Following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first budget proposal that called for improving education, access to clean drinking water, and fixing the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges, state Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) is asking his constituents for feedback.
Bumstead this week added a survey about the budget to his Senate website to and encouraged those living in the 34th Senate District—which covers Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties—to weigh in on the $60.2 billion proposal. Click here to see the survey.
“As the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I will have a key role in molding our next state budget,” Bumstead said in a press release. “I have put together a short survey regarding items the governor has proposed for the 2020 budget, and as your voice in Lansing, I would like to hear your input regarding how your tax dollars will be spent.”
Whitmer and state Budget Director Chris Kolb last week outlined the proposed executive budget for fiscal year 2020 [you can see the entire budget presentation in the video above and the executive budget documents here] at a joint session of the state House and Senate Appropriations Committees last week.
The $60.2 billion budget, which is up 3.6 percent from the current fiscal year 2019 budget, includes an increase of $507 million in school funding, about $120 million for new drinking water protections—including money to address water contaminated by PFAS chemicals, and a plan to raise $2.5 billion to fix crumbling infrastructure with a 45-cent gas tax. The plan would bring the fuel tax at the pump to 71.3 cents per gallon by October of 2020; the Detroit Free Press calculated the increase would translate to an additional $6.75 to fill a 15-gallon tank.
To offset the cost of the gas tax increase, the governor called for doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit—a state tax benefit for low- and middle-income residents—from 6 percent to 12 percent. This move would save the average low-income family about $30 per month, according to Whitmer.
“I’ve heard from people all across Michigan and this budget reflects the priorities they have shared,” Whitmer said during her budget proposal. “People are tired of driving on crumbling and unsafe roads and bridges, they want to turn on their tap and know that the water is clean and safe, and they want a strong educational system that leads to opportunity and a good job.”
On the education front, the governor proposed allocating $15.4 billion for the state’s K-12 schools—a $507 million increase over the current budget. This includes an increased foundation allowance of $235 million, which will provide additional resources of between $120 and $180 per pupil to fund basic classroom and operational expenses.The budget includes $120 million for special education students, $102 million for at-risk students, and $50 million for career and technical education students.
Among a long list of programs and initiatives, Whitmer is calling for $4 million to increase the Double-Up Food Bucks program to cover all 83 counties in Michigan, from the current 65 counties it now includes. The program provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to $20 per day for those on food assistance to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown by state farmers. The governor too is asking for $13.9 million to respond to public health threats, including contaminated water; $8.6 million for foster care and child welfare investments; and $9.6 million to create an independent citizen redistricting commission for state legislative and congressional districts.
Republican lawmakers, including Bumstead, have thrown their support behind some aspects of the budget.
“What I was glad to hear the governor talk about is the need for increased focus on improving the skills of our workforce,” Bumstead said in a prepared statement. “I am happy to see her commitment to continuing Michigan’s comeback and fostering a growing economic climate.”
“I was also happy to hear her call for efforts to clean up our drinking water,” he continued. “I think these issues are both fantastic starting points to budget discussions and look forward to working through the process with my colleagues and the governor’s administration.
But Bumstead and other GOP legislators have been critical of the gas tax.
“I am very wary, however, of her recommendation to increase funding for our state’s roads,” Bumstead said. “We’ve all been asking how we would pay for her goals mentioned in the State of the State address. Well today we see it is simply another tax increase.”
Instead of a gas tax, Bumstead said he wants to see the roll-out of the $1.2 billion road-funding package that the state legislature passed in 2015 and which will be fully phased in by the end of 2021.
“The legislature approved landmark road funding initiatives in recent years that have yet to take full effect, and we are seeing results based off those efforts,” Bumstead said. “I would like to see more success out of current funding before going back to the taxpayers again and throwing money at a program that has not been fully implemented.”
However, a report published this week by TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit transportation research group, said the 2015 transportation funding package will not “fully address the significant deterioration of the system, or to allow the state to provide many of the transportation improvements needed to support economic growth.”
The report goes on to say crumbling roads are costing Michigan drivers $4.6 billion a year, or $646 per driver, a number that is up from $562 in previous reports. In Muskegon, drivers are annually paying an average of $454 because of bad roads, as well as $473 a year due to safety costs—such as accidents caused by road problems—and $376 because of traffic congestion.
“Every driver in Michigan is already paying a hidden tax on our roads, and the cost just went up,” Whitmer said in a press release. “If we don’t raise the $2.5 billion we need to actually fix our roads the right way, with the right materials, the cost will continue to go up year after year. Patching potholes and ignoring the problem isn’t working. Instead, it’s hurting our families and businesses and holding our economy back.”