Governor Rick Snyder calls for a slight boost in spending in his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year with more money for police, schools, and universities. The plan, he says, was built on tough decisions made last year.
Snyder was flanked by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and Budget Director John Nixon as he took a seat in front of a packed house. He presented his budget plans to a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Not So Distant Past
The governor started out with a short history lesson.
"It was a mess," he said, reminding lawmakers of how things have changed since his budget presentation from a year ago. In 2011, the governor called for taxing pensions and concessions from public employees. He also called for a $400 million dollar shift from the School Aid Fund to help pay for universities, and universities still saw funding cuts.
"We had to address a billion and a half dollar deficit," he says. "We addressed that. We had to ask for shared sacrifice from many people, a lot of difficult decisions, and I appreciate a lot of understanding by a lot of people."
Spending Increases & Rainy-Day Savings
This year, the economy has improved, and so has revenue. The governor called for modest increases to money for schools and universities, much of it linked to improving student performance. Local governments could also see more, if they find ways to become more efficient.
The governor called for more money for law enforcement, but says details will wait until next month, when he delivers a special address on public safety. And he says the state should drop $130 million dollars into the state's "rainy day" savings, which were practically non-existent a year ago. He says that will also help convince Wall Street to upgrade Michigan's bond rating,
An Election Year
All of that was good news to lawmakers, especially Republicans, who can run for re-election this year without worrying about the chagrin caused by a new round of spending cuts.
"I don't think we're quite at the point where the future's so bright that we gotta wear shades. But we're getting there," says state Representative Eileen Kowall, who welcomed the change in tone this year.
In fact, the change from a year ago was enough to inspire people to applaud once the governor wrapped up his presentation. It's not usual for a budget presentation to be met with applause.
Democrats, too, welcomed the fact that the governor's new budget does not call for more sacrifice from schools and local governments. But state Representative Ellen Cogan-Lipton says the modest boost to school funding does not make up for what happened last year.
"A budget that fails to fully restore that $400 million dollars, and then some, is a failed budget as to education - no cause, no cause for celebration, in my opinion," she says.
Health Reforms Proposed
The governor also wants to extend insurance coverage to pay for autism treatments. He wants that to be part of his new Medicaid budget, and he's called for private insurers to also cover autism treatments.
The governor also called for expanding dental care for children in low-income families, and suggests a modest boost for arts and culture programs.
The governor says the main goal of his budget proposal is fiscal stability, and making Michigan an attractive place to live and to work. He also set a goal - but with no timeline - of having Michigan's employment rate beat the national average.