Legislature passes more budget bills, Republicans include reimbursement of Enbridge’s legal fees

A sign in the U.P. supporting Enbridge's Line 5 tunnel | Susan J. Demas

The state House and Senate had another long day of debating a number of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget bills Wednesday, most of which passed along party lines or with significant Democratic opposition.

In February, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her state budget recommendation worth $67.1 billion for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1, an increase from the state’s current $62.8 billion budget. She and GOP leaders in the Legislature have not struck a deal on the FY 2022 budget that goes into effect on Oct. 1. 

The state House passed 10 budget bills Wednesday for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of State Police (MSP), Department of Military and Vet Affairs (DMVA), Department of Corrections, General Government, Higher Education, Judiciary and the Department of Transportation (MDOT). 

The state Senate passed seven budget bills, with five adopted along party lines: DMVA, MSP, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), MDOT, K-12 School Aid, and Judiciary. 

Both chambers also passed a slew of FY 2022 budget bills on Tuesday that included big cuts to some of Whitmer’s key proposals, as the Advance previously reported.

GOP-led Legislature axes Whitmer programs, reduces federal COVID funding in budgets

The only budget that was on Wednesday’s Senate agenda that did not go up for a vote was the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget. Republicans have opposed the department’s epidemic orders during the COVID-19 pandemic and have repeatedly sought to clamp down on its powers. 

The most contentious moment in the Senate Wednesday was about an amendment to Senate Bill 90, the DNR budget bill, that would reimburse the legal fees for Enbridge, a Canadian oil company, “related to the state’s actions to revoke the 1953 easement authorization for use of state-owed bottomlands in the Mackinac Straits if such legal actions are unsuccessful.”

Wednesday marks the day that Enbridge is ordered to shut down the dual Line 5 pipeline. Whitmer issued the revocation and termination of Enbridge’s easement with the state in November and lawsuits between the state and Enbridge regarding the shutdown are ongoing.

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), who offered the amendment, says it’s a “loser pays” situation, but Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) called it a waste of taxpayer money. 

“What this amendment will do is allow for state taxpayer dollars to go to the defense costs of a Canadian oil company that’s responsible for the largest man-made environmental disaster in Michigan’s history,” Hertel said, referring to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. “They’re not the department’s dollars; they’re not the Legislature’s dollars. They’re the Michigan taxpayers’ dollars.”

Whitmer to Enbridge: Defy shutdown order at your own financial risk

The amendment was adopted and SB 90 passed along party lines. 

“We already knew Senate Republicans do not have the best interests of Michigan in mind, but this vote makes it clear how low they’ll stoop to be corporate shills for the fossil fuel lobby,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Shutting down Line 5 is in the best interests of public health and the safety of the Great Lakes, and Gov. Whitmer is well within her right to take legal action to do so.”

The Legislature and Whitmer have yet to agree on a budget deal, so that amendment may not ultimately get to the governor’s desk, but Republicans backers of Line 5 seemed to want to send a message on Wednesday.