Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed a $57 billion general budget covering everything from roads and economic development to health and public safety.
It is the first time that general funding is wrapped up this early in the Democrat’s 3½-year tenure, following past stalemates with the Republican-led Legislature or COVID-19 pandemic-related delays. The job is not done, though, after leaders left unspent $7 billion in surplus money that could fund tax cuts and other initiatives.
All told, the general bill and the education spending bill, which Whitmer signed last week, allocate nearly $4.7 billion in federal discretionary pandemic rescue aid this fiscal year and for the year starting in October. About $842 million remains of the $6.5 billion over which the state has discretion.
Some new items in the bill that the governor signed at The Corner Ballpark in Detroit, formerly the site of Tiger Stadium and in recent years home of the Detroit PAL program:
$50 million to support agriculture processes including supply chain, infrastructure, pandemic-related workforce issues and environmental risks in food processing facilities. Nearly a quarter, $12 million, goes to Eastern Market in Detroit for facility improvements.
$50 million in grants for nonprofit community service organizations, which officials say is needed to support nonprofits still struggling to raise operating dollars.
$75 million in grants for financial institutions that serve distressed areas.
$75 million to tackle blight, including grants for communities to address vacant properties.
$8.5 million that the Michigan Fitness Club Association will distribute to health and fitness businesses afflicted by the pandemic.
$5 million to fund a pilot program in Wayne, Washtenaw and Marquette counties to divert about 450 criminals to job training and wrap-around services instead of sending them behind bars. If they hold down a job and finish the one-year program, their charges can be dismissed.
$25 million for the Wayne County Airport Authority to improve infrastructure and facilitate future economic development. It operates the Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports.
Nearly $675 million more in the transportation budget, a 12 percent boost, in part due to increased federal road and bridge funding.
New psychiatric hospital
$325 million to build a new state psychiatric hospital in Southeast Michigan to replace the Hawthorn Center in Northville and the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland.
$2.5 million to expand the Vocational Village program, which houses certain state prisoners together and provides them specialized training so they can leave with marketable skills that lead to a stable job.
$4.4 million to hire 24 technicians to reduce businesses’ wait times for environmental permits required to emit air pollution.
Civil rights complaints
$3.1 million to eliminate a backlog of 2,500 housing, employment, law enforcement and other civil rights complaints lodged with the state.
$750 million to boost underfunded municipal public employee retirement systems, including a big $170 million bailout in Flint.
An additional $180 million deposit to the state’s rainy day fund.
$260 million to construct a new state public health and environmental science laboratory.
Organized Retail Crimes Unit
$3.5 million to hire investigators in the attorney general’s office to target organized retail fraud rings.
$48 million for lead line replacement and water treatment system upgrades, with priority for disadvantaged communities.
$5 million to give grants to local health departments to provide free or low-cost water testing to the owners of private wells, which serve 1.1 million Michigan households.
$30 million to pay up to $4,000 each to police recruits who attend the academy and award a maximum $20,000 academy scholarship per cadet. Another $5 million is for corrections officers to finish required coursework.
Native American boarding school study
$500,000 to study the number of Native American children who were forced to attend boarding schools in Michigan in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The budget contains at least $1 billion in earmarks. That includes:
- $130 million for an electric vehicle teaching, training and development center to be operated by the University of Michigan
- $100 million for the proposed Detroit Center for Innovation — a UM graduate school campus focused on research and entrepreneurship proposed in cooperation with billionaire alumnus and real estate developer Stephen Ross and the Ilitch organization
- $100 million for the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University.
- About $213 million in infrastructure grants will go to 17 projects, including Mound Road in Macomb County.
- Some $251 million in economic development and workforce grants will be split among 27 projects.
- An additional $205 million in lawmaker-designated “enhancement” grants will be directed to 100 entities and projects, including $40 million for the Joe Louis Greenway, a 27.5-mile trail under construction in Detroit.
This article originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business. For more, click here.