LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a nearly $49 billion state budget that sets aside more money to fund education and fix deteriorating roads.
The budget doesn't have to be passed until the end of September, but this is the third year in a row in which major budget issues have been passed and signed well before the new budget year begins Oct. 1.
The entire budget is about 1% bigger than the current year.
Overall, K-12 spending was increased by about $500,000. The governor touted a 3% jump in per-pupil funding.
But schools -- especially those in urban areas -- are still hurting. Albion Public Schools has already decided to shut down its high school next year. Some districts on the east side of the state are having trouble keeping the doors opened.
"One of the major issues when you look at a lot of these districts is there tends to be one of two issues that come up. One is, quite often, a declining in enrollment -- sometimes quite dramatic. And that creates a lot of issues. The other one is sometimes it can be how they've managed their finances," Snyder told 24 Hour News 8.
The governor said he is planning a "broad-based task force" to investigate how to combat those problems. That may be announced later this month.
Preschool for low-income children was also earmarked in the budget. Additionally, it blocks the state from paying to implement more rigorous standards in reading, writing and math until the GOP-led Legislature says it's OK.
The budget also set aside $351 million to fix Michigan's roads.
"One of the things most people acknowledge, we need better roads in Michigan.And I think having $350 million more is a positive step forward, but the numbers closer to about a billion dollars, or $1.2 billion," Snyder said.
He has brought up the idea of increasing the gas tax to raise some of that money. But with gas prices higher than $4 per gallon in the last few weeks, the governor admits selling the idea of a gas tax increase could be a challenge.
"Am I opened to alternative proposals? Sure. And I think we're having a number of discussions about a number of different things with the leadership in the legislature. So what I would say is this is a good payment toward making progress to help improve our roads," Snyder said. "But we need to keep working this issue, and let's find a solution that can work in the context of hopefully not raising gas prices for people."
Snyder exercised few line-item vetoes. One deals with a high-speed rail project in southwestern Michigan.
Expanding Medicaid to cover more Michigan residents, which Snyder favors, remains on the agenda. Tea party conservatives say that's a deal-breaker for them and if he continues his support, they will not support his re-election. He says he's not backing down.
"I think I've weathered some pretty good political fallout already on various issues," Snyder told 24 Hour News 8.
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