By Rep. Annette Glenn, R- Midland
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, after vetoing nearly $1 billion from this year’s state budget, summoned nearly two dozen high-powered lobbyists — representing dozens of special interests in Lansing — to an Oct. 1st meeting with her staff. The governor’s representatives delivered an eyebrow-raising message, summarized by Crain’s Detroit Business as: “If you can convince Republicans to restart budget negotiations, then there’s a chance you can get your piece of the pie back.”
And that despite my impression that Gov. Whitmer took a dim view of quid pro quo negotiating tactics.
In reality, her vetoes didn’t just threaten Lansing special interests, but medical care for newborn babies and funding for public school children, seniors, veterans, and others who rely on essential public services – all for the sake of a massive, job-killing 45-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that even members of her own party refuse to publicly support.
I firmly oppose the governor’s tax hike scheme, as do the vast majority of Michigan residents of both parties, and I reject her attempt to use some of Michigan’s most vulnerable populations as “human shields” in an attempt to strong arm the Legislature into caving in to her demand for a gas tax increase that would, ironically, place the heaviest burden on Michigan’s low and middle income families and small businesses. Her veto of nearly $400 million in additional funding for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes, after promising as a candidate to fix our roads and bridges, defies explanation.
Last week, in hopes of undoing some of the damage, I introduced two bills that are part of a broad bipartisan effort to give the governor a second chance to do what’s best for Michigan’s future. Hopeful that we can work together to put this manufactured budget crisis behind us, I urge Gov. Whitmer to help enact both bills, and the entire budget restoration package, into law.
House Bill 5078 would restore $15 million for K-3 summer remedial programs for students who aren’t reading at grade level and could be held back as a result. The governor has often talked about the urgent need to boost early literacy, one of my long-time priorities as well, yet she vetoed this critical funding for the budget year that began Oct. 1st.
My legislation provides a fresh opportunity for her to restore funding for this program and help improve Michigan’s woeful performance in K-3 reading, something that will help build a foundation for future success for Michigan students both in and outside of the classroom.
My other bill, House Bill 5066, would restore the governor’s cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors who specialize in caring for newborn babies. Recently, my new grandson was born two months premature, so I know how much peace of mind this will give Michigan families, knowing that crucial care will be available at a critical time in their newborn babies’ lives.
My budget restoration proposals are among the roughly two dozen appropriations bills introduced by Michigan House Republicans last week to undo the worst of the damage caused by the governor’s politically motivated and misguided vetoes. Some of the other measures would:
Restore the governor’s veto of health care funding. The House Republican proposals would restore $7.9 million Gov. Whitmer vetoed for rural hospitals providing childbirth care, $16.6 million for rural hospitals serving high rates of Medicaid and low-income patients, $10.7 million to improve pediatric psychiatric services, roughly $1.5 million to help children with autism, and more than $1 million to fight opioid drug abuse.
Restore the governor’s veto of public education funding. Our proposals would restore Gov. Whitmer’s veto of per-pupil funding increases for students who attend public charter schools, something former state Sen. Samuel Thomas, D-Detroit, called “unfair to the thousands of children and families who attend charter public schools in communities in every corner of Michigan.”
“School aid funding should never be used to create leverage in the bargaining of a budget,” Sen. Thomas said in publicly rebuking a governor of his own party, and I strongly agree.
Our legislation would also restore the $16 million previously approved for career and technical education programs in schools statewide, plus tuition grant money for 17,000 independent college students the governor’s vetoes stripped away, including from students at Delta College and Northwood University.
Restore the governor’s veto of public and school safety funding. The governor’s vetoes also cut $13 million from the program allowing local sheriffs to hire secondary road patrols, which in last year’s budget amounted to roughly $142,000 for the Bay County Sheriff’s Department and $70,000 in Midland County. She also vetoed $10 million from a grant program that provides funding to improve school safety.
Restore the governor’s veto of local revenue. Gov. Whitmer also vetoed funds for ‘payments in lieu of taxes,’ which reimburse our local governments for state-held lands that don’t pay local property taxes, costing Midland County over $209,000 and Bay County about $113,000. Her vetoes also took away money for services to military veterans, seniors and others – but the Legislature’s plan would restore these cuts, too.
As a measure of how disruptive the governor’s vetoes are, consider that the money for all of these services was already expected and budgeted for by local governments, public schools, and state agencies based on the Legislature’s approval in our original budget. Further, many of the budget expenditures the governor vetoed were funded by federal government programs, money that can’t be used for any other purpose and simply returns to Washington. And finally, her veto of nearly $400 million in additional road funding.
We all make mistakes, and I believe Gov. Whitmer realizes now that her political gamesmanship at the expense of Michigan children, public schools, senior citizens, and veterans was a severely misguided miscalculation.
That said, though she and I disagree on many issues, including this one, the governor and I have agreed on many other issues; in fact, as a fiscal conservative, I even support some of her vetoes. Plus, my personal interaction with Gov. Whitmer and her staff on behalf of families in Bay and Midland counties has been, without exception, entirely amicable and friendly.
When friends make mistakes, even mistakes that require us to publicly disagree, we should be gracious enough to allow them the opportunity to correct those mistakes. My bills to restore vetoed funding for newborn infant care and remedial reading instruction for 3rd graders are just that.
For the sake of vulnerable populations threatened by her vetoes the first time around, I encourage my friend, Gov. Whitmer, not to make the same mistake twice.
Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, represents Bay and Midland counties in the Michigan House of Representatives and is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.