion dollars aside for local and state infrastructure projects like bridge construction, lead service line replacement, and road repairs.

It also spends 1-and-a-half-billion-dollars of federal COVID-19 relief money on childcare assistance.

“This is a far cry from the budget originally proposed last spring that would have cut funding for most departments by 75 percent,” Democratic House Leader Donna Lasinski said in a statement.

Though praising the agreement overall, Lasinski signaled there are some items her caucus would like to see the governor veto.

“There are a few line items that infringe on a woman’s right to choose. We have requested that the governor look at those for a line-item veto. There’s just a couple funding lines that I believe may attract her line-item veto pen,” Lasinski said following the House vote.

Other language in the spending plan limits agencies and universities’ ability to impose mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Democratic lawmakers have called the restrictions “unenforceable.”

Rep. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City) said he stands by anti-mask mandate language in the budget proposal.

“It’s not the government’s choice to step in and tell you what to do,” Beson said.

Next, lawmakers will have to decide how to spend the remainder of an unprecedented amount of federal COVID-19 rescue funding. Beson says he would like it spent on one-time projects.

“That’s where we need to do it because in two years, we’re not going to have this federal money. So, if everybody keeps spending like we have money that we don’t have in two years, it puts us in a situation where we might not be … able to write a 70-billion-dollar budget,” Beson said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) predicts the bipartisan spirit of negotiations seen in this budget-making process will last throughout talks on how to spend the remaining federal money.

“It’s all common issues. You know, when we talk about water infrastructure, when we talk about health care for communities, we talk about jobs and how are we supporting our economy,” Tate said.

However, a timeline for when lawmakers will decide what to do with that money is unclear.