LANSING – Gov. Jennifer Granholm yesterday proposed a budget that spends more on education, cities and the poor, but does it without any tax or fee increases.
That fact alone had Republican lawmakers feeling more mellow toward the Democratic governor, who took pains to avoid cutting GOP favorites such as tuition grants for students at private colleges and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
“I wrote this in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation,” Granholm told reporters after budget director Robert Emerson delivered her proposal for the budget year that starts Nov. 1 to lawmakers. “It invests in the things that citizens value.”
The governor’s $44.8 billion budget proposal is 2.9 percent higher than what’s being spent in the current budget.
It includes $9.8 billion in general fund spending and $13.5 billion in school aid.
Last year, the governor recommended a 2.2 percent overall increase.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) gave the governor’s proposal high marks, although he also noted it won’t make it through the Legislature without being “massaged.”
“We start with more agreement out of the chute. That’s important,” he said.
Unlike last year, when an impasse over how best to balance the budget led to a temporary government shutdown on Oct. 1, the budget could be done this year by July 1, Jelinek said.
Appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate are expected to begin working soon on parts of the budget before the bills go to the full House and Senate.
“We’ll have our disagreements, but it won’t be anywhere near what it was last year,” said Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt). “The governor very clearly does not want to create the angst and the vitriol of last year.”
It didn’t hurt, of course, that the increase in the state income tax and surcharge on the state’s main business tax passed last year will bring in an extra $1.54 billion – enough money to cover the state’s costs in the year ahead.
That hasn’t been the case in the earlier years of Granholm’s term, when she not only faced shortfalls in the upcoming budget year but often had to deal with unexpected deficits in the current budget year as well.
The state’s financial situation also has been helped by falling interest rates, which will make it possible for the state to save money by refinancing some of its debt.