LANSING, Mich. — In the week that’s followed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pitch for unity during her State of the State address, we’ve seen anything but unity so far in Lansing.
From Senate Republicans blocking more than a dozen of the governor’s appointees to state boards, to the House debate over how to spend federal COVID relief dollars, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers remain at odds.
On Thursday the House passed the supplemental budget package, a $3.5 billion plan crafted by Republican legislators, which includes more than $400 million for struggling small businesses and $2.1 billion in education funding, the latter is tied to a bill that would take some pandemic power away from the state health department.
“This funding comes with the condition that the decision of closing in-person instruction can no longer be done at the state level but rather by a local health department,” state Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell said.
“Some argue that we are withholding funds, and others say it's not necessary. I can tell you that no funds are being withheld. God willing, we will get this package quickly to the governor's desk, and she will have a choice. Nothing is being withheld here…the condition is very necessary,” Albert added.
While Republicans call it targeted, Democrats say the plan leaves more than a billion in federal money on the table, and the state is at risk of losing it.
Their more than $5 billion proposal in line with what the governor wants, won’t see a vote.
“What will it take for this body to act in proportion to the significant impacts that COVID-19 has had on our lives? Our residents, businesses and schools are counting on us to act now to deliver 100 percent of the funding today," state Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids said.
"Businesses and unemployed persons need dollars now--not in quarter two, quarter three or quarter four--now."
The bills will move on to the Republican-controlled Senate and likely to the governor’s desk after that, though she recently called the GOP plan “cruel and reckless.”