Detroit Forensics Lab, New State Police Class Among 2014-2015 Budget Items
The Michigan Legislature is debating the 2014-2015 State budget, and part of the debate includes approving funding for a forensics laboratory at the new Detroit Police Headquarters and also for a new class of 100 State Police officers.
"LANSING — State lawmakers will begin wrapping up work this morning on the 2014-15 fiscal year budget that has been eclipsed by debates over the minimum wage, sending nearly $195 million to Detroit to help settle the city’s bankruptcy and trying to figure out how to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads.
[']Considering the challenges of this year’s budget, it’s been remarkable that we’re pretty close on target with all these other things swirling around us,['] said Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. [']Getting the minimum wage thing done, that’s very time consuming. The problem we’re having with transportation, the downturn with revenues available and the Detroit thing is a huge time-consuming issue in terms of getting the budget done at the same time.[']
Conference committees, consisting of members of both the House and Senate appropriations committees, began passing compromise budgets Thursday and will finish up the final five thorniest budgets — community health, general government, human services, K-12 education and community colleges — today and Tuesday.
The full House and Senate will begin taking action Tuesday, with the expectation that votes on the $10.1-billion general fund budgets will be complete by Thursday so the lawmakers can return to their districts for an extended summer break. The Legislature has two session days scheduled in both July and August, although those generally are non-voting days and few members show up.
[']It’s an election year, and people should be allowed to go home and reconnect with the people they represent, tell them what they’ve been working on and what they’re planning for the fall,['] said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. [']That’s part of the process, and I don’t want to take that away from them.[']
Complicating this year’s budget process is about $300 million less than expected in tax revenues coming into the state. As a result, a proposed cut in the homestead property tax for low-income Michiganders and a state income tax cut has not materialized in the budget that begins Oct. 1.
[']We had money on the balance sheet, and a lot of that disappeared because we had a decrease of about $300 million between school aid and general fund,['] said Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township. [']So you have to find adjustments in one form or another.[']
Some of the compromises so far:
■ Higher education is getting a 5.9% increase in funding. A $500,000 hit to Michigan State University for a course about unions was removed.
■ The Michigan State Police will get $12.2 million for a new trooper school class, expected to train 100 new troopers in 2015, and $2 million for a new post in Marshall. It will pay the City of Detroit $1.1 million in rent for a forensic lab in the Detroit Police Department’s new headquarters.
■ The Department of Transportation budget got the most massaging: the House approved $379 million for work on local roads and bridges; the Senate passed $117 million. There will be $144.5 million for priority transportation projects for local roads and bridges and $127 million to match federal highway funds. The Regional Transit Authority in southeast Michigan will get $1.1 million, and a high-speed rail crossing pilot project got $1.5 million. Language prohibiting the purchase of property related to the New International Trade Crossing on the Detroit River was removed.
■ The Department of Natural Resources will get $3.5 million for 25 additional conservation officers; $2 million to replace the Chinook, the research vessel on Lake Huron, and $5 million for an invasive species initiative, including funding for 16 new employees.
Still outstanding are budgets that include film incentives — the House approved $25 million; the Senate bumped it up to $60 million — revenue sharing for communities that have produced very different plans from the House, Senate and governor, and funding for K-12 schools and community colleges, as well as for the Department of Education.
[']We have reinstated one-time money for the last three years,['] said Richardville, in supporting more reliable funding for the film industry incentive. [']That industry needs an assurance that we’ll be around for the long haul.[']"