budget cuts

user Tqycolumbia / Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a long-awaited plan to fix Michigan’s roads, job cuts to one of the state’s largest agencies, and some holiday cheer from Rep. John Dingell.

Roads deal

After weeks of hemming and hawing over how to fix the state’s roads, Michigan lawmakers have OK'd plans for a sales tax hike.

There’s just one catch.

The state Legislature decided to give Michigan voters the final call on the 1% increase in a special election this May.

Lessenberry said he can see why the state’s politicians like the plan, but he’s got one question.

Michigan lawmakers want you to decide on roads.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Human Services said it is eliminating jobs because of a $7.5 million dollar budget cut.

According to spokesman Bob Wheaton, the department has notified employee unions.

Wheaton said it is too soon to know the net reduction in jobs or the total number of layoffs.

"There certainly will end up being some people who are laid off," he said. "But we're hoping it will be as close to zero as possible."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An angry crowd told the Shiawassee County Commission tonight not to lay off more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies.  

But the commission did any way.

Faced with the need to close a $1 million hole in the county budget before the end of the year, Shiawassee County commissioners dropped the ax on the sheriff’s road patrol. The move effectively slices the county sheriff’s staff in half. 

GsGeorge / WIKIMEDIA Commons

First, there's the mystery of the disappearing kids. 

Ann Arbor's enrollment dropped by about 200 students this year. 

That's a surprise, School Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson says, because enrollment was basically stable last year. 

Administrators do know where about 50 of those kids went: the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which offers specialized programming. 

But the other 150 students?

"I don't know," says Nelson. "And that's something I wish we knew more about." 

user foqus / Flickr

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled his latest budget proposal. And it is clear that as the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, the Obama administration's priority is now reducing military size and spending.

Secretary Hagel declared that budget reductions cut “so deep, so quickly, that we cannot shrink the size of our military fast enough.”

For instance, the active-duty Army would shrink to its smallest level since just before the U.S. entered World War II. There would be base closings, troop cuts, trimmed salary increases, and the complete elimination of several Air Force aircraft fleets.

That includes the A-10, an aircraft that dates back to the Cold War.

The A-10, also known as "The Warthog," was designed to take out Soviet tanks.

Twenty-four of America's 300 Warthogs are at Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Mt Clemens in Macomb County. Eliminating that fleet would be a gut punch to Selfridge.

Here to explain is Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Navy Hale Keiki School / flickr.com

Last year, Lansing public school officials laid off all their elementary art and music teachers.

The move got national attention from outraged educators and arts groups.

Now, almost a year after the layoffs were announced, Lansing students and teachers are getting used to the new normal.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Buena Vista and Inkster school districts to be dissolved

The state is moving ahead to dissolve the Inkster and Buena Vista school districts. Both districts failed to meet a deadline yesterday to prove they could keep their doors open next school year. Now state officials say it could be a matter of days before the districts are dissolved, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Protesters arrested at pipeline worksite

Enbridge energy is building a 285 mile pipeline across Michigan that will carry tar sands oil. The pipeline will replace the one that ruptured three years ago. Yesterday, protesters chained themselves to heavy equipment at a worksite southeast of Lansing. They say the new pipeline will present an environmental threat. Twelve people were arrested at a protest yesterday, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports.

Will Detroit retirees see pension cuts?

A federal bankruptcy court will now be the scene for some huge decisions about the future of Detroit which filed for Chapter Nine protection last week. One of the key issues is whether retirees will see their benefits cut. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett has more.

levin.house.gov

We talk with Democratic U.S. Representative Sander Levin about the effects of automatic federal budget cuts on the Great Lakes region. Today, Levin met with members of the League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action in Clinton Township. 

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

At a meeting that lasted until almost 2 a.m., the Ann Arbor School Board voted to cut 27 full-time teachers from schools across the district. The school board also voted to eliminate three teachers from Ann Arbor's reading intervention program.

The board had to make some tough decisions for the 2013-14 school year, according to Board President Deb Mexicotte.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s new emergency manager says the city is on track to eliminate its structural deficit within a year. The city's finances have been under state control for more than three years.

Emergency Manager Tony Saunders started in February after the state ended the previous manager's contract at the city commission’s request.

