LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is seeking a final $630 million budget bill before he leaves office, proposing to spend more to repair roads, address water contamination and hire 246 additional child protective services caseworkers following a scathing audit.
The state budget office made its request public this week after it was sent to lawmakers last week. The Snyder administration says tax collections are up due to the economy and a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that enabled states to require online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases from states where they have no physical presence.
The proposal factors in deals reached as part of the $55.9 billion budget Snyder signed in June and which took effect last month, but it also would include new spending this fiscal year.
The outgoing Republican governor wants the GOP-controlled Legislature to direct $183 million in additional online sales tax revenue toward roads in the lame-duck session. The money otherwise would primarily go to schools and the general fund.
Snyder also proposed adding $160 million to savings, spending $43 million to continue addressing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have tainted drinking water, another $31 million to improve child protection and $4.5 million to help the state plan for and oversee the construction of a hotly debated oil pipeline tunnel beneath the channel that links lakes Huron and Michigan. The proposal also assumes the approval of Snyder’s previously proposed landfill dumping fee increase to help pay for environmental cleanup, which would generate $37 million in new revenue for half of the budget year but which has hit legislative resistance.
In September, the state auditor general released a report that identified numerous deficiencies within CPS, including failures to launch and complete abuse and neglect investigations within required timeframes. About $21 million would be spent to decrease caseload ratios by increasing staff capacity. An additional $10 million would fund startup costs for CPS computer upgrades and other improvements.
State budget spokesman Kurt Weiss said the administration looks forward to working with legislators on the request, “knowing that this funding will help to continue Michigan’s momentum.”
Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Ton Leonard, said the proposal largely mirrors priorities that Republicans have been sharing with the governor for a couple years.
Democrats appreciate that Snyder prioritized items like roads and water cleanup, but “we need a holistic approach that does more than throw pennies at potholes if we are going to address the challenges we face as a state,” said Samantha Hart, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Sam Singh.
She criticized the lack of proposed funding to compensate thousands of people who were falsely accused of fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits, and she said the state should pair its spending on PFAS contamination by also enacting an enforceable limit to “hold polluters accountable.” She also renewed Democrats’ concerns with allowing oil transport company Enbridge to continue operating its pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac while a new pipeline and tunnel are built.
A Republican-backed bill to be considered during a lame-duck legislative session would designate the Mackinac Bridge Authority as the owner of the tunnel, with responsibility for overseeing construction and managing its operations while leasing it to Enbridge and other potential users, such as electric cable companies.
Weiss said Enbridge will pay the full cost of the tunnel’s construction, operation and maintenance for up to 99 years, but the state needs funds to ensure “independent oversight of Enbridge to ensure the project is being managed to the state’s satisfaction.”