LANSING — State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is pleased to hear Gov. Rick Snyder address important issues in his budget presentation such as restoring funding to higher education and investment in early childhood education. Snyder unveiled his budget proposal at a joint House-Senate Appropriations Committee meeting today.
The governor’s proposal also touched on K-12 school funding and expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit. However, Irwin cautioned that properly funded schools and middle-class tax relief are priorities that should be reflected in the budget annually, not one-time gimmicks to be used only during election years.
“Michigan schools are struggling with increased costs and less revenue from Lansing,” said Irwin. “The paltry increase this year, as with the past couple years, is not enough to make up for the cuts that hit Michigan schools when Republicans took control in 2011. This financial devastation was used to pay for tax cuts to big corporations without any guarantee that it would create jobs.”
The governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 recommends restoring $100 in per student school funding. However, that increase would still leave Michigan schools far below per-pupil spending levels before Gov. Snyder took office. In 2011, the governor and Republican-led Legislature cut per-pupil funding — the portion of school funding that actually reaches classrooms — by $470. In subsequent years, per-pupil spending was increased only modestly, and it now remains an average of $440 below per-pupil funding in 2010. The governor’s proposal restores less than 25 percent of the money cut from schools, still leaving schools at a massive deficit. The governor’s budget proposal continues to short-change Michigan’s children by extending school funding cuts that have amounted to $3 billion since he took office. “The governor needs to understand that the best way to invest in our economy is to properly educate our children. Kids don’t learn in schools with overcrowded classrooms, and families don’t move to struggling school districts. Businesses want to locate where there’s a strong talent pool, and we need a strong education system in order to position our kids to compete for 21st century jobs.”
The governor’s budget proposal also calls for restoring the Homestead Property Tax Credit to families earning $50,000-$60,000 annually. Shortly after taking office in 2011, Snyder called for sweeping tax code changes that resulted in 400,000 Michigan families losing their Homestead Property Tax Credit. Irwin co-sponsored House Bill 4565, which would restore the tax credit to families earning up to $60,000, but the bill has languished in the House Committee on Tax Policy. On Jan. 22, House Democrats asked that the bill be discharged from committee and brought to the House floor for an up-or-down vote, but House Republicans blocked that request.
“It’s nice that the governor recognized the need for this tax relief, but it’s a shame he took it away in the first place,” Irwin said.