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Analysis: $881M earmarks shoved into Michigan budget in final hours

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(The Center Square) – With just hours to go before passage, Michigan lawmakers stuffed $881 million – 65% of the $1.3 billion of 2024 budget earmarks –into the final bill that didn’t reach the executive budget or in the House- or Senate-passed budget bills.

That’s according to an analysis of House Bill 4437 by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Rep. Donni Steele, R-Orion Township, cited the analysis and called the record $82 billion budget wasteful and shady. In total, the 2024 budget included about $1 billion in pork spending, including $30 million for freeway cameras and $14 million for the John Ball Zoo.

This spending favored select communities, including $7.6 million for three public swimming pools, a $1 million splash pad in Ann Arbor, $900,000 for a cricket field in Troy, and a $200,000 splash pad in Novi Parks.

“Cramming unnecessary pork projects into the state budget at the last minute is an insult to Michigan taxpayers and a waste of their dollars,” Steele said in a statement. “We can and must do better for the people of Michigan. We should be prioritizing long term solutions to fix our roads and bridges, strengthen public safety, achieve excellent schools, reduce debt, and cut taxes. An equitable budget focused on these priorities would help attract businesses and people to live, work and invest in Michigan.”

The report said earmarks aren’t necessarily bad, but receive “virtually no real vetting…”

“These earmarks receive virtually no real vetting, meaning there’s no ‘good budgeting’ evaluation of how the public need being addressed in these proposals stacks up against other public needs,” the report says. “An 11th-hour earmark that funds a public infrastructure improvement in City A, for instance, may bring very real public benefits, but why are those a higher priority than similar projects in City B or Township C or County D?”

Michigan Democrats holding a political trifecta for the first time in 40 years say the budget delivered on priorities, including boosting education spending, funding clean water projects, and funding infrastructure.

Those priorities in the 2024 budget include:

$278.1 million for water infrastructure projects$39.3 million for remediating PFAS and emerging contaminants$18.2 million for acquisition and development projects around river trails and land areasA 54% funding increase for the Michigan Department of Education.

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