Legislature finalizes state’s new budget

Funds retirement debt for western U.P.

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature finalized the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget on Tuesday, sending the bills to the governor for signing.

Sen. Ed McBroom and Rep. Greg Markkanen said the budget, which is due Oct. 1, is a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that includes record funding for road repairs and a historic per-pupil increase for schools, and all was approved without raising taxes.

“This budget continues our years-long trend of passing a balanced budget that doesn’t penalize hardworking U.P. families with taxes or fees, while still increasing investments in our roads, schools and natural resources,” said McBroom, R-Vulcan. “It is a sign that our state, while still recovering from the large losses in the recent past, has a strong and growing economy.”

Among the highlights of the FY 2020 budget, McBroom and Markkanen fought hard to ensure that $950,000 was included to help cover a shortfall in retirement funding for the Michigan Works! UPWARD Talent Agency. The agency provides vital services and support to the U.P.’s workforce development system, but the pensions were left unfunded by the state and six western U.P. counties were left holding the state’s debt.

“The retirement legacy costs began growing as a result of a law change in 2013 and kept increasing as time went on,” McBroom said. “Local officials have been working for years to call attention to this pension issue. I appreciate the support of my colleagues who recognized the need to correct this problem.”

In 2017, counties in the eastern U.P. received similar funding to address the state’s mishandling of the law change.

“We heard from the local officials regularly about the importance of getting this issue resolved as it was nearing the statute of limitations,” Markkanen said. “The counties had begun looking at their legal options to address this, and I’m thankful instead that the state owned up to its responsibility and is taking care of the legacy cost.”

Other highlights of the budget include:

  • $5.4 billion for transportation — an increase of more than $2 billion since FY 2010;
  • $120 million in drinking water protections;
  • $15.2 billion in K-12 education with a boost of $240 per pupil at most U.P. schools;
  • $522 million invested to help at-risk students;
  • $21.5 million increase in career and technical education funding;
  • $60 million increase for special education;
  • An increase in local government revenue sharing;
  • Additional funding to train more state troopers and corrections officers; and
  • $13.3 million for state and local efforts to respond to public health hazards.

McBroom was also able to secure language in the budget to increase accountability of the Michigan Department of Corrections in monitoring the health of officers; to keep open so-called sheltered workshops that employ and train those with special needs in local communities; and to require the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to update its rules to allow for more workers at substance abuse treatment facilities.

The budget bills will be presented to the governor this week for her consideration.

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