LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — A state representative from Lowell on Wednesday abruptly resigned as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, citing objections to a $1.1 billion supplemental budget measure.
Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, said in a statement that “now is not the time for the state to commit to spending more money,” explaining his concerns about an uncertain economy and state revenue.
The Senate approved the supplemental budget Wednesday and the House passed it at the end of the day. was expected to vote before ending their session for the day. About $72 million will go to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, but most of the money, about $900 million, will go to various of labor and economic development projects aimed at attracting new businesses to Michigan.
“We have a program set up called the SOAR Fund. And what that is is to set up sites to be … ready to break ground for companies to come in from anywhere in the country. And so part of it is that. And then the other part is actual incentives to help companies to come. Because it’s incredibly expensive for a company to come and they’re going to go to the place where they’re going to get the most bang for their buck and we want Michigan to be that place,” Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, explained the how the programs work.
Albert described the spending as “reckless and irresponsible to taxpayers” and said he would vote against it.
His statement implied that the bill had the backing of Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, R-Clare:
“The Appropriations chair is appointed by the Speaker, and they should have compatible visions for the committee’s work,” Albert’s statement said.
Whiteford has been appointed the new House Appropriations chair.
Since spending was approved by both chambers of the Legislature, it will now go to the governor’s desk. If signed, the Legislature would still have to sign off on the individual projects before they get money.
“That’s a complaint that legislators have had over the years, is that the money is being appropriated without a second thought from the legislators who actually did the original appropriation, so we wrote into the law that was signed last year that the (Michigan Economic Development Corp.) has to come back to the Legislature” for final approval, Whiteford said.
The money is coming from the state’s more than $7 billion surplus.
Albert’s full statement:
“Over the past year few years, the state of Michigan has adopted budgets that greatly benefit families, communities and taxpayers. I am proud of the work we have done and know it is making our state an even place to live, work and raise a family. But today it is time for a change in leadership for the House Appropriations Committee.
“I cannot support the supplemental budget measure that is before the Legislature today. As I said at the beginning of this month — now is not the time for the state to commit to spending more money. We are in the beginning stages of a global recession and we still don’t know how bad the economy will get in the coming months. We simply do not know if tax revenues will come into the state as we anticipated previously. The wise thing to do is keep money on hand to ensure we can fulfill budget commitments already signed into law, and possibly return money to Michigan taxpayers struggling with inflation. With all of the uncertainty in the economy today, we should not be making new spending commitments.
“Increased government spending has fueled inflation and played a major part in the economic struggles we face today. Additional spending would just make things worse. The measure the Legislature is considering today is reckless and irresponsible to taxpayers, and I will be voting against it.
“The Appropriations chair is appointed by the Speaker, and they should have compatible visions for the committee’s work. I am stepping aside so the Speaker may appoint a new chair.
“I would like to thank the Speaker for the opportunity to lead this committee, and express my gratitude for legislators on both sides of the aisle who worked through the budget process to help Michigan residents, communities and taxpayers.”