Gretchen Whitmer and GOP reach $4.7 billion infrastructure deal in Michigan

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LANSING — Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature reached a major budget deal Wednesday night to spend $4.7 billion in state surplus and federal stimulus funds to upgrade Michigan’s aging infrastructure, among others.

the spending plan includes more than $1.7 billion for projects to improve drinking water and sanitation systems, $450 million for parks and trails, $317 million for road and bridge repairs and $250 million for broadband infrastructure grants to extend high-speed Internet to unserved areas.

The deal won broad bipartisan support in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday night, with lawmakers from both major political parties approving an amended bill in a 27-0 vote.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the spending plan as early as Thursday, sending it to the governor’s office, along with a separate bill that would inject $250 million into the government’s trust fund. state unemployment insurance.

While Whitmer and legislative leaders remain at odds over possible tax cuts and having yet to finalize a budget for next fiscal year, the governor called the additional spending agreement proof that Republicans and Democrats can work together to “get things done” in Michigan.

“We are very proud to announce that we have reached an agreement on additional bipartisan infrastructure to invest in our shared priorities, including clean water, high-speed internet, housing and parks,” she said. declared.

“These are tough times for families, small businesses and communities, and this additional bipartisan (bill) will help grow our economy, create jobs and invest in every region of our state.”

The spending bill will use less than half of the $4.7 billion in discretionary federal stimulus funds the state has yet to spend. About $2.8 billion of that money will remain on the table for annual budget negotiations, according to Mary Ann Cleary, director of the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

The new contract includes:

  • $1.7 billion in funding for drinking water projects, providing loans to local communities to replace lead service lines, combat emerging contaminants and provide additional aid to small, disadvantaged communities struggling with contamination water, like Benton Harbor
  • $317 million for road and bridge projects, including $237.5 million for state trunk lines and $79.2 million for local roads
  • $200 million in federal funds for local parks and trails, including $60 million for recreational greenways in Detroit, $55 million for greenways in Grand Rapids, $20 million for tourism and sports programs in northern Michigan and $65 million for other parks grants
  • An additional $250 million in federal funds to help improve, repair and maintain state parks, recreation areas and trails
  • $200 million for the Four Lakes Task Force which agreed to buy Midland area dams that failed in 2020 and caused massive flooding, plus another $15 million for inspection and l examination of dam breaks
  • $121.4 million in federal funding for homeowner relief funds to help prevent mortgage defaults, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or internet, or homeowner displacement due to financial difficulties after January 21, 2020.
  • $383 million in federal funding for COVID-19 rental assistance to support low-income residents who experienced “significant financial hardship” during the pandemic
  • $66 million for highway pump station backup generators, as proposed by the Whitmer administration to combat the type of flooding that led to highway closures last summer in the metro area of Detroit

These are “historic funding” levels that will prove to be “transformative investments,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland.

House Appropriations Chairman Thomas Albert called the plan a “right path” for the state to take advantage of an “unprecedented opportunity to make monumental improvements to the structural foundations of Michigan communities.”

The agreement “will use one-time resources available today to benefit our children and grandchildren for the rest of their lives – which is extremely important given the potential ramifications of current federal policies in the years to come,” it said. said Albert, R-Lowell, in a statement.

The bipartisan breakthrough comes after weeks of potential tax cuts in Lansing, where Whitmer and the legislature say they are interested in returning some of the state’s surplus to residents, but have not been in able to negotiate terms.

whitmer friday vetoed a $2.5 billion GOP plan to cut personal income taxes, and she promised to do the same for a separate bill that would have suspended Michigan’s gas tax to curb ongoing price spikes.

Instead, the Democratic governor told lawmakers she was open to a “short-term pause” in the fuel sales tax and wanted to pursue other forms of targeted tax cuts, including broad exemptions for the income of the elderly and the expansion of the tax on earned income. Credit for low income people.

As the new spending agreement heads to her office for signing, Whitmer said Wednesday night that she looks forward to “continuing in this spirit of working together to pass another balanced, bipartisan budget that addresses kitchen table issues.” .

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