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Michigan House OKs $81B budget with drone, e-bike funding

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(The Center Square) – Michigan House Democrats passed budget bills totaling nearly $81 billion – larger than Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recommendation.

Republicans in the minority for the first time in 40 years decried the spending proposals as wasteful as Democrats said the budget would invest in all Michiganders.

House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, welcomed the proposed budget.

“The House budget was crafted to strengthen all of Michigan, its economy, infrastructure and people — we are investing in you and your hometown,” Tate said in a statement. “We are serious about putting people first, so our budget is centered around ensuring families are stable and local public services are well-funded. As we continue to move through the budget process, these values are at the forefront of every decision made by House Democrats.”

Rep. Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said the budget grows government and diverts $632 million in scheduled payments for the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which is about $24.4 billion in debt.

“Instead of streamlining government to get out of the way of economic growth, investing in road repairs and school safety, or improving accountability to ensure taxpayers get value for their dollars, House Democrats prefer to waste money to hire hundreds of new bureaucrats and dole out subsidies for electric vehicle chargers,” Hall said in a statement.

State Rep. Angela Witwer, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the budget is “fiscally responsible.”

“We’ve created a budget that is balanced, fiscally responsible and focused on Michiganders at the local level — without raising taxes,” Witwer said in a statement. “Our investments aren’t mere line items; they’re lifelines. We are increasing public safety investments, addressing housing and supporting students.”

The budget aims to put $110 million into the Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund, $15 million for community and neighborhood organizations, and $12 million for community museum grants. Another $6 million would fund competitive grants for symphony orchestras.

The Department of Transportation budget includes $15 million for aerial drones, $2.95 million for electric bike incentives, and $5 million to implement a road usage tax to compensate for waning gas tax revenue because of increased mileage car standards and more electric vehicles.

State Rep. Donni Steele, R-Orion Township, opposed the proposed budget.

“The quality of our roads ranks near dead last nationally, yet Lansing Democrats are more focused on buying drones and E-bikes than filling potholes,” Steele said in a statement. “Wasteful spending like this is what got us into this problem in the first place. We have to stop investing in unnecessary projects that have no return on investment for taxpayers. Regular people don’t care about electric bikes. They do care about constantly having to fix their cars.”

The Senate might take up budget bills this week before a Revenue Estimating Conference later this month that will inform lawmakers about the state’s financial health.

Officials will forecast revenue for fiscal years 2024, 2025, and 2026.

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