Lawmakers Accept COVID-19 Expense Bills; head of the budget concerned
LANSING, Michigan (AP) – Michigan lawmakers on Thursday approved mid-year spending bills, including billions in federal coronavirus relief to raise wages for front-line public servants, incent the unemployed return to work and modernize infrastructure.
Under a $ 3.3 billion plan sent to the Senate by the Republican-led House on a 65-42 vote, some U.S. funding would go to payroll costs and free up dollars from the State to pay the state’s $ 1 million Flint water crisis settlement – instead of borrowing. – and partially reconstitute an unemployment benefit fund targeted by fraudsters. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has questioned some evidence, saying federal guidelines make it clear that COVID-19 funds cannot be used to pay down debt, bolster reserves and fund legal settlements.
“The House bill is of great concern,” said state budget director Dave Massaron. “The federal government released guidelines earlier this week. It directly contradicts and prohibits many of the proposed spending of funds (American Rescue Plan) that the House is proposing in their FY22 budget and in the supplementary estimates.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Thomas Albert, a Republican Lowell, said the House plan was moving the process forward.
“Democrats have complained that we are going too fast and too slow at the same time,” he said in a statement. “Federal rules have generally allowed for some flexibility in offsetting funds – this new directive has just come out and we are reviewing it like everyone else.
The House tied state spending on road debt and the federally funded risk premium to a bill, approved 58-49 on party lines, that would limit the governor’s power to transfer from l money within the departments via the State Board of Directors, which she did during a budget stalemate in 2019.. House Republicans earlier this week tied federal funding for child care to the measure.
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, a Democrat from Scio Township in Washtenaw County, said it was “cruel and shameful” for the GOP to try again to tie pandemic relief to the reduction of the powers of the governor. Republican Ben Frederick of Owosso countered that his bill would give the executive some reasonable leeway – allowing it to increase or decrease an item by $ 200,000 in total – while “shutting the door on it.” wholesale policy development on the part of the board of directors. “
The GOP-controlled Senate, meanwhile, unanimously sent the House a supplementary $ 445 million budget bill that would allocate federal emergency housing assistance and other aid that Congress and then President Donald Trump signed into law in December.
An agreement between the House, the Senate and the governor remains a long way off. Both chambers also this week approved spending plans for the next fiscal year, which all parties would like to finalize in June.
The House’s mid-year spending measure includes $ 225 million – almost entirely federal – to expand mental health services, primarily for children. The funding would allow for the creation of crisis stabilization units and pediatric residential treatment centers, the addition of long-term pediatric psychiatric beds and the construction of a new psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents.
Rep. Mary Whiteford, a Republican from Casco Township, Allegan County, called it “one of the most significant investments in children’s behavioral health in Michigan history.” … The sooner we step in and help these little brains heal, the more successfully a child will develop the tools necessary to survive and thrive in our world.
Also on Thursday, Senate Republicans passed a bill, over Democrats’ objections, that would prevent state and local health officials from ordering children under 5 to wear masks. The state health department’s pandemic order currently exempts children under 2 from a facial coverage requirement.
The bill, which Whitmer is unlikely to sign, has been returned to the House for consideration.
Senator Curt VanderWall, a Republican from Ludington, called a order mid-april which extended a mask rule to 2-4 year olds in “dumb” and hard-to-implement daycares and camps. He said the governor should ease the restrictions, not tighten them, as more Michiganders are vaccinated or become immune due to infections. The order was issued around the time case rates and hospitalizations peaked in Michigan’s third outbreak. They have since declined.
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