State Rep. James Lower, of Greenville, on Tuesday voted in favor of a new Michigan state budget investing more in roads and bridges as well as vital health and safety public services – without raising taxes.
The votes are the latest in the Legislature’s work to have a state budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, as required by the Michigan Constitution. Last week, the Legislature approved record-high investment in Michigan students as part of the same overall budget.
The plans now go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for review. The governor declined to participate in budget negotiations after her demands for a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase were rejected. The budget the Legislature is sending to her, which includes an extra $400 million for roads spending statewide, costs taxpayers significantly less than the plan she proposed in March.
“Based on what we heard from residents regarding the governor’s gas tax plan, we had to pass a budget that respected taxpayer money instead of telling them we needed more because what they were giving us wasn’t enough,” Lower said. “These budget plans make record investments into roads and schools, adequately fund other departments for the upcoming fiscal year and fulfill our constitutional duty to take action on a new budget before Oct. 1.”
Lower highlighted a Legislature-approved Department of Corrections budget within House Bill 4231. The plan sets aside $16.9 million for the selection and training of new corrections officers in the face of projected attrition. The investment ensures prison facilities are operating efficiently and prevents overtime costs – ultimately funded by the taxpayer – from spiraling out of control.
A commitment is also made to those on the job in Michigan’s prisons – providing $950,000 for a mental wellness program addressing the high-stress environment workers face.
“This investment ensures our prisons and the individuals who work in them every day have the resources they need to be successful,” Lower said. “Understaffing and poor morale at these facilities has a tremendous ripple effect. It causes our prisons to not operate at their best potential and that means our ability to rehabilitate offenders – which is the basis of our state’s prison system – is compromised. We have to step up with needed resources to ensure we don’t go down that road.”
The appropriations plans come on top of a schools budget approved by the Legislature last week which includes a record $15.2 billion for Michigan students, increasing the foundation allowance by more than $300 million – up to $240 more per student. Additional support is provided for special education, early literacy, school safety and several other programs.
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. James Lower, of Greenville, speaks in support of House Bill 4231 during House session on Tuesday, Sept. 24. HB 4231 provides the Department of Corrections budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.