The war of words between Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and County Executive Robert Ficano is intensifying.

Worthy held a press conference Wednesday to blast Ficano. She spoke in front of a televised slideshow with media clips detailing the Ficano administration’s ongoing corruption issues.

With President Obama and Congress failing to come to a budget deal, automatic spending cuts have gone into effect. There have been dire warnings about the impact of those cuts though the effects won’t be felt immediately. But Michigan gets over half its budget from the federal government which means the state will have to face the impact of the cuts if impasse isn't resolved soon. We speak with Budget Director John Nixon.

whitehouse.gov

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The term "sequester" is being tossed around all over the news and in Washington D.C. this week, but what does that mean for Michigan?

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan could loose $140 million if federal budget cuts happen Friday

"The White House says Michigan faces about $140 million in losses if an automatic federal budget cut takes effect Friday, and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin says he's hopeful the deadline pressure will prompt Congress to raise money by closing some tax loopholes. The cuts include $67.7 million in gross pay to 10,000 civilian Defense Department employees in Michigan and $42.2 million to K-12 and disability education programs in the state," the Associated Press reports.

Bankruptcy planning for Detroit

"It appears that officials are laying the groundwork for a so-called 'managed bankruptcy' in Detroit—though they hope that won’t actually happen. A process for going through chapter nine municipal bankruptcy is laid out in the state’s new emergency manager law that kicks in next month. Governor Snyder acknowledges that bankruptcy might be the only way to reduce Detroit’s long-term debt—estimated at more than $14 billion," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Taxes impact low and moderate earners this year

"Changes to Michigan's tax structure are hitting low and moderate earners hard this year. Lawmakers approved changes in 20-11 that cut 1-point-6 billion dollars in business taxes, but raised taxes on individuals. Low-income families could be the hardest hit, with the elimination of the child tax deduction, and a reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit," Vincent Duffy reports.

For art teachers in Michigan, it may be hard to even remember what “good news” feels like.

Between budget cuts, pink slips and declining enrollment, more than 108,000 Michigan kids don’t have any art access in their schools. That’s according to a 2012 statewide survey.

But for some 20,000 students, that’s about to change. They’re getting…a free bus ride.

"The money is just not there."

Lansing city hall.
MI SHPO / flickr

The city of Lansing faces an $11 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year.

City officials say the shortfall is due largely to a steep decline in property tax revenues. Rising pension, health care, and salaries are also to blame. The numbers take into account the extra money the city is taking in from a new tax levy voters approved a year ago, but the city has almost reached its constitutional limit on how much money it can raise in new taxes.  In a press release, Mayor Virg Bernero says the funding model for Michigan cities is "broken." 

user kakisky / morgueFile

Full day kindergarten may be in store for more Michigan children, due to changes in the school aid budget.

Schools currently get the same amount of per pupil funding whether they offer half day kindergarten or full day kindergarten. But starting this fall, schools that offer half day kindergarten will see their per pupil funding for those students cut in half.

The state legislature approved the school budget funding change last year.

Here are several different school districts' takes on the changes:

One size does not fit all

Livingston County's Brighton Public Schools currently get the full $7,000 per pupil for half day kindergarten students. They’ll get $3,500 for half day kindergarten students beginning with the 2012 school year.

Greg Gary is superintendent for Brighton area schools. He says the drop in funding is going to hurt his budget, but he refuses to cut half day kindergarten from the schedule:

"Not every kid is going to excel in a full day program. I have two children, and I would have put one in full day kindergarten, and one in half day kindergarten, because kids are different."

Yesterday, Detroit City Council sent a clear signal to Governor Rick Snyder and the rest of the state. By their actions, they said “we need you to send in an Emergency Manager and strip us of all financial power. You have to do this, because we are psychologically incapable of seriously addressing our financial problems.”

They would indignantly deny what I just said, of course. Barely a week ago, they huddled around a microphone with Mayor Dave Bing, and defiantly agreed they didn’t need outside help.

Well, the great battle over the federal debt limit is over, at least for now. For the last several weeks, most of us seem to have been arguing over this, whether or not we understood it.

