The Michigan Promise Scholarship and funding for other state financial aid programs were left as two casualties of the mêlée that played out in the wee hours of Thursday morning as legislators raced to reach a compromise on the state budget following a temporary government shutdown.
But the House also passed a supplemental spending bill yesterday that would restore funding for the $120 million scholarship program.
The supplemental spending Bill, or House bill 5403 — which was introduced on Sept. 17 by State Rep. George Cushingberry Jr. (D–Detroit), chair of the House Appropriations Committee — proposes to provide funding for the Promise Scholarship and other programs that received cuts like community health programs, but does not identify a source of funding for the programs.
State Rep. Joan Bauer (D–Lansing) said that though legislators have yet to identify a funding source, the bill represents the first step in restoring funds for vital programs, including the Promise Scholarship.
“At least it got through the House with the intent that we think these are three important issues for very important things to fund,” Bauer said in an interview with The Michigan Daily Wednesday night.
State Rep. Dave Agema (R–Grandville), among other Republican legislators in the state, opposes the spending bill because it does not identify a source of revenue to fund the programs.
“If you don’t have a funding source for what you’re spending your money on, you’re going to have to increase revenue through increasing taxes, and it was not what was agreed to between the Senate and the House,” Agema said in an interview with the Daily Wednesday night, referencing the final budget the two houses agreed on.
The Senate has not yet voted on the bill, but Sen. Liz Brater (D–Ann Arbor) said yesterday there is “no guarantee” it will get passed as there is currently no identified source of revenue to provide the funding.
“We’re not getting cooperation as of now from the other side of the aisle,” Brater said. “There’s no guarantee the Republicans will come across with support for those revenues, so it’s just a major challenge right now to get some bipartisan support for revenues.”
According to Phil Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, the University set aside one-time funds when establishing the University’s budget for this academic year to fill these expected financial aid gaps.
“When we did put together this year’s budget we did … note that at least one of the houses of the legislature eliminated funding for the Promise Scholarship, so we also set aside some one-time funds,” Hanlon said in an interview with the Daily last week.
The scholarship program was supposed to provide up to $4,000 for approximately 5,000 University students for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to Margaret Rodriguez, the University’s senior associate director of financial aid.
Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations for the University, said the University’s commitment to meet the full demonstrated financial need of in-state students has not wavered.
“We have committed to meeting the full financial need and we have been prudent in the way we have budgeted so that we will have resources for those students who have the financial need and as of now, do not appear to be receiving the Promise grants,” Wilbanks said in an interview yesterday.
The budget agreed upon by the House and Senate, including the higher education bill, still has to be sent to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm for approval.
In a press release yesterday, Granholm wrote that the budget passed by the two houses does not demonstrate the key elements Michigan needs during this economic time, including a way to make college affordable.
“Michigan’s future demands a budget that helps us diversify our economy to create the jobs we need; that keeps police officers and fire fighters on the streets of our communities; a budget that helps our kids afford to go to college,” Granholm wrote in the release. “The budget the legislature has passed fails to do all of these essential things.”
Granholm wrote that she will be examining the budget and will create one that meets these vital components.
“So while I am disappointed with the budget that resulted from the legislature’s actions, I am determined to use my power in this process to give the people of Michigan a fiscally sound budget with the right priorities – diversifying our economy to create jobs, educating our citizens, and protecting those who are at risk during this crisis,” Granholm wrote.
Liz Boyd, press secretary for Granholm, said the governor supports the supplemental spending bill although the House has not yet passed legislation that would generate revenue to pay for it.
“Clearly the governor has said she is going to take her steps to shape that budget in a way that protects Michigan, her priorities and the priorities of Michigan families,” Boyd said. “What action the governor will take regarding the budget, I think, remains to be seen, but the governor will be acting relatively quickly.”