Budget season in Lansing is officially underway: Governor Rick Snyder released his new budget for Fiscal Year 2018 today.
To break down the $56.3 billion package, Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief, and Zach Gorchow, editor of Gongwer News Service, joined Stateside today.
“I’d say it probably notches a little bit more toward the spending side than the savings side, but not by much,” Gorchow said. “It really does kind of split the difference.”
On the savings side, Pluta said the governor plans to pay down debts, including long-term ones, and handle retirement costs.
“The governor is trying to call a lot of attention to the fact that if he has his way, the state’s budget stabilization fund – its Rainy Day savings – will hit $1 billion for the first time since the Great Recession,” Pluta said. “That’s still half of what it was before that period of time, but he says that’s a pretty important benchmark since when he took office the Rainy Day Fund, if it needed to be raided for that purpose, wouldn’t have kept the state operating for 30 minutes.”
In terms of spending, Pluta said the Governor plans to work on infrastructure, worker retraining programs, colleges and universities, and K-12 education.
To Gorchow, the most interesting aspect of the budget is the increased spending for K-12 education. In addition to the typical per-pupil grant, it adds extra funding for high school students.
“We’ve never done this in the state,” Gorchow said. “It’s always been a set per-pupil amount, whether you’re in first grade or 12th grade. There’s always been a feeling though – especially those in the school community say, ‘It costs more to educate a high school student than an elementary or middle school student.’ And no one’s ever really disagreed with that, it’s just sort of been, ‘This is the way we do it and this is the way it’s going to be.’”
In the age of charter schools, Pluta said this funding change matters.
“Right,” Gorchow said. “Because most charter schools are K-5 or K-8. There are very few charter high schools, so already you’re seeing the charter school lobby saying, ‘Hey, wait a second. You’re going to be pushing more money from the School Aid Fund into the traditional public schools and that’s not going to go to us.”
For the full conversation, listen above. It includes how various additional issues fit into Governor Snyder's budget, including virtual charter schools, infrastructure, Flint water and higher education.