This came just months after the great battle in Lansing over Governor Snyder’s budget cuts. Now that these momentous issues have been decided, we can move on to more interesting debates.

Such as, for example, how long it will be before Justin Verlander pitches another no-hitter. But seriously, there’s a tendency to think that now that all these budget cuts have been passed we don’t have to worry any more.

The unpleasant truth is that the effects of all these changes haven’t really started, on either the national, state or local levels.

We’ll begin to see some of the consequences this fall, when our kids go back to public schools with fewer teachers and fewer programs. Some of my students at Wayne State are already howling over their higher tuition and fee payments.

We don’t have any idea yet of the social costs of cutting people permanently off welfare. If the governor’s tax cuts produce a fast bumper crop of new jobs, and some of these long-term unemployed are hired, great. If that doesn’t pan out, we’ll all be in trouble.

http://www.michigan.gov/snyder

Governor Rick Snyder has been in office for six months. And according to him, things are getting back on track. But is there disconnect between the Governor’s optimism and how his policies are being received by Michiganders.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Demas says generally pessimism does not fare well for politicians, and she points to former Governor Jennifer Granholm's optimism about the state of Michigan, no matter how bad things got.  But Demas says it's all about what we want Michigan to be now.

"If we want Michigan to be a state that has lower business taxes and leaner budgets, and forces public employees to make very tough choices, then you're going to be happy with the direction that Governor Snyder is putting the state in.  But if this is not what we want Michigan to be then I think the positive talk is going to be seen as very out of touch. And it's going to be up to voters to decide where they really want things to be."

Sikkema adds that if the economy goes south and unemployment goes up then the debate about competing visions for Michigan could be a challenge for Republicans.  Sikkema says:

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

About 500 people in West Michigan spent a couple hours Friday night in Grand Rapids, talking with their state representatives about how to fund public education. 

The forum was rescheduled from last week after a fire marshal shut it down in Lowell (20 miles west of Grand Rapids) because so many people showed up it broke the fire code of the building.

Last night the crowd was  passionate, at times interrupting and booing Republican lawmakers.

matthileo / Flickr

This past Wednesday, the Michigan State House of Representatives approved their proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. Some pieces of the bill include a forty-eight month limit on welfare benefits, a cut to clothing allowances for poor children, a twenty million dollar cut to local bus systems, a ten million dollar cut to funds appropriated to the Detroit Institute of Arts, as well as the cutting of thirty-four State Police officers. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

About 1,000 people rallied outside the University of Michigan stadium, where Governor Rick Snyder was giving the commencement speech to graduating seniors.

Teachers, nurses and other union members carried signs that said “Some Cuts Never Heal” and “Shame on Snyder.” One union official got a huge cheer from the crowd when he compared the workers to David and Snyder to Goliath.

Ellen Stone teaches special education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. She says she hopes the Governor is listening to what they’re saying, because "we’re going to be showing up at the polls en masse," and she "the whole state is waking up to the fact that we elected the wrong guy, and that his mission is not our mission."

04deveni / flickr

Ann Arbor public schools may stop all busing to and from its high schools next year to save money.

The proposal to the Ann Arbor School board also includes bigger class sizes and cutting staff. Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a $15 million budget deficit for next year.

Liz Margolis is a spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Carmen Seaby / Flickr

Grand Rapids Public Schools is hosting a meeting Wednesday night and Friday morning to discuss Governor Rick Snyder’s state budget proposal. The district would face a $25 million budget shortfall if lawmakers approve Snyder’s budget.

Snyder is asking lawmakers to approve cutting $470 per student for all public school districts. That’s roughly a 4% cut from what the state sent them last year.

The University of Michigan will probably not ask state legislators to soften what it calls “painful” proposed cuts to higher education.  Rather, U of M President Mary Sue Coleman is expected to tout the institution's successful efforts to drive costs out of the school's budget.

If you had any doubts about how difficult the situation is for local governments these days, consider this. Even before they tackle the budget, our lawmakers in Lansing have been working hard on new emergency financial manager legislation.

Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to make it easier to appoint emergency financial managers to run troubled cities and school districts.  The legislation also gives those managers broad new powers. The Senate is expected to easily approve this as well.

pawpaw67 / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.