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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

Michigan House passes $33B budget bill

Passes cuts to prisons, seniors

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LANSING, Mich. — House Republicans hailed a $33 billion budget bill passed Wednesday covering everything but education as a step toward finally putting Michigan on a sound financial footing without gimmicks and one-time fixes.

But during a vigorous two-hour debate, Democrats called the spending cuts included in the bill “immoral” and said slashing funds for public health programs and services for seniors such as Meals on Wheels will drive up state costs in the future.

The bill includes $6.9 billion in general fund spending covered by state revenues and $25.7 million in spending covered by money from the federal government and other sources. It passed 62-48, with all Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Kenneth Kurtz of Coldwater, voting against it.

“No one denies that Michigan faces a serious fiscal challenge, but the budget before us today achieves balance on the backs of those who are least able to accept an additional burden,” said Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak. “This is not a value-for-money budget. This is a value-free budget.”

Republicans said getting rid of spending Michigan no longer can afford will help spur jobs and make the state a more attractive place to live. House Appropriations Chairman Chuck Moss, R-Birmingham, said Democrats would have added more than $1 billion in spending, continuing the state’s fiscal shortfalls.

“That’s how we did things in the old days. But those days have to end,” Moss said. “This budget, while difficult and fraught with hard choices, puts us back on the road to jobs, opportunity and — in the end — more tax revenue from a revived economy to support a reformed state of Michigan.”

In an unusual move, spending for all state departments was rolled into one House bill Wednesday, rather than having lawmakers vote on separate bills for each department as they did in Senate.

GOP Gov. Rick Snyder had pushed for the so-called omnibus bill, which largely reflects his proposal to slash business taxes and close a $1.4 billion shortfall by raising taxes on individuals, cutting spending and requiring $180 million in concessions from state workers.

The House bill now will have to be reconciled with the Senate spending bills. The spending measures are likely to end up in joint House-Senate conference committees to resolve their differences. Snyder has asked lawmakers to pass the budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 by the end of May.

The House budget measure calls for closing the Crain and Mound correctional facilities, dropping 12,600 families from welfare and cutting money for job training, mental health and local governments.

The House is scheduled Thursday to take up a $12 billion measure that includes money for public education, community colleges and universities. That bill could have a harder time passing, since many lawmakers have expressed concerns about cutting money for public schools. A Senate bill cutting school spending ended up in a tie, with GOP Lt. Gov. Brian Calley casting the vote that finally passed the bill.



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