This week, the House and Senate returned to session to vote on the critical budget deal that had been struck between the Governor’s office and legislative leadership to close the 2019-20 fiscal year budget gap caused by COVID-19. As with every state across the country, Michigan faces a significant, unexpected revenue shortfall because of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact to public health and our economy — an estimated $2.2B this fiscal year.
While the state did have to make some difficult decisions to tighten up the budget, this agreement was the result of bipartisan negotiations between legislative Democrats, Republicans, and the Governor’s office — and I’m pleased that we were able to reach a compromise that focused on getting our basics right, including a net increase in funding for schools and local municipalities (revenue sharing).
This was accomplished by reducing some state funding while pulling down a portion of the $3.2B that the state received in federal CARES Act funding, as well as cuts in government spending.
One of the challenging cuts was a loss of $4.8M intended for water PFAS and lead remediation, something I’d fought for hard in this year’s budget. Clean water is an absolute priority for our office, and we’ve seen the long-term negative health impacts that result from these dangerous chemicals in our drinking water.
This is why I was so pleased to see new, more stringent PFAS regulations clear the legislature this week. These new rules will require more frequent testing and set Michigan up to lead the nation in protections against PFAS. Ultimately, it’s much safer and more cost-effective to set stringent regulations that prevent these dangerous chemicals from entering our water supply in the first place versus costly clean-ups later on. Especially as we have to make difficult budget decisions, these regulations are more important than ever.
Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.
BUDGET AGREEMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019-20
On July 22, the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reached a bipartisan agreement to plug a $2.2 billion state budget hole that includes a spending cut by about $620 million across many state departments. The deal will use most of the remaining federal assistance — provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included $3.1 billion for Michigan — and provides crucial funding for Michigan families, schools, and communities grappling with costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Order 2020-155 cuts spending by about $620 million across many departments as part of the agreement to balance the 2019-20 budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic along with two supplemental appropriations bills:
Supporting Working Families
Investing in Education
Helping Local Communities
Building Stronger Businesses
The approved legislation provides $350 million from the Rainy Day Fund (or Budget Stabilization Fund) to help balance the $2.2 billion deficit the state is facing in the current fiscal year. This is a result of the impact COVID-19 has had on the state’s economy, reducing revenues coming into the state while at the same time increasing state expenditures to help people most in need. This crisis has shown the importance of a robust balance in the Rainy Day Fund, to provide a cushion to the state’s finances during times such as these. There remains a little over $800 million in the fund.
Once the supplemental budgets passed are enacted, there will be approximately $94.4 million left in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds available to be used for future issues. Michigan is, like most states across the country, not only being impacted financially in the current fiscal year but the next one, as well. While the FY20 budget is now balanced, as required by the Constitution, the FY21 budget, by some estimates, is facing a $3 billion deficit, which will also need to be addressed.
The Legislature will be working with the Administration over the next 10 weeks to find solutions to the deficit, which could again include use of the Rainy Day Funds, cuts to state departments, and federal aid — if the U.S. Congress approves another emergency relief package that contains funding for state and local governments.
NATION-LEADING PFAS REGULATIONS CLEAR LEGISLATURE
Earlier this week, the legislature cleared new drinking water standards. These rules set a new limit on fluorochemicals and require frequent testing for more than 2,700 schools, large businesses, and hospitals here in Michigan.
Among the most stringent and comprehensive PFAS standards in the nation, the proposed rules will provide provisions reducing exposure to seven PFAS compounds in drinking water. The provisions include establishing drinking water standards, sampling requirements, public notification requirements, and laboratory certification criteria. The seven PFAS limits covered under the proposed rules are:
Drinking Water Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) of Specific PFAS
Michigan took the proactive step to set limits on PFAS compounds after contamination was discovered in several drinking water supplies throughout the state. These investigations were led by the state’s multi-agency Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).
MPART also coordinated with an independent science panel of national PFAS experts who, in 2018, advised the state that the US EPA’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for two compounds, PFOS and PFOA, was not protective of public health. With federal drinking water standards still several years away, in 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer directed the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and MPART to review the scientific and health data currently available on PFAS compounds and move forward with state drinking water standards.
Michigan has taken an aggressive lead on protecting clean water from these dangerous chemicals, and the federal government and the military may soon follow suit.
RETURNING TO LEARN SAFELY
Everyone is united around wanting to get kids back to school this Fall. There is simply no debating that in-person instruction — and the relationships, friendships, and interactions that come with it — can be replaced with a screen.
But it has to be done safely — for teachers, staff, kids, and families — and I know so many parents, educators, administrators, and staff are on edge.
Following the release of the Return to School Advisory Council’s report on school reopening (full 63-page report available here), local school districts are beginning to release their own plans for reopening. One thing that’s certain is that there is still a lot of uncertainty. But no matter what, I’m committed to relying on the expertise of our local administrators, school leaders, educators, input of parents, and public health experts on how best to safely provide education this Fall.
One thing that is certain: Your kids should have as much direct education time no matter what school looks like this Fall. As such, I’ve cosponsored a comprehensive bill package to pause most standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year.
While Ann Arbor schools announced they will begin the Fall completely online, many other districts are preparing for both in-person and online, hybrid, or programs that give families the options to choose.
To find out what your district currently has planned, visit here for a comprehensive look at what school districts throughout the state are doing.
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