Lansing’s Elected Leaders Send Misguided State Budget to Governor for Her Signature

It’s been said that democracy dies in darkness.

In related news, our state Legislature formally approved an irresponsible state budget in the dark of night this week. And the new spending plan doesn’t bode well for Michigan employers or taxpayers, K-12 students and their families, or public-school teachers.

First, the state House and Senate agreed with Governor Whitmer’s proposal to raid $670 million from the public teacher retirement fund in order to increase the size of government. As Michiganders continue to struggle with inflation that has been partly caused by government overspending, now is not the time to add fuel to that fire. The raid also appears to be in clear violation of a 2018 law that requires the state to make these important debt payments on schedule.

It’s important to note that the majority party in the state capital decided to deprive the teacher pension investment even though Michigan’s teacher retirement system remains about $30 billion in debt overall. Simply put, this move takes money from the teacher pension fund now and leaves a bigger problem for taxpayers and our kids to grapple with later.

The new state budget also takes money out of our public-school classrooms. For the first time in more than a decade, the budget doesn’t include a per-pupil increase for our children and grandchildren. School groups that usually support the governor’s initiatives came out hard against the plan, saying it will force layoffs at schools across Michigan. Further, due to these shifts this plan will now leave massive holes in the state’s School Aid Fund in the coming years.  Those problems will be felt later, but they’re from the actions taken this week.  These concerns were raised loudly, but they were not heeded by the politicos in Lansing, and the plan now moves to the governor’s desk for approval.

In another budget move loudly opposed by school groups, funding for mental health and school safety that all schools receive was slashed from $328 million to $26.5 million. We need to do everything we can to reduce school violence, and nearly eliminating this funding is not the answer.

Michigan families are grappling with inflation, parents want the best option possible for their kids’ education and students and adults alike deserve to be safe from violence. We needed common-sense leadership in the Michigan Legislature, but unfortunately got a bloated budget that is full of shifts but isn’t sustainable.

The budget wasn’t the only issue the Legislature tackled this week. The Michigan House also voted to expand unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks. The measure rescinds a 2011 reform signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that shored up the state’s unemployment fund, reduced costs for providing jobs in Michigan and led to fewer people unemployed while more people saw growing incomes. House Bill 5827, which could lead to higher costs to job providers, now is under consideration by the Senate.

The state budget still needs to be formally signed by the governor, so we encourage everyone to contact the governor to urge her to line-item veto the teacher retirement fund raid. It’s also essential to contact your state senator to urge them to vote against the expansion of the unemployment insurance agency.