House Dems Reject State Budget that Leaves Families Behind

Budget cuts programs families rely on, funds state’s legal defense
Wednesday, June 8, 2016

LANSING — House Democrats resoundingly rejected the state omnibus budget tonight because it fails the families, seniors and students of Michigan. Rather than putting the people of Michigan first, it cuts vital programs and spends $3 million for additional state defense costs related to legal liabilities stemming from the Flint water crisis.

“I would have been happy to vote for a bill that matched the needs of the working families, seniors and young people of Michigan, but this is not that budget,” Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said. “This budget clearly tells the people of Michigan where they rank, and that is somewhere far behind the legally embattled governor, corporate friends of legislative Republicans and other special interests. The people of Michigan should always come first, but when Republicans draft a budget, they’re little more than an afterthought.”

The omnibus budget lets down low-income Michigan families by slashing “Heat and Eat” funding. In doing so, it left $138 million in federal matching dollars on the table that could have gone toward helping out Michigan families that are struggling to get by.

“We had a chance to dramatically improve the lives of 160,000 Michiganians, most of them seniors or people with disabilities,” Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said. “But instead of investing $3.1 million to draw down $140 million in federal food assistance, we told 160,000 citizens to wait longer for action from Lansing. I’m disappointed, and I can’t support this budget.”

The budget also did not include state funding for rape prevention and service programs for victims of sexual assault. Sexual violence is an intolerable violent crime with many public health implications that affects nearly every person in Michigan in some way. Currently, there is just enough funding available to provide resources to programs that cover only 33 of Michigan's 83 counties - leaving a striking 50-county gap.

“It is our responsibility as a Legislature to provide for the safety and security of our citizens,” Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) said. “When the Republican majority refuses to fund programs that the First Lady of Michigan herself has set as a priority, what sort of message are we sending? If we hope to address and prevent one of the most under-reported crimes, and end re-victimization, we must do better. We had a tremendous opportunity to be the first Legislature in the state of Michigan to appropriate general funds for rape prevention and services, but this bill let down the people in our lives when it mattered most.”

But funding wasn’t cut everywhere. Trinity Food Services, which took over prison food services in the state, saw increased funding in the state budget. That increase comes despite ongoing safety and accountability problems with prison food service contractors. Last month, for example, a Trinity employee was found with heroin and methamphetamine.

“When we outsource state jobs to a company that creates legal liabilities and safety hazards for our prison guards, it’s penny wise and pound foolish,” Assistant Democratic Leader Fred Dural III (D-Detroit) said. “Republicans may say that they’re running Michigan like a business, but if so, it’s a business that’s being run into the ground. Michigan deserves better, which is why I rejected this budget.”