In This Week’s Lansing Update:
The Michigan Legislature this week finalized work on nearly all of the State of Michigan departmental budgets for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that begins October 1. Below is a snapshot of those departmental budgets and programs of interest to the Michigan Catholic Conference that were impacted this budget cycle:
Department of Human Services:
The Conference Report for the Department of Human Services (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.)
While an earlier version of the budget included a $5 per child, per day rate increase for private foster care agencies, the conference report does not include this increase. Instead, the Legislature will wait for DHS to complete a study, which should be completed by fall that would determine actuarially sound contract rates in the future. For the time being, the budget bill does restore funding for specialized independent living services to 2010-11 rates.
Low Income Heating:
The Conference Report appropriates $59.9 million for low income heating with $27.7 million coming from General Fund and the remainder from TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds. This will bolster additional funding from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Additionally, there is legislation in the Senate that will create a new permanent $60 million fund for low income heating that can receive funds from the federal government and state legislature. If the fund does not reach $60 million, the remainder will be made up through a rate surcharge on electric bills.
In the House passed version of the DHS budget there are a few areas that would have received one time funding:
- $20 million of TANF for a grant program to non-profits for capital projects that will improve the delivery of services to needy families.
- $5 million of TANF for before or after school programs.
- $3 million of TANF for Tuition Incentive Program Phase II.
- $2 million additional to Homeless programs (also TANF).
- $1 million additional to Food Bank.
The final DHS budget does not include any of these programs, other than a $1 million appropriation for before or after school programs.
Department of Community Health
The conference report for the Department of Community Health budget includes $2 million in TANF funds for a program to provide pregnant women in a crisis with an alternative to abortion. The funding would go to a statewide contractor that would establish a hotline for women in crisis to call if they need counseling or support, and will connect them with approved local resources. The program would assist women in areas ranging from prenatal care and parenting preparation, all the way through the first twelve months after a child is born, by reimbursing existing crisis pregnancy and social service agencies for work they do with pregnant women to promote child birth.
MCC has been the primary advocate for this program and is very hopeful it will become law, as this budget awaits the Governor's signature.
Department of Corrections:
Boilerplate language has been added that requires 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. This essentially will allow for the Catholic channel, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), to be added to the Department’s statewide cable television programming.
MCC has strongly advocated for inclusion of this provision, which will serve the religious needs of Catholic individuals incarcerated by the State of Michigan.
Human Embryo Research:
While the Higher Education budget has yet to be finalized, the Governor has proposed that an additional $36 million dollars in "performance funding" be added to the department’s budget. The House and Senate will continue to negotiate regarding which set of data to utilize in order to award these funds.
The Senate and House have both agreed 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. Similar reporting requirements were included in last year’s budget but did not include penalties for failure to comply, which the only research institution in the state conducing human embryo destructive research, The University of Michigan, did not.
Tuition Grant Program:
The Governor had proposed reducing this scholarship program, which is the state’s only needs- based grant, by $1 million, and added reporting requirements for private colleges and universities. The Senate retained the current year’s funding level and eliminated the reporting requirements. The House increased the appropriation by $1 million ($2.0 million above Executive Budget). MCC is hopeful that the additional funding will be approved. At this time, the Higher Education Budget is not expected to be adopted until next week.
Dual Enrollment Funding:
Senate Bills 622, 623, 709 and 710, which expand dual enrollment opportunities for students in non-public high schools, were recently signed into law by Governor Snyder. The bills eliminated the need for non-public school students to first enroll in their home public school district for one class before accessing state payment for college courses. The removal of this barrier allows non-public students to access payment for college credit directly and it is expected to cost the state additional funds, as hopefully more non-public students take advantage of this program. The Conference Report includes $10 million for this purpose.
MCC has strongly supported this legislation.