Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Harris: Bad budget leaves schools, communities behind
RELEASE|June 27, 2024
Contact: Mike Harris

Former school resource officer criticizes 92% cut to school safety

State Rep. Mike Harris on Thursday said the state’s new budget wastes taxpayer dollars on unsustainable projects and programs, while leaving community needs, such as roads and school safety, behind.

Harris voted against Democrats’ $82.5 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget relies on the income tax hike that took effect this year, raids teachers’ retirement funds, hires more than 500 additional bureaucrats, and funds pork projects without real accountability.

“This bad budget is loaded with big numbers but short on results for Michigan communities,” Harris said. “Tax dollars should go toward what truly matters for people. The state should fix the roads, invest in quality education, and keep our schools and neighborhoods safe. This budget focuses instead on special projects like electric vehicle chargers, baseball stadiums, and zoos. The pork-filled budget leaves our schools and communities behind.”

Democrats forced through a $700 million income tax hike that took effect at the start of this year, and their budget relies on the tax hike to balance. The budget also raids teacher retirement funds by reducing total contributions to the public school retirement system, even though the pension fund still owes about $30 billion in unfunded liabilities. The raid could jeopardize the state’s future ability to pay teachers’ pensions and force cuts to classroom funding to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, Democrats included no increase in per-pupil funding for K-12 schools, and education groups have said the misguided school aid budget will lead to teacher layoffs. The budget defunds school safety and mental health support, reducing the initiative from $328 million to a mere $26.5 million. It also eliminates funding for the School Safety and Mental Health Commission, which coordinates safety efforts at schools across the state. Harris, who served as a school resource officer for part of his 26-year law enforcement career, sharply criticized the cuts.

“Slashing school safety resources just to shift money elsewhere would be a disappointing and dangerous choice by Democrats,” Harris said. “Local schools have put safety funding to good work. They’ve hired school resource officers and purchased critical security equipment to help prevent future tragedies. Gutting school safety investments could jeopardize the jobs of school resource officers and take them out of the schools they protect. Keeping students safe while they learn should be a top priority, and it’s a shame that school security is apparently the first thing on Democrats’ chopping block.”

The spending bills also spend hundreds of millions of dollars on earmarked projects in politically favored districts, but the budget fails to implement sufficient accountability measures to ensure transparent and responsible use of taxpayer dollars. In previous budgets, private recipients of earmarked grants have misspent funding without accountability or oversight. For instance, an ally of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was awarded a $20 million earmark for a new company she created, and she used the funding to buy a $4,500 coffee maker and a first-class international plane ticket. Despite this record of unwise spending, the legislation doesn’t incorporate proposals from Harris and House Republicans to ensure adequate accountability measures that would disclose the true project sponsors, require recipients to submit a transparent spending plan before receiving funds, conduct an annual audit on grant spending, and pause and investigate projects that misuse resources. In fact, Democrats removed language from an earlier budget proposal that would have clawed back funds from two past questionable projects, Global Link International, which wasted funds on the coffee maker, and a community health campus in Clare.

The budget earmarks $17 million for zoos, $2 million for a boxing gym, $5 million for a theater, more than $18 million for a few sports complexes and fieldhouses, $1 million for a public radio station in Detroit, and hundreds of millions more for a wide variety of other projects and entities.

While funding pork projects and other wasteful spending, Democrats’ budget neglects crucial public services. It distributes no extra funding to repair broken local roads, but it does give out $30 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Senate Bill 747, the general budget, and House Bill 5507, the school budget, now proceed to the governor for consideration.

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