- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lawmakers approved a $54.5 billion state budget Wednesday, passing modest funding increases for roads and education along with new initiatives designed to boost early literacy and training for jobs in the trades.

The plan spends nearly $1.7 billion, or 3 percent, more than in the current fiscal year after midyear adjustments, according to the state budget office, in part due to enrollment in Michigan’s federally funded Medicaid expansion program for lower-income adults without health insurance. The budget will take effect in October once it is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder around the middle of this month.

The Republican-led Legislature voted 70-39 and 22-16 for a general spending bill. An education spending measure won approval on 99-10 and 24-14 votes.

Major items in the budget include:

- $400 million in general funds for transportation, $115 million more than this year and $260 million more than required to qualify for federal matching dollars as fuel taxes do not generate enough anymore. It remains far short of the extra $1.2 billion Snyder and others say is needed to get deteriorating roads and bridges up to par. Legislative talks will continue over the summer after voters’ recent defeat of a lawmaker-proposed ballot measure that would have raised the sales tax to trigger additional transportation funds.

- A $70 to $140 increase in traditional per-pupil funding for K-12 schools, nearly 0.9 percent more for the highest-funded districts and roughly a 2 percent bump for the lowest-funded ones. Every district is guaranteed a minimum $25 per-student increase after losing performance- and “best practices”-based funding. The school budget also includes a significant boost in funding for “at-risk” students.

- About $31 million for Snyder’s new early literacy initiative that includes additional kindergarten instruction, reading coaches and new K-2 assessments. The budget also doubles a $10 million fund that partially covers businesses’ training costs in the classroom or on the shop floor.

- About 1.5 percent more for operations at 15 universities and 28 community colleges. Universities must keep tuition hikes to no more than 3.2 percent to qualify for their aid.

- Closure of the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School near Whitmore Lake north of Ann Arbor. Some 50 juveniles are housed there.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, a Lowell Republican, said the extra money for road construction “speaks pretty highly about the commitment … to really put a focus and an emphasis on investing in our infrastructure across Michigan.”

But Democratic Rep. Jeremy Moss of Southfield said it is a “Band-Aid approach.” And Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township said passing the transportation budget now without a comprehensive road deal “relieves the pressure” on legislators to cut spending instead of increasing taxes.

Majority Republicans highlighted nearly $1 billion in spending to address liabilities in the public school employees’ retirement system, a $95 million deposit into the state’s savings account, additional spending on the Pure Michigan tourism campaign and the K-12 plan.

“Between the at-risk and the additional funds in the third-grade reading initiative, I think you’re going to see reading scores skyrocket in this state,” said Rep. Tim Kelly, a Saginaw Township Republican.

Democrats criticized closing the Maxey facility, spending $300,000 to give drug tests to welfare recipients suspected of substance abuse and the elimination of 226 human services positions.

“Closing Maxey increases the likelihood that these young men will end up being placed in out-of-state facilities, on the streets or in adult prisons,” said Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Southfield Democrat.

House Democrats faulted the GOP for not blocking senators’ planned 2017 move to an office building a block away. The decision to move led to the issuance of $70 million in bonds to buy the new offices.

Rep. Brandon Dillon, a Grand Rapids Democrat, said he fears that lawmakers put off “big looming structural deficits.” Snyder’s attempt to raise a health insurance tax to help fund Medicaid failed, and starting in the 2016-17 budget year the state will be required to pay for part of the Medicaid expansion, which has 580,000 participants.

The budget includes an expansion of dental coverage for low-income children up to age 12 in Michigan’s three largest counties - Wayne, Oakland and Kent. There also are $7.6 million in increased fees for food inspections, air pollution and other permits. Legislators balked at Snyder’s call for liquor license hikes, most of which have not changed in nearly 40 years.

They set aside $50 million in unappropriated money in case they later agree to Snyder’s request to cover debt in Detroit’s troubled state-run school district.

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Online:

Senate Bill 133: http://1.usa.gov/1dN1WYn

House Bill 4115: http://1.usa.gov/1HL359W

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Follow David Eggert at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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