Whitmer rejects GOP road-funding idea over school funding concerns

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talks about her infrastructure plan in Grand Rapids, June 24, 2019 | Nick Manes

Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met on Thursday to try and break an impasse over road funding and the state budget, but they don’t appear to be having much success with that. 

Whitmer dismissed the options presented today by state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), saying they would drastically cut education funding for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The deadline to pass a budget is Sept. 30.

Shirkey’s office disputes Whitmer’s characterization, however, saying that options presented to the governor would not cut school funding.  

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“Republicans finally offered a plan, but it is unfortunately built upon a core element that the Governor has long said she will not support,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in a statement. “No one should be surprised that gutting our kids’ education to fix some roads is off the table. Their core element cuts education spending by $400 per pupil statewide which neither fixes the damn roads nor serves our kids.”

Brown did not immediately respond to a request for clarification as to whether the $400 cut she referenced was a cut from the governor’s recommended per-pupil increase, or whether it was a cut from current spending. 

As the Advance previously reported, Whitmer’s budget proposal would increase per-pupil funding by $507 million overall, while the Senate and House budgets would increase that funding by $342 million and $236 million, respectively. 

However, Shirkey’s office is flat-out disputing that the multiple options presented to the governor on Thursday would cut school funding. 

“I’ll be keeping the details of our negotiations confidential, as we each agreed to do, but nothing we have discussed would cut the record funding Republicans have provided for schools,” Shirkey said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. 

And House Republicans disputed the governor’s numbers, as well.

In Michigan, about one-third of the total tax paid at the pump gets diverted to the state’s School Aid Fund. Attempts to disentangle fuel taxes from schools could short-change education funding. 

A Chatfield spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but earlier in the day the speaker told reporters that he’s working toward “a consensus plan.” 

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