Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her fifth executive budget recommendation for the 2024 fiscal year on Feb. 8, setting the record for the largest budget proposal in Michigan’s history at $79 billion.
In the recommendation, Whitmer noted that the state currently has a projected surplus of $9 billion from its 2023 budget, anticipating $5.1 million left in the general fund and $4.1 in the school aid fund when FY 2023 ends in October when FY 2023 ends in October. Whitmer’s budget proposal largely focuses on economic development and infrastructure spending and provides funding for new state programs including universal pre-K and an expansion of Michigan Reconnect.
In a press release, Whitmer said she looks forward to enacting the proposals outlined in her budget recommendation with the support of the Michigan legislature.
“I am proud to introduce my executive budget proposal to lower costs, grow our economy and build a brighter future for anyone who wants to call Michigan home,” Whitmer said. “My budget includes investments to put money back in people’s pockets, help students thrive in school, put more people on paths to higher education and good-paying jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, keep our communities safe and improve public health.”
In an email to The Michigan Daily, Tom Ivacko, executive director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan, said the budget recommendation represents a historic opportunity for state lawmakers with the Democrat trifecta.
“This is the first time in forty years that Democrats control both the executive and legislative branches in Michigan, and so the 2024 fiscal year budget that eventually gets enacted will represent a new era in the state,” Ivacko wrote. “This is a rare opportunity for the state government to move the needle on any number of important policy issues.”
The budget recommendation would deposit $500 million annually to the state’s bipartisan Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund, an economic development program intended to incentivize graduates in Michigan to join the workforce and raise families in the state. It also proposes the allocation of $135 million for local business development through the Michigan Main Street Initiative and an expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit, a tax refund program estimated to impact nearly 700,000 families across the state. The expanded program would increase average household tax refunds from $500 to $750.
Whitmer’s budget recommendation also allocated nearly $4 billion toward literacy programs, tuition assistance and other programs to improve education access across the state.
Other major funding recommendations include $300 million for mental health support in public K-12 schools and $257.3 million to implement universal public pre-K for all 4-year-olds in the state. Whitmer initially announced her Pre-K For All plan in her State of the State address in January.
In her address, Whitmer also announced her intention to lower the age of eligibility for Michigan Reconnect from 25 to 21. Michigan Reconnect is a scholarship program promoting attendance at local community colleges. The budget recommendation includes $140 million for lowering the eligibility age for Reconnect.
Whitmer reaffirmed her commitment to providing funding for law enforcement and stronger gun control measures. She proposed a $318 million increase in spending on school safety, with an additional $1.9 million for gun violence prevention specifically.
Following the Feb. 13 mass shooting at Michigan State University, Whitmer doubled down on her plans for gun control. In a press conference the day after the shooting, Whitmer said she hopes to work with the legislature to enact increased gun regulations.
“For the first time, I think we’ve got a legislature that is inclined to move forward,” Whitmer said at the press conference. “Our goal should be making our communities safer, making our campuses and schools safer, making churches and synagogues and grocery stores safer.”
The proposal also allocates additional funding for public health, with $129.7 million dedicated to expanding access to Medicaid and $62.1 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies plan, a bipartisan program announced in 2021 to offer a full year of postpartum Medicaid coverage.
The budget proposal also allocates $160 million for local infrastructure projects, and another $200 million for improving bridges across the state.
Whitmer has notoriously focused her campaign on “fixing the damn roads” in addition to improving bridges and other transportation infrastructure in Michigan. Following her reelection in November, she announced that she also planned to budget for those improvements as well as projects that would encourage the increase of electric vehicles in the state.
The budget proposal includes $65 million to expand access to electric vehicle charging stations and dedicates another $55 million to aiding local businesses and organizations in transitioning vehicle fleets to electric vehicles.
In a press release, state Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Livingston, criticized Whitmer’s decision to use the budget surplus to fund new programs, rather than tax relief for Michiganders.
“Taxpayer money should be used wisely and efficiently to provide essential services and improve our state,” Bollin said. “If we have a significant surplus — as we do now, to the tune of $9 billion — that money should be returned to the hardworking people who earned it.”
Whitmer’s proposal will be reviewed by the state legislature, who can amend the budget before passing it. Whitmer must sign the finalized budget by Oct. 1, which marks the start of FY 2024.
Daily News Contributor Arnav Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.