Rep. Sarah Lightner this week voted in support of a Michigan House budget plan that will improve schools, roads and working conditions for state prison corrections officers – all without raising costs for taxpayers.
The plan also takes steps to make state government more efficient, effective and accountable – especially in information technology budgets that have been plagued with cost overruns.
“This plan invests more in the top priorities of Michigan families without asking them for more money,” said Lightner, of Springport, who helped shape the budget plan as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Instead of asking for a big tax hike, we’re demanding more efficiencies from state government. Being good stewards of taxpayer dollars should be a fundamental first step in the state budget process every year.”
The House approved several budget measures this week, advancing the plan to the Senate for further consideration. Key elements include:
- Roads. The plan ensures every single penny spent on taxes at the gas pump goes to improve our roads – including the 6 percent sales tax motorists already pay. This change could add more than $800 million more per year to road repairs – without raising taxes – once fully phased in over two years. This change would be accomplished without sacrificing money for schools, local government revenue sharing or other essential public services.
- Schools. The plan raises the state’s minimum per-pupil foundation allowance by $180 per student, which includes Jackson, Eaton and Lenawee County schools in Lightner’s House district. This comes on top of the largest annual per-student increase of the past 15 years – which schools are receiving in the current budget year – while continuing to close the gap between the state’s lowest- and highest-funded districts. Early literacy and career training are special focuses as the overall school aid fund would surpass $15 billion.
- Public safety. More Michigan State Police troopers and state prison corrections officers will be trained. The budget supports correction officers with $1 million for a post-traumatic stress and wellness program. “The stress of a corrections officer job can be overwhelming, and we are taking significant steps to get officers the help they need and deserve,” Lightner said.
- Strengthening communities and families. Local communities will get an increase in revenue sharing to enhance essential public services. More resources will be dedicated to protect drinking water, clean up the environment, promote mental health and fight opioid addiction.
- Respecting taxpayers through government efficiencies. Many state departments are being asked to find a savings of 3 percent in their administrative budgets. “This is a cut to Lansing bureaucrats,” Lightner said. “These are not cuts to the important services people depend on back home.” The plan also includes a 25-percent reduction in information technology expenditures for state departments.
Lightner noted an Appropriations Committee task force has been established to explore IT solutions with state departments and vendors.
“All too often, IT projects are failing taxpayers and the people who depend upon vital state department services,” Lightner said. “Cost overruns take away money that could be spent on schools, roads and other services. We’ve got to rein in these costs, and this task force will be a huge step in the right direction.”