Lansing Update: February 13, 2009

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Governor’s Budget Recommendations Include $670 Million in Cuts
  2. Wayne County Executive Seeks to Lure Embryo Destructive Research Firms
  3. Legislation Increasing High School Drop Out Age Moves Out of Committee

Governor’s Budget Recommendations Include $670 Million in Cuts

State Budget Director Bob Emerson this week presented to a Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee Governor Granholm’s budget recommendations for the 2010 Fiscal Year. Michigan is currently facing an approximate budget deficit of $1.4 billion for the fiscal year that begins on October 1.

Overall, the governor presented some $670 million in general fund cuts and $230 million in revenue increases. The most difficult cuts, according to the governor, include cutting the state per pupil funding allowance by $59 per student, and laying off about 1,500 state workers, the majority of whom would likely come from the Department of Corrections. The governor also issued an Executive Order for the State Parole Board to review the status of approximately 12,000 incarcerated individuals—as many as 4,000 of whom may be released if they have served their minimum sentence.

In the Department of Community Health, the governor has proposed cutting approximately $106 million, including the following:

The administration is anticipating a large amount of funding to come into the state from the federal stimulus legislation, with estimates ranging as high as $7 billion. Approximately $500 million of those dollars will specifically be allocated to fund fully the state’s Medicaid program.

The governor has also proposed cutting some $194 million in the Department of Human Services, with the largest cut including some $29 million from Supplemental Security Income recipients who reside in independent living. The cuts equate to roughly half of the program dollars, or $14 per month per recipient. Additional cuts to the department include $10 million from changes in the state’s day care program, $5 million to eradicate before and after school programs, and $3 million in reduced employment support services.

The state’s Tuition Grant program, which allocates grants on a need-basis to students attending private colleges and universities, including those that are Catholic, may see significant changes. The governor has recommended combining all state grant programs into one, called the “Michigan College Access Grant.”

The Senate and House will now address their versions of the 2010 budget before differences are reconciled and finalized.

Wayne County Executive Seeks to Lure Embryo Destructive Research Firms

In his State of the County address this week, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano called for a partnership between the county and Wayne State University in an effort to recruit embryo destructive research business.

The county executive referenced last year’s passage of Proposal 2, which allows for human embryos to be destroyed in Michigan for research purposes while prohibiting the state from enacting regulations or restrictions on the research. According to the Detroit Free Press [Link no longer available —Ed.], Wayne’s Stem Cell Commercialization Center will provide assistance to those coming into the county for the business of embryo destruction, and would provide access to lab space and financial assistance.

Measures were introduced last legislative session that would have provided tax benefits to any company engaging in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research, which does not necessitate the destruction of the human embryo and has proven successful after researchers in the U.S. and Japan two years ago reprogrammed adult skin tissue to act in an embryonic-like fashion. Those bills never emerged from committee, and legislation that would have granted a small tax incentive for individuals who donate cord blood for research was vetoed by the governor.

Embryonic stem cell research was legal in Michigan prior to the passage of Proposal 2.

Legislation Increasing High School Drop Out Age Moves Out of Committee

The House Education Committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] passed legislation that, if enacted, would increase the minimum dropout age in Michigan from 16 to 18 years old. Michigan Catholic Conference has opposed such legislation in the past, arguing that the bills fail to recognize the reasons why students drop out of high school in the first place.

The passage of House Bill 4030, however, included an amendment that would require a student to gain parental consent before he or she is allowed to drop out legally.

According to the House Fiscal Agency, raising the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18 would create additional costs for the State and school districts. If all students actually remain in school until age 18, it could raise pupil memberships by approximately 30,000 statewide. At the current per pupil weighted foundation allowance of $7,668, the bill could cost $230 million annually.

Both bills in the package, including House Bill 4132, now await consideration from the full House of Representatives.