Michigan’s $56.7B budget headed to governor

Michigan Capitol Building, rotunda
This file photo shows the interior of rotunda dome at the state Capitol Building in Lansing, Mich.

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — A $56.7 billion state budget is headed toward Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk after the Republican-led Senate gave it final approval on mostly party-line votes.

The bills approved Thursday include more money for K-12 schools, universities and community colleges, and for training new state troopers. There is less for prison spending and environmental cleanup.

It took less than a half an hour for the final votes to approve the spending package and send it to the governor. Republicans — who control the House, the Senate and governor’s office — agreed to the priorities, though Democrats still have questions.

“We’ve been working on the budget for many, many months, putting it all together, working with all interested parties and the House and Senate and governor’s office all got together here in the last couple of weeks to put the finishing touches on it. So I think we got a great product,” said Sen. Dave Hildenbrand of Lowell, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and as part of the Republican majority had a lot of input in the plan.

The money directed to education is always contentious during the budget process.

“We’ve increased funding for K-12 education and increased support for our community colleges and our universities in the state. So again it shows that we made education a priority,” he said.

The school aid budget and all other spending in the omnibus bill came together only after lawmakers were able pass a piece of legislation to change the teacher retirement plan. It was a Republican legislative priority that the governor opposed but ultimately went along with. The dispute had held up final action on the budget for weeks.

It still doesn’t set well with Democrats like Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of Meridian Township.

“I think this budget is much better than where we started from. I still think that spending $255 million of the people’s money to close the teacher retirement system instead of putting that money into infrastructure and roads is wrong,” Hertel said.

The budget goes into effect Oct. 1.