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Michigan lawmakers start approving plan for $2B budget gap

Posted at 7:19 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 19:35:22-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan lawmakers began approving a plan Wednesday to address a $2.2 billion state budget hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic, relying on a mix of federal funding, the state’s cash reserves and budget cuts.

Legislators meeting for a joint session of the House and Senate appropriations committees approved drawing $350 million from the state’s $1.2 billion “rainy day” fund, the second time the state has done so in 15 years. The panel also signed off on an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cutting nearly $667 million that includes reduced funding to state agencies and a hiring freeze.

The bipartisan committees deemed the move an effective solution to address the shortfall caused by shutdowns related to the coronavirus outbreak. The vote was 15-1.

“This has been very intense, especially I think, over the last two to three weeks time,” said Midland Republican Jim Stamas, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. “I think we found a way to come together to find a solution.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, and Republican legislative leaders announced an outline of the plan earlier in the summer. It also relies heavily on federal funding, using what’s left from the $3 billion Michigan got from the federal coronavirus relief law.

Public schools, community colleges and universities will use about $712 million in federal relief funds. The Senate approved two bills Wednesday, allocating $512 million for K-12 schools and $200 million to support universities and community colleges. Also, the state is setting aside $53 million in hazard pay for teachers.

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