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Legislature and governor at odds over line-item vetoes in COVID-19 spending bill

Michigan Legislature
Posted at 8:10 AM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 08:10:46-05

LANSING, Michigan (WXYZ)  — The Republican-controlled Michigan State House and Senate passed a bipartisan $465 million dollar COVID-19 relief bill earlier this month. Tuesday, the governor signed the bill, or at least some of it. She line-item vetoed most of the spending.

Let’s take a look at what is in the COVID-19 relief bill signed by the governor.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved $106 million in spending. That includes $55 million in grants for small businesses, $3.5 million for entertainment venues and $45 million in payments to people who were laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19.

What is raising controversy is what is not in it. The governor vetoed $220 million that would have gone to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. It is a fund that collects money not from workers, but from businesses to fund unemployment insurance.

“That includes a $220 million giveaway of taxpayer money to the employer-owned unemployment insurance trust fund. Be very clear this will not impact individual workers. General fund dollars have got to be used to fund essential services like vaccines and PPE, not to be giving tax breaks to big businesses right now,” said Gov. Whitmer.

“My problem with the governor cutting the $220 million is that you are going to make small businesses that were shut down due to government mandates pay more for employment because you forced them to shut down,” said State Rep. Joe Bellino, a Monroe County Republican.

State Rep. Bellino says providing the $220 million in state dollars is the right thing to do for businesses impacted by something out of their control.

The governor also signed a bill that would extend unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks through March. Now the question is, will that happen? That bill requires the $220 million dollars be approved.

“The governor owns this,” said State. Rep. Bellino. “She cut the $220 million and people who were going to get six more weeks are not going to get it now.”

“The extension of benefits to hard-working Michiganders should not be used as any sort of a bargaining chip or tied to priorities that the legislature might have outside o protecting public health and the economy,” Whitmer said.

Seven Action News has requested information on the latest accounting of the fund, so we can assess the need or impact of state dollars on solvency.

It is possible the governor and state legislature could negotiate a compromise after the legislature returns to Lansing on Jan. 13.