Governor’s vetoes hit people in rural Northern Michigan the hardest

Categories: Cole News

Last week, Gov. Whitmer used her veto power to cut roughly $1 billion in essential programs from the budget plan approved by the Legislature.

Our governor admitted to reporters that she targeted her political opponents with these cuts in an attempt to get her gas tax increase approved. Bringing this attitude to the table is neither helpful nor productive.

Unfortunately, the programs cut by Gov. Whitmer affect everyone – Democrats, Republicans and the many, many Michigan residents who are independent or don’t align with any political party. And it appears families in rural Northern Michigan are the people who will suffer the most.

Here are some of the governor’s cuts that will have the biggest impact on communities in Northern Michigan:

$1.96 million in PILT funding for local communities in the 105th House District

Many communities receive what is known as “payment in lieu of taxes” from the state. These payments replace revenue lost on tax-exempt land owned by the state, including public-owned property controlled by the Department of Natural Resources. Local governments use this money to provide a wide range of public services people rely on every day. As you can imagine, PILT money makes up quite a bit of funding for some local townships.

The governor vetoed all PILT funding in the budget, eliminating $249,788 for Antrim County, $344,419 for Charlevoix County, $478,531 for Otsego County, $262,407 for Oscoda County and $630,855 for Montmorency County.

The region from Traverse City to Sault Ste. Marie, which has a great deal of state land, will lose out on more than $8 million of PILT payments.

$7 million for small, isolated school districts

For more than 15 years, the state has provided small, isolated school districts with 7.7 or fewer pupils per square mile with additional funding to help offset higher costs incurred for transporting students. The Legislature’s budget included a tiered formula for an even wider distribution of funds this year. Instead, Gov. Whitmer eliminated all the funding.

Thirteen schools in the 105th House District have relied on this funding in the past: Vanderbilt Area Schools, Fairview Area Schools, Atlanta Community Schools, Mio-AuSable Schools, Alba Public Schools, Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools, Boyne Falls Public School District, Bellaire Public Schools, Central Lake Public Schools, Ellsworth Community School, Mancelona Public Schools, East Jordan Public Schools and Hillman Community Schools. Each of these districts was counting on receiving an additional $51 per student through this program.

If the program had expanded as the Legislature intended, Charlevoix Public Schools was in line to receive an additional $38 per student and Elk Rapids Schools was in line to receive an additional $26 per student.

$13 million for rural police patrols

The governor eliminated all $13 million in funding for the secondary road patrol program. The program, created in 1978, provides grants that allow local sheriffs to hire deputies focused on patrolling roads in rural areas.

$56 million for improving health care in rural communities

Michigan’s 35 critical access hospitals provide people vital access to quality health care services, but inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates have left many of them struggling to continue providing care. The Legislature-approved budget included $34.2 million to cover Medicaid reimbursement rates for critical access hospitals, including Munson Healthcare in Charlevoix. The Legislature-approved budget also included about $8 million more for rural hospitals to provide obstetrical care and $16.6 million to help rural hospitals provide care to low-income residents. The governor gutted all this funding.

$675,000 for island health care clinics

The Legislature-approved budget increased support for health care clinics on Beaver Island, Mackinac Island and Drummond Island from $525,000 to $675,000. The governor eliminated all funding for these clinics, which provide residents and visitors access to vital medical services.

$37.5 million for the Pure Michigan campaign

Gov. Whitmer eliminated all $37.5 million for Pure Michigan, a highly successful program that has enhanced our tourism industry and boosted our local economy for years.

In 2017, visitor spending supplied Michigan with a return on investment of nearly $9 for each dollar spent on the Pure Michigan campaign. People traveling into Michigan spent $2.1 billion that year in our communities, supporting local businesses and jobs throughout Northern Michigan.

$10 million to support rural job providers

The governor vetoed all $10 million the Legislature had set aside for the Rural Jobs and Capital Investment Fund – a program that received overwhelming bipartisan support when it was approved by the Legislature last year. The program was established to boost the economies of struggling rural communities by helping small job creators in rural counties gain access to business loans and investors.

None of these programs are “pork” or “pet projects” as the governor has claimed. These are real programs that benefit real people. It’s wrong for the governor to try to use them as political bargaining chips.