Michigan Legislature OKs budget with $165M for Flint

Budget also includes intial bailout for Detroit Public Schools

Michigan state capitol building rotunda lansing
Looking up at the rotunda ceiling inside the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature has passed a $54.9 billion state spending plan and directed $165 million more in aid toward the water crisis in Flint, including money to replace thousands of lead pipes that carry water into homes.

The bills will head to Gov. Rick Snyder for his expected signature after winning approval Wednesday night.

The budget that starts in October includes initial funds for a bailout of Detroit’s debt-ridden school district that is still under debate in the Capitol. Spending on Flint’s emergency rises to roughly $235 million.

Key components besides the aid for Flint and Detroit include:

— a 1.9 percent funding boost for K-12 education, including a $60 to $120 hike in per-student spending. The minimum grant goes from $7,391 to $7,511; the basic level jumps from $8,169 to $8,229.

— an aggregate 2.9 percent increase for public universities, whose hikes vary depending on the school. State operations aid for six of the 15 universities will remain below what it was before a major cut five years ago. Tuition and fee increases are capped at 4.2 percent, which allows for bigger hikes than in the current budget. Education spending accounts for nearly 30 percent of the budget.

— the closure of the Pugsley prison south of Traverse City to save $27 million.

— a 1.2 percent boost in revenue sharing for local governments, less than initially proposed because of lower sales tax collections and a decision to not provide an increase in the portion that legislators have control over.

— the expansion of dental coverage to 131,000 13- to 21-year-olds in Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties, the final step toward implementing the Healthy Kids Dental program statewide.

— more spending on road and bridge work once fuel tax and vehicle registration fee increases enacted last year take effect in 2017.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, a Lowell Republican, downplayed whether unanticipated spending on the Flint and Detroit schools crises affected other areas of the budget. The new permanent transportation revenue means the state no longer has to divert hundreds of millions in general spending toward road construction annually, he said.

“We were able to do things that we needed do like continue to invest in the issues facing the city of Flint and Detroit Public Schools and some other areas as well,” Hildenbrand said.

Democratic Rep. Sam Singh of East Lansing says “there are a lot of good things in the budget,” but he opposes it. He says majority Republicans turned away more than $150 million in federal funds that could have been used to help tax-paying Michigan residents.

Democrats also say there’s not enough money for state universities and too much spending on things like cyber schools and funding to reimburse private schools for state-mandated costs.

But House Appropriations Committee Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican, says the budget has record-high spending on K-12 education and roads and pays down debt.

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