Fixing Michigan roads and bridges is a major focus of a nearly $70-billion 2022 state budget expected to pass the Legislature and be sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week, officials said Tuesday.

And the spending plan includes more than $1 billion to expand child care in Michigan, much of it funded with federal coronavirus relief money.

Lawmakers, who must pass a budget by Oct. 1 or face a partial state government shutdown, released proposed budgets for state agencies and higher education Tuesday afternoon after GOP leaders reached an agreement with the Whitmer administration late last week. The Legislature passed, and Whitmer signed into law, the $17-billion K-12 school aid budget much earlier, in July.

A large hole in the road forced authorities to close a portion of U.S. 2 in Manistique, Michigan in 2019. Fixing roads and bridges is a maajor focus of a budget deal reached for 2022, said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Though officials described the budget agreement as bipartisan and historic, it leaves them with plenty of more work to do.

Assuming Tuesday’s bills are passed this week, as expected, that will leave about $7.5 billion in federal relief money still to be appropriated, said Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the State Budget Office. That money, mostly allocated to Michigan under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue plan, will be appropriated through supplemental spending bills that are still pending, Weiss said.

And there could be still more money coming for Michigan, as Biden continues to try to get a $1-trillion infrastructure bill through Congress.

The bills were approved Tuesday by conference committees with representatives from both parties in both chambers, meaning they go next to the House and Senate for up-and-down votes, with no amendments offered.

In a 35-0 vote, the full Senate gave approval Tuesday afternoon to one of the two conference reports, Senate Bill 82, which provides budgets for state departments. The House is expected to take up that bill, plus the other conference report, House Bill 4400, which provides funding for higher education, on Wednesday.

Proposed spending in the 2022 budget includes:

  • $108.1 million to make 105,000 more children eligible for child care by increasing income eligibility to 185% of the federal poverty level through 2023, then to 160% of the poverty level thereafter. The federal poverty level is $26,500 for a family of four.
  • $13 million to waive parent copays for child care through fiscal year 2022.
  • $158 million to continue a 30% rate increase for child care providers, with an additional $222 million for a temporary rate increase.
  • $460 million to continue a $2.35 per hour raise for workers who take care of vulnerable residents in nursing homes and other venues.
  • $36.5 million over three years to expand the number of child care spaces for infants and toddlers.
  • $800.7 million in stabilization and startup grants for child care providers, including technical assistance and facility improvements.
  • $30 million for one-time $1,000 bonuses for child care staff.
  • A $500 million deposit into the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, bringing the fund’s balance to nearly $1.4 billion, which would be a record high.
  • A 1% increase in base funding to the state’s community colleges and public universities, plus a one-time 4% bump.
  • $196 million for local “bridge bundling” to repair or replace nearly 100 crumbling bridges in serious and critical condition. MDOT says bridge bundling involves combining multiple bridge projects under a single contract to streamline permits and achieve economies of scale.
  • $14.3 million to help local governments prepare for climate change and extreme weather, including flooding and coastal erosion.
  • $19 million for dam repairs and replacements to mitigate flooding and hazards caused by dam malfunction.
  • $100 million for community revitalization and placemaking grants to support economic development in local communities.
  • $3 million for the Michigan Infrastructure Council, a state-sponsored group bringing together local utility and infrastructure owners, regional representatives, finance and policy experts, and state department leaders to coordinate infrastructure-related goals.

The crumbling Miller Road bridge that is crucial to the Ford Rouge Plant in Dearborn would be among the projects funded in the 2022 budget, Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said. But a figure for total capital spending on roads and bridges in 2022 and details on which other local bridges and dams are targeted for repair were not immediately available.

Whitmer said in a news release that funds also are allocated in the budget to improve water infrastructure around the state and to help local communities recover from recent flooding.

“Supporting thousands of good-paying jobs, fixing crumbling roads and bridges, and ensuring everyone’s safety on the road has been one of my top priorities since day one,” Whitmer said.

“More good news for infrastructure is on the horizon as we will continue in this spirit of collaboration and work together to invest the billions in federal dollars we have from the American Rescue Plan and the billions more we are expected to receive from the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill. Let’s keep fixing the damn roads together.”

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the budget agreement is “a statement of our priorities … to continue to move Michigan forward and to provide for each of us the opportunity to succeed.”

The proposed budget has $26.8 billion in state funding, with $11.8 billion of that coming from the general fund, which is the state’s main checking account. Once federal funds and state restricted funds are included, proposed spending totals nearly $70 billion.

State Budget Director David Massaron said the budget “will help Michigan emerge as an even stronger state and it provides the type of investments that will foster real and lasting improvements to support Michigan’s families and businesses.”

Capital spending on state roads and bridges was $1.6 billion in 2020 and $1.3 billion in 2019, said Jeff Cranson, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation. The current figure for 2021 is $1.3 billion, though that is expected to increase, he said. The projected 2022 figure is $3.2 billion, which includes $1.4 billion in bond proceeds, he said.

Not everyone is happy with the proposed budget.

Support workers who feed and clean up after nursing home residents, including COVID-19 patients, said they should not be excluded from the $2.35 per hour pay raise given to nurses and certified nursing assistants who work in those facilities.

“During the worst of the outbreaks in nursing homes, I was working in the COVID unit, risking my life to take care of our residents. It is unfair and unacceptable for the state to ignore the sacrifices and commitment of essential workers like me,” said Nicole Flores, a housekeeper at Hoyt Nursing and Rehab Centre in Saginaw and union steward with SEIU Healthcare Michigan.

This article originally appeared in The Detroit Free Press. For more, click here