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Michigan Republicans, Democrats disagree over spending in 2024 budget

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(The Center Square) – Michigan Democrats are celebrating a record $82 billion budget for 2024 that Republicans say is wasteful and unsustainable without future tax hikes.

It’s the first budget crafted by a Democrat political trifecta in 40 years, which includes rollbacks of the state’s retirement tax on seniors and quintupled the Working Families Tax Credit.

“I am proud of the $1 billion tax cut we’ve secured for seniors and working families,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Right now, families are facing the pinch and having tough conversations about how to make ends meet. These investments will help people pay the bills, put food on the table, and afford essentials like groceries and school supplies.”

The K-12 education budget includes $611 million to increase per-pupil funding by 5%, an additional $458 per student, for a total of $9,608 per pupil, a $450 million deposit into a new rainy day fund for schools, and $370 million to support teachers, including continued support for the MI Future Educator Program to provides a tuition-free path for college students to become certified teachers.

The budget funds $328 million for mental health and school safety, $254.6 million to expand free pre-K for up to 5,600 kids, and $160 million for free breakfast and lunch.

Another $125 million will fund matching grants for school districts to switch to electric vehicle buses, while $150 million will fund tutoring and $140.3 million will expand support for special education students.

The budget provides a 5% ongoing increase for university and community college operations for Higher Education & Workforce Development. Other spending includes:

$112 million in Infrastructure, Technology, Equipment Maintenance, and Safety funding to assist community colleges and universities.$70 million to temporarily lower the eligibility age for Reconnect from 25 to 21, making eligible 350,000 more Michiganders.$37.8 million for the College Success Fund.

Notable public health spending includes $140 million to increase wages for direct care workers and other staff assisting those with disabilities and seniors, $156.8 million to increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid services, and $56.4 million to fund Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies.

Rep. James DeSana, R-Carleton, said the budget prioritizes unnecessary “favor-first” spending instead of fixing the damn roads, the familiar slogan the governor used during both her campaigns.

“Reading through this budget it is clear why it is the largest in our state’s history by far,” DeSana said in a statement. “It’s clear where there are kickbacks – a million-dollar increase to give raises to elevator inspectors, for example, smells strongly of a campaign promise kickback to me. But there are more subtle line items that reek of slush fund accounting.”

DeSana pointed out a $5 million appropriation to “renovate” a single pool, part of about $1 billion in pork spending. Other questionable spending includes $5 million for the Lansing Center, $3 million for the redevelopment of a shopping center in Sterling Heights, $1 million for Ann Arbor splash pads, $900k for a Troy cricket field, and $200k for a Novi Parks splash pad.

“We’re spending dramatically more on vague, untraceable construction plans than we are on veteran’s health programs or infrastructure improvements to our roads and bridges,” DeSana said. “This is not a policy-first budget. It is a favor-first budget. The waste is astounding. The Democrats clearly have more respect for their friends in the lobby corps than they do for the hardworking taxpayers at home.”

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