Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday it’s time to mend Michigan’s budget after she vetoed nearly $1 billion from a Republican-passed spending plan, announcing she would seek funding for prisons, reading coaches and a tuition-free program for nontraditional college students.
The Democrat said she would ask lawmakers to approve a supplemental bill to fund those priorities and others, following an unusual process in which the GOP-controlled Legislature sent her a budget over which she had no input in recent weeks after road-funding talks broke down. Whitmer signed the $59 billion plan this week while also issuing a historic number of vetoes totaling $947 million, including $555 million, or 5% of $10.7 billion in general funds.
A top Republican said it was up to Whitmer to seek legislative help to undo her vetoes, saying he was ready to move on and tackle other policy issues.
“There’s a lot of things in those line-item vetoes that the citizens of the state of Michigan are desperately waiting for a correction on,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake. “If my governor thinks she made a mistake with her red pen, she can let us know which ones she’d like to have back so we can reinstate those or at least consider reinstating them.”
Whitmer’s priorities include adequately funding three departments _ Corrections; Technology, Management and Budget; and Health and Human Services _ she said are at risk of not being able to protect public health and safety under the GOP’s budget. She also wants to triple the number of literacy coaches and secure approval of her Reconnect program to provide tuition-free community college or technical training for an estimated 51,000 nontraditional students age 25 and older without an associate's or bachelor's degree.
She did not indicate a desire to link passage of the legislation to her long-dead 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase.
“I am ready to look to the future, to sit down with the legislative leaders and negotiate a supplemental that shores up our budget on these particular fronts and others that they might be interested in chatting about,” said Whitmer, who is open to reversing some of her vetoes pending negotiations.
The vetoes affect significant parts of the budget _ including funding for roads, hospitals, counties, need-based college scholarships, tourism advertising and charter schools.
Whitmer was again especially critical of the Corrections Department budget. She accused Republicans of making “illegal” moves to help shift discretionary general funds to roads and bridges while leaving the agency with “reckless cuts” and unable to replace GPS tethers for paroled inmates or fund a successful vocational training initiative. She vetoed most of that transfer, $375 million, to the transportation budget.
“The budgets that were sent to me were a mess in a number of regards, and that’s why I took the actions that I did,” Whitmer said. “It’s so critical that we get back to the table and negotiate.”
Shirkey, however, said “the budget is done” for now, while noting supplemental spending bills are always under consideration. Asked which vetoes concerned him the most, he said “the list is long.”
Whitmer’s administration had no initial estimate on the size of the pending budget request but said it could resolve challenges in the three departments while also restoring funding for many vetoed items.
Most of them were not included in the budget proposal Whitmer unveiled in March. But many of the bigger-ticket items _ such as need-based scholarships for students at Michigan’s private colleges, the Pure Michigan tourism and marketing program, a funding increase for charter schools _ were, albeit at lower levels than under GOP-approved legislation.
Line-item vetoes: http://bit.ly/2p0PZJ3
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