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Bezotte: Why I voted against the 2025 state budget
RELEASE|June 30, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

The Michigan House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2025 budget last week after a 19-hour marathon session that went from 10 a.m. Wednesday all the way until 5:30 Thursday morning.

Democrat lawmakers control the House, and they didn’t let Republican lawmakers see the final version of the budget until well after midnight.

The budget is more than 1,500 pages and there were a lot of changes, and we only had a few hours to read it before we had to vote. That right there is reason enough to vote no. But there were plenty of other reasons to vote against it anyway.

The good news is Republicans did have some victories, including that we successfully prevented Gov. Whitmer from slashing funding for the Office of the Auditor General.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you might remember that I wrote a fiery piece after the governor proposed cutting the auditor general by 28 percent, which was concerning because the auditor general is our internal government watchdog.

The auditor general revealed that the number of nursing home deaths during covid was undercounted, and the auditor general revealed billions in unemployment fraud.

To me, the proposed cut looked a lot like retaliation. I’m glad to see the governor backed down.

Here’s some of the stuff I didn’t like:

The budget doesn’t include more funding for local roads. But it does include at least $400 million in new pork barrel spending. I think that $400 million would be better spent fixing the roads.

The budget cuts funding for school safety by more than 90% but found money to subsidize EVs. That’s a misplaced priority. (I’m not anti-EV; I just think protecting students is a better use of taxpayer money.)

The budget diverts a planned $670 million payment that was supposed to go to the teacher retirement fund so that the money can be used elsewhere. The argument is that the health care portion of the teacher retirement system is on track to be fully funded, so the payment isn’t needed. Maybe, but the pension portion is still underfunded by $34 billion. The responsible thing to do is to put as much money as we can into the fund to ensure that teacher pensions are protected.

It’s not the most fun topic to talk about, but it was one of the largest stumbling blocks to getting the budget approved because a lot of school groups came out against the move. And it’s a risky gamble, because if our financial outlook changes, the fund could come up short.

It was only about a decade ago that Detroit retirees saw their benefits slashed; that’s something I want to avoid happening to teachers.

Here’s one that really bugs me. Remember when a Whitmer political appointee spent $4,500 of taxpayer money to buy a high-end coffeemaker (with optional cup warmer and milk cooler) after getting a $20 million grant from the state? The House-passed version of the budget included clawback language that would have pulled the funding. The clawback language had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Surprise! That language mysteriously disappeared from the final version of the budget. That means anyone who voted in favor of the budget effectively voted to let the Whitmer appointee keep the money.

And that tastes bitter.

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