Lawmakers tout $70 billion budget deal, brace for debate over what to do with remaining COVID relief cash

Michigan Legislature
Posted at 9:12 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 22:24:31-04

LANSING, Mich. — A few months ago, there was not much optimism a budget deal would get done by the Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, but now there is a deal and lawmakers on both sides are calling it a win.

The largest investment in K–12 education funding, more than $1 billion to expand child care in Michigan, hundreds of millions to fix aging roads, bridges and dams, and a boost to the state unemployment system are among the highlights of a nearly $70 billion bipartisan budget deal Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign into law by the end of month.

“In Michigan, you have to come together for the people. And so particularly the things I was looking for is: How can we get more funding into our communities in West Michigan? How can we get more funding into our local roads and bridges and infrastructure? And we did that. Clean water infrastructure? We did that. PFAS contamination cleanup? We did that,” Rep. Matt Hall said (R–Marshall).

Republicans are finding the “win” in that, and an included provision that the state government can’t issue COVID vaccine requirements beyond what the Biden administration has put forth.

On the other side, Democrats are calling the increase in child care spending and higher wages for care givers “transformative.”

Our investment in early childhood and child care, increasing wages, increasing eligibility, so more children and more families can benefit from that program, and that the workers who are helping to take care of our kids, our most precious asset, are rewarded for their good work and their dedication,” Rep. Rachel Hood (D–Grand Rapids). “We learned from the virus, how important it is to have this robust system of childcare workers, and I think that investment will pay off.”

The budget will also include a $500 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund.

While both sides have come to an agreement on the budget, another battle is looming over what to do with the more than $7 billion in federal COVID relief money still sitting on the table.

"I look forward to continuing in the spirit of collaboration to spend the billions in federal dollars we have available to us from the American Rescue Plan and the billions more we are expected to receive from the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill. When we come together, we are capable of making incredible progress and I am proud that we got this done," Governor Whitmer said in a statement.

“We did a lot of it in this budget for clean water, for sewers, for bridges, for roads, but I want to make sure we're looking at those things in our communities in West Michigan. That will help make sure that we have strong infrastructure, and I think that somewhere we can get to over the next few months,” Hall said.

“I think we will have discussions about more transformative investments for Michigan; we'll have to be responsible that we are careful about how we invest that $6 billion in one-time investments that can help us get on the right path and a trajectory forward,” Hood added.

The House is expected to vote on the budget Wednesday.

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