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Mich. Legislature OKs $56.8B budget with more for roads

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A year after Wisconsin lawmakers struggled to pass a transportation budget, their counterparts in Michigan put the finishing touches on a $56.8 billion state budget Tuesday that would set aside a substantial amount of new money for roads.

Michigan’s spending plan, championed mainly by Republicans, would also close a state prison and set aside $100 million for Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to link students with in-demand jobs.

There are “great investments, but we’re also being very responsible with the investment of the hard-working taxpayer dollars,” said Dave Hildenbrand, a Republican and chairman of Michigan’s Senate Appropriations Committee. “It’s a reduction in spending over (the) current year. Because of the strengthening of the economy, more people are working and (there is) less demand on social welfare services.”

Democrats criticized the deal for lacking a special fund that had been proposed to compensate unemployment-benefit recipients who have been falsely accused of fraud.

“This might be a little bit bigger crumb than it was last year. It is still crumbs to be offered,” said Rep. Donna Lasinski, a Democrat from Scio Township, near Ann Arbor.

The budget, if signed by the Michigan governor, would go into effect in October. Among other things, it would:

  • Increase spending on transportation by more than $300 million, or 7 percent, under a deal to shift more general funds to road and bridge work than is required under laws passed in 2015 to improve deteriorating streets and highways.
  • Close one of the state’s 30 prisons because of a decline in the inmate population. That change is expected to save the state $19 million.
  • Put about $100 million toward Snyder’s plan to better prepare students for an estimated 811,000 openings in in-demand careers  — including information technology, computer science, health care and manufacturing.
  • Spend $58 million to make schools safer. The proposal comes in response to mass shootings that recently occurred in Florida and Texas. The proposal would put $25 million toward door locks and other security features.

Although Wisconsin’s Legislature is also controlled by Republicans, lawmakers here had considerably more trouble last year coming to an agreement on a transportation budget. In the end, they passed a plan that holds the line on the state’s gas tax and registration fees and authorizes $400 million worth of new borrowing over two years, all the while delaying relatively few projects. This was accomplished in part by imposing a $75-a-year fee on hybrid vehicles and $100-a-year fee on electrical vehicles.

– Dan Shaw of The Daily Reporter contributed to this article.

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