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Michigan Legislature OKs $53.2 Billion Budget

By DAVID EGGERT/Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers on Thursday finished sending Gov. Rick Snyder a $53.2 billion state budget, approving increased aid for local governments and money to hire more state troopers and conservation officers.

The legislation - approved 100-10 in the House and 24-12 by the Senate - includes nearly $37.5 billion for all general funding not including an overall 4 percent increase for K-12 schools, universities and community colleges that was approved late Wednesday.

The overall budget will be 6 percent, or $3.1 billion, higher in the fiscal year starting in October, largely because of higher tax collections and more federal funding for Michigan's expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the federal health care law.

"Again we have passed a budget that invests more money back into our local communities, pays down long-term liabilities and sets additional money aside in the budget stabilization fund," said House Appropriations Chairman Joe Haveman, R-Holland.

Key provisions of the general budget include an overall 7 percent boost in revenue-sharing payments to municipalities. Michigan's film incentives program will get $50 million, the same as this year despite Gov. Rick Snyder's renewed attempt to cut the funding in half.

There also are funds to train 100 new state police troopers and hire 25 more conservation officers, and $120 million for incentives to attract businesses - a $10 million increase.

Democrats expressed concerns about the general budget a day after they and some Republicans also lodged criticism against the education budget, saying a minimum $50 per-pupil funding increase is too small for K-12 schools that get above the current $7,076 minimum. Snyder on Thursday hailed the K-12 budget as potentially the largest in state history, an election-year counterattack to Democrats' arguments that schools need more money and that he cut funding early in his term.

"I am very proud to say ... we hit the benchmark I talked about having more than a $1 billion higher than before I took office," the Republican governor told reporters.

But Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, called the base per-pupil increase for districts "outrageous."

"This school aid budget went from a per-pupil increase of as much as $83 down to $50 without any legislator ever casting a vote on that $50 figure until this final vote," he said.

Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, cited cuts in aid to the Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit, social services and an initiative helping at-risk youth get involved in conservation efforts in the summer. He also criticized spending money on a new team tasked with implementing an early warning system for distressed schools.

"I supported some of the department budget when they were separated, but together the bad outweighs the good," Anderson said.

The measure permanently plugs a shortfall in the Medicaid budget, which has suffered because a tax on health claims paid by insurers and HMOs did not generate as much as anticipated when it took effect in 2012, jeopardizing federal matching funds. Snyder on Wednesday signed a law reinstating a 6 percent use tax on Medicaid managed care organizations and reducing the 1 percent tax on health insurance claims from 1 percent to 0.75 to raise $450 million a year.

Other highlights of the main budget bill include:

- $5.4 million extra to provide dental coverage to 100,000 low-income kids in Macomb and Kalamazoo counties. Coverage would remain unavailable to kids in heavily populated Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties.

- $94 million more for the state's savings account. The $580 million rainy day fund is expected to lose $195 million next year to help prevent steep cuts in Detroit retiree pensions and the sale of city-owned art in bankruptcy. The account will separately get $17.5 million a year for 20 years from Michigan's tobacco settlement.

- $3 million for the attorney general's office to prosecute cases resulting from testing a backlog of 11,000 rape-evidence kits found at Detroit's crime lab.

- $375,000 for three new initiatives to combat civil rights violations, including hate crimes and bullying.

- $3.5 million for improvements and maintenance of the Capitol building.

- $1.7 million to try to prevent repeat hospitalizations and incarceration of the mentally ill.

- $4.7 million to re-establish a tuition assistance program for National Guard members in active drilling status.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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