With year No. 1 officially under his belt, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a $48.2 billion state budget as a starting point in the opening salvo of what area lawmakers expect will be a spirited discussion on the state’s spending priorities.
Snyder, elected to office in November 2010, called his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012-13 spending plan “the platform for creating an environment conducive to job growth, protecting our most vulnerable residents and ensuring that our children have bright futures with boundless opportunities,” adding that more than three-quarters of it is devoted to education, health, and human services.
Following a FY 2011-12 budget that took a significant bite out of public school funding, Snyder said K-12 education spending would be increased by $113 million under his budget plan.
Republicans in the state Legislature hope to have a budget for FY 2012-13, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2013, approved by the end of May — a far cry from the 11th hour budget negotiations that ensnarled Lansing in the days of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration.
Local school officials took the news of a possible funding increase with a fair dose of skepticism.
Huron Valley Schools Superintendent Jackie Johnston said that decreases in per-pupil funding totaling $470 over the current and previous fiscal year — even with some added “best practices” incentives that qualified her district, and others in the area, for a $100 per-pupil increase in state aid this year — have diluted the notion that Snyder’s proposed K-12 education spending really amounts to an increase as touted.
“The idea that it’s an increase is assuming that we all have amnesia,” Johnston said, adding that under Snyder’s budget proposal, if districts meet five of six best practices criteria laid out — including demonstrating growth in student scores in math and reading in third-grade through eighth-grade, as well as all the tested subjects in high school — there would be additional school funding.
But the metrics used for the “demonstrated growth” are unclear at this juncture, Johnston said.
“They’re not saying how we need to demonstrate growth,” she said. “Is it the MEAP and the MME? That is really going to be challenging for a lot of districts.”
“We appreciate that the governor is proposing to increase funding for K-12 education next year,” said Waterford Schools Superintendent John Silveri. “However, the reality is that what he is proposing is not enough to offset the drastic cuts that were imposed last year. This means that once again, after years of being underfunded, we will have to reduce expenditures in order to balance our budget. Moreover, the conditions he is proposing to place on accessing some of the funds stands to increase the existing gap between higher funded and lower funded districts. If education is truly a priority in the state of Michigan, funding should be adequately and equitably provided for all students, with no strings attached.”
Other budget highlights include an additional general fund appropriation of $15 million for law enforcement enhancement, although the details of what specifically that money will go toward remain a mystery, as Snyder plans to unveil the specifics of that in a Special Message on public safety next month, which will also include specifics on a plan to devote $5 million to a summer initiative for at-risk youth in four urban cities in Michigan, including Pontiac.
The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) noted that Snyder’s proposal to devote $119 million to roads, which the first-term governor says will ensure that the state has full matching capability for federal highway and transit aid available in 2013, won’t have any impact on the RCOC.
“It doesn’t in any way reduce the need for additional road funding,” said RCOC Spokesman Craig Bryson.
Plans for an additional $10 million for clean up of contamination at leaking underground storage tank sites is also included in Snyder’s proposed spending plan.
“Our state was in pretty bad shape at this time last year but thanks to the difficult budget choices we made, we’re starting to rebound,” said state Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Milford), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s Education Subcommittee, in a press release. “The work is far from over, but I’m pleased that some of the more difficult decisions are behind us.”
Yet not everyone in west Oakland County’s delegation to Lansing reacted with optimism about Snyder’s proposed spending plan.
“The proposed budget the governor introduced today doesn’t do enough to repair the damage done by last year’s budget, when more than $1 billion was taken from our kids and their schools,” said state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wolverine Lake) in a press release. “By not restoring K-12 funding, we would be short-changing not only our children’s future, but the future of our state.”
State Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) said she applauds Snyder for “recognizing the three most important issues in our state, which is jobs, jobs, and jobs. I also respect the way he is very careful about spending money.”