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State leaders reach budget deal that bans vaccine mandates and school mask rules

Posted at 8:36 PM, Sep 22, 2021

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's $70 billion budget proposal includes more than funding for road improvements and infrastructure.

The proposal also includes language that would prevent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and mask rules for K-12 students.

"The state budget was certainly an effort towards bringing together different priorities certainly from our caucus in the Senate, the House of Representatives and the administration," said state Senator Tom Barrett, R - Potterville. "There are a lot of things that we have a lot of deep disagreements on but it's our obligation in the legislature to put forth a state budget each year."

Senate Bill 82 which passed the Senate with unanimous support on Tuesday came to be out of private negotiations between the Whitmer administration and legislative leaders. The proposal outlines funding for all state departments for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“Honestly I’m super excited about this year’s budget. For one it was done on time which is important to the thousands of state employees and avoided a government shutdown, and I think it’s important that we worked in a bipartisan fashion," said state Representative Sarah Anthony, a Lansing Democrat.

The proposal includes $108.1 million to make more than 100,000 Michigan children eligible for child care, $460 million to give a raise to workers who take care of vulnerable residents in nursing homes, $196 million for local bridge repairs and $100 million for community revitalization.

“Republicans and Democrats really came together to pass a pretty historic budget that invests in healthcare, childcare lots of educational investments as well," Anthony said.

But the proposal also includes language that bans the governor from implementing mask mandates and passports, although it leaves some room for a federal mandate. It also includes a ban on requiring vaccinations for people to enter any public facility except under federal law or other narrow circumstances.

"A lot of the work that I put into this budget was around making sure our state health departments weren't imposing any kind of vaccine mandate on students or employees of the state of Michigan," Barrett said. "I'm proud of the work we did to make sure that the vaccine is widely available to people... but at the same time I am very protective of every individual's right to make that decision for themselves."

Anthony disagreed.

“For me it is unfortunate that many in the legislature have tried to hamstring the governor’s ability to keep us safe," she said."The fact that we have seen so many of our loved ones die at the hands of COVID-19 and we have leaders like Gov. Whitmer trying to use every tool in her toolbox to help keep our loved ones alive it’s unfortunate that some people in the capitol have tried to politicize healthcare.”

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