Stateside Podcast: What to know about the $76 billion state budget
The Michigan State Legislature last week approved the largest state budget in history. The nearly $76 billion spending plan boosts funding from everything from education to public pensions. It's still waiting on final approval from Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Emily Lawler, politics editor for The Detroit Free Press, and Detroit News politics reporter Craig Mauger joined the Stateside podcast to break down what's in the historically large budget—and what that means for the average Michigander. Here are some of the big takeaways.
Historic budget made possible by federal funds
The total budget stands at nearly $76 billion, which is a 10% increase from last year’s state budget. Although this year's spending plan is the largest in the state's history, the budget increase was expected as the federal government pumped billions of dollars into state and local governments' budgets. A large sum of this funding came from federal COVID relief, as well as additional Medicaid expansion funding from the state budget. Because of this surplus of funding, a significant chunk of money hasn't even been allocated by lawmakers yet.
“One of the more remarkable things is that we didn't spend all the money. There's $7 billion in the last year that could be part of some future tax cut negotiations. But it's just sort of sitting on the books right now,” said Lawler.
Debt relief, education saw major funding boosts
A large portion of the funding is going towards debt relief, both local and federal. One of the largest debt relief plans includes a large sum of funding being allocated to pay off the current debt within the state's teacher retirement fund. Despite the large proposal, it is unclear whether or not the new budget will allow for tax cuts.
Around $1,000,000,000 was allocated for a variety of special projects across the state. Some of these projects include funding for community centers in the Midland area, a trail project in Detroit, and a project planned for the University of Michigan. Because of the large price tag, Mauger said there's likely to be some debate about the necessity of funding for these projects and the overall taxpayer benefit.
“There are projects all over the state being funded through this budget," he explained, "and there will be arguments, I'm sure, in the coming weeks over how to view these projects. Are they positive to get these things done or is it pork barrel spending, as some have described it?”
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