The Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm yesterday agreed to turn over more adoption, foster care and juvenile justice services to private providers – the final piece of a deal to fund state government.

Lawmakers expected the compromise to be signed by negotiators after midnight and then quickly passed by the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled House.

Under the tentative agreement, a medium-security section of the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake would close. Sixty youthful offenders would be moved to a private facility. No workers there would lose their state jobs but would be transferred elsewhere in the Department of Human Services.

“We are protecting those people who have been public employees for a long time,” said House Appropriation Chairman George Cushingberry Jr. (D-Detroit). Extra foster care and adoption caseworkers would be hired – some at private agencies and some with the government.

Sen. Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood) also said money saved by privatizing more juvenile justice services could be used to add state workers in local welfare offices, where he said staff-to-client ratios are as high as 500 to one.

“That’s way too high to do real social work,” Hardiman said.

Legislators and the Democratic governor have until midnight tonight to pass and then sign budget bills to avoid another partial government shutdown such as the one that occurred in the early hours of Oct. 1. Fourteen of 17 budget bills had been sent to Granholm as of yesterday evening.

The Legislature adjourned until 12:30 a.m. while waiting for the DHS bill to be printed. The House and Senate then plan to pass two remaining bills – finishing their work on a budget that already has extended a month past the normal deadline.

Under other bills sent to Granholm, K-12 public schools would get an average increase of 1 percent in per-pupil aid, with poorer districts receiving more for each student than wealthier districts.

Other bills would give 1 percent more to universities and community colleges and fund departments overseeing state parks, prisons, courts, agriculture and the environment.

The budget also separates funding for the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Wayne State University and Michigan State University from the other public universities in the state.

The budget assumes that environmental permit fees paid by businesses and hunting and fishing license fees will be raised, but gives lawmakers until Jan. 15 to approve the increases. Votes for higher fees could fail, though, as some legislators are skittish about raising fees after approving general tax increases a month ago.

Officials in the DNR and Department of Environmental Quality say they will have to lay off workers and cut services if the fee increases aren’t approved. That could lead to closing state parks and turning over environmental permitting to the federal government.

Negotiators also worked out a compromise on funding a study to build another international bridge from Detroit to Canada across the Detroit River. The study would continue but not bind the state to its findings.

Republicans want to let the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge build a second span, but the Canadian government and others oppose the idea and favor a publicly funded bridge in a different location than the current structure.

Legislators and Granholm had disagreed over putting DHS functions into private hands; some already are handled by private agencies. Republicans said money can be saved by turning more work over to private agencies, something labor unions representing state workers dispute. Some Democrats argued that children may not be as safe, though others called that a mischaracterization.

United Auto Workers Local 6000 President Sandra Parker, whose union represents many DHS employees, said turning the department’s responsibilities over to private providers wouldn’t save money because the state still would have to supervise the children being adopted or those in foster care or juvenile justice facilities.

Parker also argued that new licensing requirements for foster parents pushed by lawmakers would be too strict, especially for relatives with whom the state may want to place children. Some people in foster homes may have criminal backgrounds but that doesn’t mean the home is unsafe, she said.

“People will be less willing to be foster parents,” Parker said.

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