Snyder proposes $54B budget with focus on 3rd-grade reading

Gov. Snyder talks about the budget with reporters in Lansing. (Feb. 11, 2015)

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing a $54 billion state budget that includes a focus on skilled trades training, third-grade reading and dental coverage for low-income kids.

The Republican governor plans a $75, or 1 percent, increase in the state’s minimum per-pupil funding for K-12 schools. Michigan’s universities would get a 2 percent increase in aid if they keep tuition hikes to no more than 2.8 percent.

Snyder also wants to provide dental coverage to low-income kids in Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties.

He said about 76 percent of the total budget is dedicated to education and health and human services.

Due to a projected $289 million shortfall in the current budget, Snyder also issued an executive order cutting more than $102 million from the budget. The projected revenue shortfall was caused primarily by higher-than-expected business tax credits being claimed.

The cuts are spread across multiple agencies and most account for very small percentages of the money budgeted for each item. For example, Snyder ordered a  a $304 thousand cut to the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon. That will come out of a $50.3 million budget.

However, Snyder’s order does eliminate funding for three programs:

  • A $1.5 million pilot program in the Michigan Department of Community Health. The Pay for Success program would create contracts with groups, but those contracts would include specific performance measures that must be met before the groups get paid. The goal of the project is to lower costs for state services.
  • A $1 million pilot program called Juvenile Justice Vision 20/20. Run though the Department of Human Services, the program would create a program that would link DHS and courts to gather information on kids who are put through the Juvenile Court system. The goal is to better share and track data on juveniles in the criminal justice system. This project was an expansion of a pilot database run in Ottawa, Kalamazoo, Kent, Ionia, and Berrien Counties.
  • $3.4 million in funding for a phase-in of an Educator Evaluation and Assessment plan. The budget for 2015 appropriated the money, but only on the condition that two other bills pass and get signed into law. Neither bill cleared the senate, so this money would not have been available to be used.

Other cuts include:

  • 48% cut to In-Home community care program: (From $1,250,000 to $650,000): A one-time grant program to expand or create new in-home care and community-based juvenile justice services to rural counties.
  • 32% cut in the budget to implement Mental Health Commission Recommendations ($2,900,000 cut from a from $8,962,500 budget)
  • 22% cut for the Electronic Monitoring Center of the Department of Corrections  ($3,000,000 cut from a $13,365,400 budget)
  • 80% cut for DNR Non-motorized trail development and maintenance grants (cut $1,000,000 from $1,250,000 budget)

Critics questioned why that shortfall is happening if the economy is improving. The governor said he wouldn’t try to justify what happened before took office in 2011, but he offered a startling insight.

“To put the context for you, much like you doing a FIOA (Freedom of Information Act) request, that’s the same kind of information I get to see. So I read some redacted agreements and to be open with you, there’s a fair amount of questions and challenges about the visibility, timing, transparency and the ultimate costs of some of those agreements, and that’s what we’re digging through,” the governor explained. “What I have to say is I expect we’ll see testimony next week from the MEDC hopefully answering more questions, but this is one I’m personally engaged in. I’ve been working on this enough where I’ve been pulling some of my own Excel spreadsheets to make sure I can understand as much as possible given the lack of full visibility.”

Some Democrats would point to Snyder’s tax cuts for businesses as another possible reason for the shortfall in the budgets. Since we don’t know exactly who is using those tax credits, there is no evidence that they aren’t being used to do just what they were supposed to: help create jobs. But the fact that not even the governor can find out is at least mildly troubling.

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