Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
This week the Michigan Legislature, both the House of Representatives and the State Senate, passed legislation that authorizes departmental spending for the fiscal year 2012-13 budget year that begins October 1.
The process of developing state spending for next year varied between chambers as the Senate passed departmental budgets individually while the House of Representatives rolled all non-education spending into one “omnibus” spending bill. Education funding for K-12 schools, universities and community colleges were rolled into a smaller “school bus” spending bill by the House.
Below are details of those department budgets and programs of interest to the Michigan Catholic Conference:
The House DHS budget includes an increase of $3 per child per day for foster care families, amounting to an additional $11.3 million statewide ($6.3 million in General Fund.) The House also included an additional $5 per child per day for private placing agencies—an additional $9 million in the budget.
The Senate DHS budget also includes a similar version of the $3 per child per day foster family increase, but is a bit different in how it treats foster agencies. This version requires DHS to produce a study that would determine actuarially sound contract rates in the future. For the time being, the Senate does increase the per diem rates for some of the previously non-reimbursable, but mandated services, such as a 5% increase for residential care, a $2 increase for general independent living services and restores funding for specialized independent living services to 2010-11 rates.
The House passed version uses $52 million in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds to bolster additional funding from the federal LIHEAP program. The Governor’s and Senate’s version does not use these funds for their proposal, but instead use $60 million in surcharges from electric bills statewide to maintain the program. Neither proposal provides for funding for weatherization of homes, with both sides pointing to other state programs that have a weatherization component.
An interesting item to watch as this year’s budget is finalized is the use of TANF dollars. The state has realized approximately $130 million in lapsed TANF funds from last year and the two legislative chambers are using these funds differently. The House is using the funds to avoid surcharges for low income heating and other onetime programs. The Senate and Governor do not use these excess funds quite as much throughout this budget.
In the House passed version of the budget there are a few areas that would receive one time funding:
The House passed version includes another use of TANF funds for a program that provides pregnant women in a crisis with an alternative to abortion. The funding ($2 million) would go to a statewide contractor that would establish a hotline for women in crisis to call if they need counseling for support. The program would assist women in areas ranging from prenatal care, all the way through the first twelve months after a child is born. Similar programs have been in place in Pennsylvania and Texas, and the statewide contractor acts as a clearing house by receiving the funds from the state, and using them to reimburse existing crisis pregnancy and other counselors for work they do with pregnant women to promote child birth.
MCC is strongly promoting this policy as the budget moves toward finalization.
Boilerplate language was added in the Senate version that will require the Department to accept "in-kind services and equipment donations" for a religious network which "presently reaches the majority of households in the United States." A bilingual version may also be added. The House did not put forth this language in its version, but will likely concur with the Senate when the budgets go to Conference Committee.
MCC has followed two issues of interest in the state budget for institutions of higher education:
The Governor has proposed that an additional $36 million dollars in "performance funding" be added to the higher education budget. The Senate and House have both said that access to these additional funds is contingent upon university compliance with reporting how many human embryos a research institution has destroyed, how many embryos are in storage, and the results of the institution’s research. This language was included in last year’s budget by which the University of Michigan, the only institution in Michigan conducting such human embryo research, failed to comply. If U-M’s efforts to snub the Legislature on this issue continue the school will not be eligible for those “performance funds.”
The Governor had proposed reducing this scholarship program, which is the state’s only means required grant, by $1 million, and added reporting requirements for private colleges and universities. The Senate retained current funding and eliminated the reporting requirements. The House increased the appropriation by $1 million ($2.0 million above Executive Budget) and only included intent language regarding independent college data reporting.
The House of Representatives this week passed legislation that would expand the opportunity for shared time services for nonpublic schools. Senate Bill 621 expands the range of school districts that Catholic schools may approach for shared time services to any district within any contiguous Intermediate School District in the area.
Additionally, the House passed legislation, Senate Bills 622, 623, 709 and 710, which would expand dual enrollment opportunities for students in nonpublic schools. The bills would eliminate the need for nonpublic school students to enroll in the home public school district for one class to allow the state to pay for the college credit for a student.
The State Senate has already passed this legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by the Governor.
The Michigan Catholic Conference Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network has been active in opposing the elimination of “gun free” zones in Senate Bill 59, particularly the notion that someone can carry a concealed weapon into a church, hospital or school without permission of that entity. MCC expected a vote in the Senate after Easter, but that vote has yet to occur. It is apparent that the Legislative Advocacy Network contacts, combined with the opposition of other groups, such as hospitals, has slowed this legislation down. MCC will continue to oppose this legislation.