Senate passes $58B budget with 8.8% cut for Nessel, no gas tax hike revenue

    Michigan Capitol, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

    The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate passed its version of the fiscal year 2020 budget on Wednesday, moving forward a negotiation process with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that could drag through the summer.

    The state Senate’s total appropriations came in at $58.2 billion, below Whitmer’s $60.2 billion proposal.

    Road work in Detroit | Susan J. Demas

    The Senate allocates $132 million to local road funding but doesn’t include revenue from Whitmer’s proposed 45-cent gas tax, which she said is a critical part of the budget.

    In April, Whitmer said that without the gas tax her plan to fix Michigan’s roads “just doesn’t work, and I’m not going to sign it. So it’ll be a long summer. People need to prepare to work here and stay here until the job is done.”

    Whitmer’s FY 2020 budget calls for $2.5 billion to be raised in total by the gas tax, but Republican leaders say that’s not a realistic goal. They have yet to propose their own roads plan.

    Jim Stamas

    Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland) told the Associated Press that the Senate’s proposed budget would get the state “closer to the $2.5 billion, but until we actually have those revenues, I think we have to move forward with a real budget with real revenue. And that is exactly what the Senate has proposed.”

    The Senate-passed budget also includes an 8.8 percent cut in funding to the attorney general’s office, almost half the size of the 15 percent cut proposed in the House budget.

    Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel criticized the proposed budget on Twitter, saying her office is already short-staffed in dealing with matters like clergy sexual abuse cases.

    Senate Democrats expressed their displeasure with the budget, making clear their preference for the one proposed by Whitmer, which state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) said they would give an “A” grade.

    “This proposal falls a bit lower,” she continued, “like maybe a ‘D’ for ‘deficient on structure.’ It doesn’t address the inequities in our system today.”

    Rosemary Bayer

    Republicans departed from Whitmer’s proposed budget with regard to education, as well, including a series of reforms that would have increased the amount the state spends on its schools which currently have the lowest levels of funding.

    Sept. 30 is the deadline by which the governor must sign a budget into law to avoid a government shutdown.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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