LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Key lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration agreed Tuesday on the framework of a state spending plan that would direct $165 million more toward Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis while significantly cutting a budget proposal to address underground infrastructure needs across Michigan.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Hildenbrand told The Associated Press in a phone interview that the “big-picture stuff is pretty much settled out” among himself, House Appropriations Chairman Al Pscholka and state budget director John Roberts. The budget office confirmed that the framework of an agreement was in place.
Negotiators had to adjust after anticipated tax revenues were lowered and Medicaid cost estimates were raised last week. Hildenbrand said “target” spending levels for individual departments and major budget areas have been sent to legislators on House and Senate appropriations committees and are roughly $390 million below what Snyder proposed in February.
The governor and legislative leaders have not signed the deal. But House Speaker Kevin Cotter said earlier Tuesday they were “very, very close.”
The governor’s proposal to spend $165 million more on the Flint emergency — on top of roughly $70 million already allocated — is intact, Hildenbrand and the budget office said. But his proposed new $165 million fund to address water pipes and other aging infrastructure statewide would instead receive $5 million.
K-12 schools would still see per-student increases ranging from $60 to $120, which is in line with Snyder’s plan and those passed earlier by the House and Senate. But state universities’ operations funding would rise roughly $40 million, or 2.9 percent, instead of the $60 million, or 4.4 percent hike, sought by Snyder, according to Hildenbrand.
There also appears to be consensus to prospectively end a tax credit inadvertently awarded to auto insurers and that is costing the state $60 million to $80 million a year.
“There’s general agreement about the fact that it was not meant to exist in the form that it is and that it does have budget implications that we just can’t afford at this time,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhok. “It’s just a matter of working out the details as to where it will start, when we’ll do it, when we need to do it so it’s wrapped up with the budget as well.”
Hildenbrand cautioned that “we still have to get the votes” in the face of lobbying from the insurance industry.
Lawmakers, who plan to break for the summer in mid-June, plan in coming weeks to enact a $55 billion budget for the fiscal year starting in October. The Legislature also faces the prospect of Detroit Public Schools running out of money after June 30 but is at odds over an overhaul.
While legislators agree on paying off the district’s estimated $467 million debt and launching a new district, the Senate has favored providing $200 million in additional transition funds while the House backs $33 million. The Senate previously voted to create a commission of mayoral appointees to make decisions about opening and closing Detroit schools, including publicly funded charters in the city. It has faced stiff resistance from the school-choice lobby and House Republicans.