state government

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State auditors are raising questions about thousands of dollars of purchases charged to gas cards.

  The audit released Friday found people driving state vehicles spent $372,000 on things besides gas during a recent two-year period. About 40 percent of that amount was charged to a category called "other."

  The state of Michigan's vehicle policy has many restrictions on the use of gas cards. Food, beverages, maps and towing are among the prohibited items.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A newspaper investigation finds the state of Michigan spends at least $40 million a year for employees' travel but there are inconsistencies in reporting and no high-level oversight.

The Lansing State Journal reported Sunday that nobody in state government is responsible for analyzing actual costs incurred by departments for employees' work-related travel expenses. The State Budget Office says it doesn't keep some of the out-of-state travel reports it's required to receive.

Over the past decade, the number of Michigan state government workers has shrunk, and that's left some state-owned buildings with lots of vacant space.

Now the state is hoping to fill in those gaps and save money at the same time.

The idea is to move some workers from leased offices across Lansing into Constitution Hall and the Mason Building.  Both of those state-owned buildings will undergo renovations to prepare the new workspace.

Kurt Weiss is with the state. He says Constitution Hall is 30 percent vacant.

"So as you can imagine, as you're walking down some of those hallways, there's a lot of empty cubicles," he said.

New House bill would limit cost of FOIA requests

Sep 25, 2012

Some of Michigan’s city and township officials are worried about a bill that would limit how much they could charge for public information requests. The state House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee opened hearings Tuesday on measures to make it easier and cheaper to file Freedom of Information Act requests.

Bill Anderson of the Michigan Townships Association said local governments are already losing money processing requests.

A new state tax to help pay for Medicaid is coming up $130 million short of projections.

The one-percent tax on health insurance claims was supposed to bring in $300 million this fiscal year. Now, budget officials say it’ll only generate about half that. Budget department spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state should be able to scrape together enough money to make up for the missing tax revenue. It is federal matching funds he is worried about.

“If you look at the way the match works, there’s the potential of losing up to $260 million in matching federal funds with this if we’re $130 million short. So, certainly that is part of the concern,” Weiss said.

Weiss said bad projections could be to blame for the gap, or health care providers simply might not be paying their share. He said his department is working with other state agencies to pin down the problem.

“It is a new tax, and it is something new to those that are paying it. So we’re really trying to reach out, do that education, and trying to make sure we’re getting the money from everybody we should be getting the money from,” he said.

Weiss said officials are looking for ways to try and make up the state’s shortfall. If shortfalls continue, he says lawmakers may have to make changes to the tax.

It turns out Michigan's state government might have brought in more money from taxes and fees than previously expected in the fiscal year that ended September 30th. That likely will set up a battle this fall over what to do with
the cash, which could total $285 million or more.

Democrats, outnumbered in the Michigan Legislature, say any extra money should be committed first to public schools and education programs that are dealing with budget cuts in the fiscal year that started this month.

Republicans, including those in Governor Rick Snyder's administration, are hesitant to commit to any spending before they have a clearer picture of state revenues.

Snyder's budget office is expected to close the books on the recently completed 2010-11 fiscal year in December.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The announced closings continue. Now state government is getting in on the action.

From the Associated Press:

The expectation of a winter storm will close down the Michigan Legislature. The state Senate and House have canceled sessions and committee meetings previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday because of a snowstorm that's expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some parts of Michigan. Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph also are expected Wednesday in some areas with temperatures around 20 degrees. Both chambers were open for business Tuesday. Legislative offices will be closed Wednesday but might be open Thursday depending on the weather.

Time is running out for state lawmakers in Lansing.     The current legislative session is scheduled to end today. They are hoping to pass a change that will effect Michigan's teachers.  


MPRN's Rick Pluta filed this report on what's happening now at the state capitol: