Michigan’s 2021 Budget Battle is Over, Governor Ready to Sign

“Michigan is strong, and by working collaboratively with our partners in the Legislature, we now have a budget.” Those are the words this afternoon of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer as she points to a spending plan “focused on education and healthy families.”

The governor says she will soon sign her second budget into law in the middle of a global pandemic that created one of the most challenging and unique budget cycles in Michigan history. She says that it’s a budget that will deliver on many of her signature priorities, including the Michigan Reconnect program for a tuition-free pathway for adults, funding for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women have the care they need for a healthy pregnancy, and expanding access to childcare for families.

Whitmer says, “When we started the budget process in early February, nobody had any idea of how challenging the coming months would be, no knowledge of the devasting impacts that COVID-19 would have, including the impact to our state budget.” She goes on to say, “But Michigan is strong, and by working collaboratively with our partners in the Legislature we now have a budget I will soon be signing, a budget that funds shared priorities that will move Michigan forward.”

The governor contends, “Saying that the development of the 2021 budget has been difficult would be an understatement, but I am very proud that we’ve been able to work together with the Legislature to put together a budget that moves Michigan forward,” and adds, “I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield for their hard work and collaboration at a time when Michigan needed us to come together. I appreciate their commitment and the trust that has been built over this past year.”

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Senate Majority Leader Shirkey says, “COVID had an unexpected impact on the budget and the budget process. The legislature and the Governor’s team worked together to move forward and deliver a spending plan for Michigan that increases school funding, protects funding for local communities, and supports the men and women who keep us safe. And, we did it all without raising taxes on our hardworking citizens. This budget is proof that our citizens and our state benefit most when there is an equal and cooperative relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government.”

Speaker Chatfield says, “The economic impact of the coronavirus created an unprecedented challenge for state government, but more importantly it also created an incredible challenge for Michigan families.” He argues, “The people of this state need our help, and they need the resources that will keep them safe and help them make ends meet once again. I am happy to say this budget agreement delivered. Our budget committees and representatives did great work finding a way to balance this budget while still protecting critical funding for healthcare, schools reopening safely, local public safety, fully phasing in the 2015 road funding plan, and other top priorities for Michigan families.”

The budget will protect schools, colleges, universities, and local governments from any state funding reductions below their original 2020 funding levels. The budget will also include new education investments focused on providing students, teachers, and adults across Michigan with needed resources, including:

  • $161 million in flexible per pupil spending to help districts address the increased costs of educating students in the midst of a pandemic.
  • $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to upskill and earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. Implementing Reconnect will help close the skills gap and move the state closer to reaching 60-percent postsecondary educational attainment by 2030.
  • $5.6 million for mental health counselors to assist children in schools across Michigan with mental health needs.
  • $5 million in incentives to attract and retain first-year teachers in districts across Michigan.
  • An increase of $3 million to continue to fund literacy coaches and expand resources to improve training for other educators in best practices of literacy learning.
  • $2 million in additional supports to assist vulnerable students who are learning remotely, including special education students, students who are chronically absent, and children in need of childcare while their parents are working.
  • $2 million for Detroit Public TV to foster early childhood initiatives to enhance learning and early education.
  • Implementation of previously announced teacher hazard payments of up to $500 per teacher, along with the addition of payments of up to $250 for school support staff.
  • $1 million for school meal debt forgiveness.

State Budget Director Chris Kolb says, “This has been a budget cycle unlike any other, but in the end we have been able to work collaboratively and put together a budget that reflects many of the Governor’s key priorities and values,” and adds, “I am pleased that we will soon have a budget in place for the new fiscal year which begins October 1st, but I still have concerns about projected revenues loses for Fiscal Year 2022 and we still need Congress to provide states with new federal funding.”

When it comes to budget priorities for the health of families across Michigan, the budget will include:

  • $12.6 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women are given the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and to expand support for interventions that are proven to improve outcomes.
  • $26 million to expand access to childcare for families by increasing the income limit from 130- to 150-percent of the federal poverty level, expanding childcare services to nearly 6,000 children.
  • $135 million to extend the $2.00/hour wage increase for direct care workers assisting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during this especially difficult time.
  • $20 million in additional support for nursing homes for COVID-19-related cost increases.
  • $20 million to support the state’s psychiatric hospitals so that Michiganders in need of mental health services have improved access and care.
  • $2 million for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund to protect Michigan families from lead in their homes.
  • $10 million to implement policies to keep more children with families rather than entering congregate care.
  • $2.5 million to provide first responders with the mental health services they need, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist says, “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the challenges and disparities that have prevented far too many Michiganders from realizing their fullest potential,” and adds, “The budget that we’ve put forth is an opportunity to take a proactive, deliberate approach toward investing in the health, education, and economic well-being of those who need it the most. This budget sets a foundation to make expand access to opportunity for all of the people who call this state home.”

State Senator Kim LaSata from Bainbridge Township in Southwest Michigan says, “These are unprecedented times, and the response to the coronavirus meant the state was facing a serious budget deficit.” She adds, “But just as families in Southwest Michigan must balance their budgets in the face of adversity, I am pleased the Legislature was able to work together in a bipartisan way to overcome our challenges and pass a budget that funds our shared priorities without raising taxes.”

LaSata notes, “This has been a challenging year for families. I am pleased to support this budget, which makes key investments in our children’s education, training for workers to get back on the job, protections for our most vulnerable seniors from the coronavirus, and connectivity underserved communities need for the 21st Century.”

The 2021 budget will include critical funding for programs within the Department of Labor and Economic Development and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, including $100 million for business attraction efforts. A total of $28.7 million will be provided for the Going Pro program to support job training grants to businesses to support training for current and new employees in high-demand, skilled trades industries. In addition, new funding of $3 million is provided for a statewide pre-apprenticeship program with the goal of developing qualified candidates for building trades apprenticeships in the construction industry. Funding for the popular Pure Michigan campaign will be set at $15 million.

The budget will also provide funding for critical initiatives directed at the environment, including $5 million that will draw down significantly more in federal funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to reduce runoff of contaminants into Lake Erie and other watersheds. The budget will also add $1 million to Michigan Saves to help Michigan families make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

A total of $4.2 million will be provided to begin implementing the pre-trial incarceration task force recommendation for crisis intervention and de-escalation training through the Michigan Coalition on Law Enforcement Standards, helping ensure law enforcement officers have the training and education they need to intervene successfully. The budget will include $7 million to increase the number of troopers within the Michigan State Police.

The budget will also include $14.3 million in broadband funding to help expand Internet access across the state which is more important than ever to Michiganders relying on telework, telehealth, and virtual learning.

Following approval of the new Fiscal Year 2021 budget by the Legislature, Michigan Community College President Michael Hansen issued the following statement:

“The Michigan Community College Association is pleased with the outcome of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget cycle, which restores funding for community colleges to previous levels, while also investing in programs that will open up new educational opportunities for Michiganders.

“The inclusion of $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program will give residents over age 25 new opportunities to obtain degrees or certificates to advance their careers, which is now even more critical after the economic struggles that were created by the pandemic. Additionally, reinstatement of funding for the Going Pro talent program will help increase the skill level of our workforce.

“Michigan’s community colleges are ready to utilize these programs, along with our standard curriculum, to bolster educational opportunities and close the talent gap in our state.”