Michigan Senate OKs $56.6B budget with more base school aid

By DAVID EGGERT
Associated Press
LANSING– The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a $56.6 billion budget plan that would provide the biggest increase in base aid for lower-funded school districts in a dozen years while slightly trimming a main fund that covers other state spending, largely due to a projected drop in public assistance caseloads.
The move set the stage for further talks more than a week after the House approved its own plan. Once a meeting to revise revenue estimates is held on May 16, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature will work to finalize the next budget in June, about four months before the start of the fiscal year.
The Senate plan includes a $230 per-pupil increase for school districts that get the minimum grant, which would be the largest since the 2006-07 fiscal year. Higher-funded districts receiving the basic grant would get $115 more per student in the 2018-19 budget. The House and the Republican governor proposed a slightly higher per-pupil boost ranging between $120 and $240.
“All areas of education we’re investing record amounts in, and I think that’s important for the future of our state,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell.
General fund spending would fall 3 percent below this year’s amount and be 8 percent less than what Snyder proposed.
While the Senate unanimously passed many of its 16 spending bills, the chamber split largely on party lines over GOP-backed measures related to big-ticket items such as roads, schools, environmental protection, prisons and social services.
Democrats opposed the proposed privatization of 300-plus nursing jobs in the Department of Corrections and the rejection of Snyder’s request for $13.6 million to help transition to using state workers again to help feed inmates.
The state contract with Trinity Food Services will expire at the end of July and will not be extended, largely due to problems with staffing levels. The Senate plan, unlike the House blueprint and the one outlined by the governor, could force the state to contract with a company for nurses and to spend the same amount on food service despite the administration’s contention that it will cost more to hire state employees.