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Proposed budget plan seeks to get state back on track

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday proposed a $67 billion state budget that she said would aid Michigan’s pandemic recovery by solidifying new programs to expand eligibility for free community college tuition, bolstering child care assistance and boosting local bridge repairs, according to an Associated Press story.

The Democratic governor’s third annual spending blueprint, unveiled to the Republican-led Legislature, also calls for $570 million to address learning loss and K-12 enrollment declines on top of a $162-per-student, or 2%, increase in base aid for most traditional districts in the fiscal year that starts in October. Better-funded districts would get $82 more per student, or roughly 1%.

More immediate coronavirus-related needs, such as vaccine distribution, would be funded with multibillion-dollar supplemental spending bills — primarily through the release of federal COVID-19 relief aid that Whitmer has been urging lawmakers to pass soon.

The governor said she focused on three priorities: economic re-engagement that “drives everything,” a return to in-person instruction at schools and vaccine dissemination.

She wants to double spending on Futures for Frontliners, which covers community college tuition for essential workers who worked in the early months of the pandemic, to include those who lost their jobs when her administration reinstated business restrictions to curb surging infections in the late fall. She hopes to quadruple spending on Michigan Reconnect, which launched last week with bipartisan support and helps adults age 25 and older without a college degree to obtain an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate at a community college or private training school.

“The business community is telling us we need (a) skilled workforce. Our work force is telling us we’re ready to earn those skills … to get into those good-paying jobs,” Whitmer told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We’re trying to eliminate the barriers that are keeping people from doing that — and that is often the resources to do it.”

We hope to see the Legislature approve this budget, as it goes a long way to address some of the biggest issues our state is currently faced with. Aside from the issue of vaccine distribution, these measures would really help to get Michigan going in the right direction, getting our economy, infrastructure and of course, our youth, back on track.

The proposal also would distribute:

≤ $70 million to universities and community colleges that adopt COVID-19 testing, quarantining and contact-tracing policies. That would augment a 2% boost in operations funding.

≤ $38 million to nursing homes that have lost money during the virus outbreak.

≤ $70 million to two-dozen cities set to lose income tax revenue because non-residents are working at home during the pandemic.

≤ $6.7 million to expand coverage of sickle cell disease to include around 400 adults.

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