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Bezotte: Four reasons I voted against the budget
RELEASE|May 12, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

Last week the House approved funding for the 2025 Fiscal Year. I voted no. Let me explain why.

First, the size. The first budget I ever worked on as a state representative (for Fiscal Year 2022) was $61.9 billion. The 2025 budget tops out at just shy of $81 billion. That’s a tremendous amount of growth in just three years. Some of that increase is due to inflation, but a lot is the result of new spending.

Second, it cements a tax hike into law. The state income tax rate was briefly lower in 2023 due to a law that automatically triggered a tax cut once a certain budget surplus level was hit. That cut was supposed to be permanent, but Gov. Whitmer chose to instead interpret the law as a temporary, one-time thing and she was backed up by Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Due to a quirk in Michigan case history, an AG opinion is given the force of law unless or until it is overturned by the courts.) A challenge is currently pending, but this budget is built on the assumption that taxes will go back up.

Third, it raids the teacher retirement fund to prop up new spending. Former Gov. Snyder worked to put an end to a lot of the accounting gimmicks that had been used to balance previous budgets. As a result, the teacher retirement fund, which had been underfunded, is now on a sound fiscal footing. There was supposed to be a $670 million deposit this year, but Gov. Whitmer proposed deferring that payment so the money could be directed elsewhere. That’s a risky gambit because if the financial outlook changes, the retirement fund could once again be in danger.

Fourth, it was partisan. Republican lawmakers offered more than 200 amendments to improve the budget, but all of them were rejected. Every single one. That includes an amendment that would have put $400 million more into local road funding, and another that would have prevented taxpayer-funded assistance from going to illegal immigrants.

I could keep going, but you get the point.

It’s not all bad. There are some things in the budget that I like. For example, the House rejected the governor’s plan to cut funding for the state auditor general by 28 percent. You might remember that I was critical of the governor’s plan because the cut would have severely hampered the auditor general’s ability to provide oversight of the executive branch. I’m proud to report that lawmakers stopped that from happening.

The final budget still has to be worked out with the Senate in conference committee and then the governor might reject parts, so there may be other changes. I’ll keep you posted.

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