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Budget includes millions for Upper Peninsula projects

LANSING — The fiscal year 2023 state budget approved by lawmakers Friday includes millions in support for the Upper Peninsula, said state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township.

The D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette will receive $34.2 million to replace the current, outdated facility and continue its mission of taking care of the state’s military veterans, McBroom said.

The budget also includes: over $75 million in redevelopment funds to address blight; $15 million for economic development in the U.P., particularly focused on housing development; $10 million for Buffalo Reef for a dock jetty and to dredge harmful stamp sands out of Lake Superior; $550,000 for Chippewa County for rail replacement and infrastructure to increase propane storage; and $250,000 for the Great Lakes Substance Abuse Recovery Center for a new facility to provide addiction services.

“The funds dedicated for the U.P. in this budget will go a long way toward making sure our veterans continue to get the care they need and deserve, restore the viability of our shoreline, and improve our economic competitiveness,” McBroom said.

In total, nearly $76 billion in state and federal funds were allocated across state departments and to various special projects.

The budget, McBroom said, includes:

— $2.3 billion to help fix local roads and bridges.

— $1.7 billion to fix state highway roadways and bridges.

— $750 million to help local governments meet their pension obligations and free up more funds for critical local services.

— $325 million for a new state psychiatric hospital complex.

— $414.5 million to maintain wage increases for direct care workers.

— $110 million for the Going Pro and Michigan Reconnect training programs.

— $35.9 million family maintenance rate increase for foster families, adoptive families, and juvenile guardians.

— Funding to train new state police troopers and corrections officers.

“As positive as these investments are, I remain disappointed that the tax relief and reforms we have voted for have been rejected by the governor multiple times,” McBroom said. “Now that the budget is done, and we’ve made significant investment in state infrastructure and education, I hope we can negotiate relief for families out of the remaining surplus of over $7 billion.”

The education budget provides $295 million to address student mental health, $305 million in scholarship funding to help address teacher shortages, $168 million in school safety grants, and nearly $1.5 billion for the school employee’s retirement system.

It also includes a 5% increase for university and community college operations, $300 million to pay down debt in the higher education retirement system, and $250 million in a fund for a new student scholarship program, details for which will be negotiated this summer.

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, said she submitted the budget requests for Buffalo Reef in Lake Superior and the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

“Getting state legislators to make the largest investment in Buffalo Reef to date is a milestone that should be celebrated by all Michiganders. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community led the charge over a decade ago for state and federal officials to get serious about developing a long-term plan for permanently cleaning up the stamp sands left after a century of copper mining, and we are taking that first step,” she said.

Cambensy, however, was surprised to see an $8 million blight elimination grant for the former Marquette General Hospital property in Marquette.

“No one is saying who asked for this funding in the budget for the old hospital demolition. But to have a private entity bump off other community-based projects on U.P. legislators’ lists, projects requests like the Great Lakes Recovery Center or the phase II of the Luce CR paving project from Grand Marais to Deer Creek, it’s concerning. I don’t think taxpayers want their money to go to private developer projects to increase their return on investment. If you want state tax dollars, I think it’s only fair that the community demand that there is full and total transparency of the old hospital project,” she said.

State Rep. Gregg Markkanen, R-Hancock, said the budget invests in crucial resources for the U.P. while respecting state spending and hard-working taxpayers.

He noted it includes a total of $130 million to support local law enforcement and public safety personnel. This includes help for police academies with scholarships and cadet salaries, community policing investments, EMS training, fire department equipment and communications tower upgrades.

Markkanen said the funding for pension systems will free up resources to be used for other services both now and in the future — which gets more money into schools and communities.

According to the Michigan Municipal League, $750 million in local municipal pension grants will ensure every municipal pension system in Michigan will be at least 60% funded. Negotiations, however, removed $250 million in funding for those systems that were 60% funded and above, a change MML opposed.

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