Rep. Thomas Albert, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, today unveiled a broad $13 billion plan to continue supporting Michigan families, children and communities struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic — while planning for challenges ahead and making government more accountable.
“First and foremost, this plan continues our commitment to Michigan families decimated by COVID-19 and the governor’s pandemic orders. We’re targeting relief where it’s needed most, helping kids catch up on lost learning, and providing resources to workers and communities struggling to stay afloat after this devastating past year,” Albert said.
“At the same time, we’ve got to plan ahead. We have a unique opportunity to invest in roads, broadband and other infrastructure Michigan needs to emerge from the pandemic with a stronger foundation. And we have a responsibility to prepare for the day our state budget is no longer artificially propped up by billions of dollars in federal aid. Our national and state economic policies over the past year have been dangerously unsustainable, and we must take steps now to put our state in a better financial position moving forward.”
The House supplemental budget plan includes $3.2 billion from federal relief approved in December, $8.6 billion in federal relief approved in March, and $1.3 billion in state general fund resources. The measures will be discussed in the House Appropriations Committee starting Wednesday.
Relief for families including $743 million for food assistance and $481 million to assist with rent, utility and energy bills. Additional support will strengthen Meals on Wheels and other senior programs, mental health and community health initiatives, foster care and many other efforts.
Support for students and schools totaling about $4.8 billion. This includes support to help kids catch up on academics after missing in-person classes over the past year, COVID testing, and school ventilation improvements. Additionally, about $1.4 billion is provided for early childhood care.
Support for communities including $400 million to help people move off unemployment and return to work, $686 million for local governments, and $205 million for renovations at mental health facilities. Other support includes hazard pay for state employees working on the front lines of COVID response, local road sheriff’s patrols, transit programs, agricultural processing and more.
Investments in infrastructure with $1.2 billion for roads (including $700 million to pay down bond debt), $250 million for water and sewer replacement grants, and $150 million for rural broadband. Other support goes to airports, PFAS and pollution cleanup, and addressing high lake levels.
Fighting the virus with $180 million for vaccine distribution and more than $550 million for additional COVID testing.
Improving future state finances by more quickly paying off debt related to the Flint water settlement ($595 million), the Michigan Venture Fund ($20 million), and other obligations (in addition to paying off more road bond debt). The plan would return $350 million to the state’s rainy day fund, and provide $50 million to right-size state government and accelerate the state’s consolidation of office space, which with remote work options exceeds needs moving forward.
“These are important steps for Michigan taxpayers and families,” Albert said. “It will save money and improve state services over the long run – while making sure our kids aren’t asked to pay our bills down the road.”
The plan includes accountability measures to ensure money is spent for its intended purposes. The State Administrative Board, which Gov. Whitmer used in 2019 to move more than $600 million from its Legislature-approved purposes into her politically preferred programs, would be authorized to transfer only up to $200,000 in the aggregate. About $6 billion in suggested House plan spending for schools, hazard pay for state employees, and road debt is contingent upon approval of this measure.
“We want to make sure money intended to help kids is used to help kids, and money that’s intended to help roads will help roads,” Albert said.
The House plan also provides money to investigate the governor’s nursing home policies related to COVID, and to study the effects of the governor’s pandemic orders.