Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 14, 2013

Snyder signs $49B budget with few line-item vetoes

DAVID EGGERT
Associated Press

---- — LANSING (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder signed a roughly $49 billion state budget on Thursday that sets aside more money for fixing deteriorating roads and providing preschool to low-income children.

The spending plan taking effect Oct. 1 is nearly 1 percent bigger than the current year. Snyder exercised few line-item vetoes.

Overall spending for public K-12 schools will increase about 3 percent, and public universities cannot raise tuition more than 3.75 percent without losing some funding available to them.

Snyder complimented lawmakers and his administration for finishing the budget 3 ½ months ahead and said it is structurally balanced with an eye toward the long run.

The budget plan blocks Snyder’s administration from paying to implement a set of more rigorous national standards in reading, writing and math — standards he supports — until the GOP-led Legislature says it is OK. But about 16,000 more disadvantaged 4-year-olds will be eligible for preschool thanks to an influx of $65 million, part of Snyder’s plan to double the Great Start Readiness program over two years.

“This is a huge step forward in terms of early childhood education in our state,” he said before signing two budget bills while flanked by Republican legislative leaders and appropriations chairs. “I hope we’re going to back here next year talking about another $65 million so we can make that whole waiting list go away.”

The budget includes an additional $350 million to fix deteriorating roads and bridges — a significant one-time expenditure due to higher-than-expected income tax collections but far short of the $1.2 billion a year that would be raised under Snyder’s stalled increase in gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. Negotiations on road funding will continue this summer, but legislators are not expected to vote on anything for months, if at all.

Snyder’s request to expand Medicaid eligibility to more poor adults is not included in the budget, though lawmakers are working to approve Medicaid expansion before they break next week. The House could vote later Thursday.

“There’s still work to be done. I think this is a very solid budget, though, and I’m proud to be standing here today,” Snyder said.

Another $75 million is put into savings, bringing the rainy day fund to nearly $600 million. It was nearly empty when Snyder took office, and he said he ultimately wants at least $1.2 billion in savings.

Democrats, outnumbered in the Legislature, have said the budget does not include enough money for education after cuts were made by Snyder and Republicans in 2011.

Snyder defended against that criticism, saying that when factoring in all K-12 funding, spending from state resources has gone up $632 per pupil over three budget years. He said federal stimulus dollars dried up but were always intended as one-time money.

The governor exercised two line-item vetoes.

He nixed $1.5 million in funding to explore putting barriers at crossings along a higher-speed rail line in southwestern Michigan, and another $300,000 for a pre-college engineering program he said was scheduled to end. Snyder said spending for train crossing technology was unnecessary because his transportation funding package has not been approved.

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House Bill 422 8: http://1.usa.gov/13HWqKR

HB 4328: http://1.usa.gov/141eY9w

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Email David Eggert at deggert@ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00