Lansing Update: MCC Keeping Tabs on Budget Process Now Underway

In this update:

As Budget Process for 2024 Gets Underway, Here’s Where MCC Items of Interest Stand

The budget-setting process for the fiscal year that begins this October has begun to pick up in recent weeks, as House and Senate committees started approving their own versions of the budget originally proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this year.

The legislative budgets still need to clear their chambers’ respective appropriations committees and then go through a full floor vote. After that, the final product will most likely be hashed out in a conference committee comprised of House and Senate members, with the Governor’s office taking part in the negotiations.

The following includes details on some of the items of interest to Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) and where they stand in the spending proposals.

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Governor, Legislature Agree to Preserving Many Programs for the Poor

With Democrats in control of the House and Senate, the initial budgets proposed for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) had many areas of agreement with the Governor’s version. The DHHS budget contains funding for many programs that help serve the poor and vulnerable.

Here are some of the DHHS budget items that the Governor, Senate, and House all agree with so far in their versions of the 2024 spending plan:

While the Governor and House maintained the current clothing allowance at $7.23 million—which helps families in the Family Independence Program to purchase school clothes for their children—the Senate increased that amount to $10 million.

Also of note in the DHHS budget was the Governor, in her proposal, allocating $800,000 to establish an office of community violence intervention services, with which the Senate and House both agreed. An additional one-time amount of $10 million to reduce firearm injuries and fatalities was proposed by the Governor, to which the House added an additional $10 million for violence prevention. However, the Senate did not include those provisions.

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Nonpublic Schools Left Out of Several Funding Opportunities

Both the House and Senate included funding to improve school safety at nonpublic schools, but the legislative proposals left nonpublic schools out of several other funding initiatives.

The House version of the school spending budget for next year allocates $18 million in school safety grants for nonpublic schools, the same amount as the current budget. The Senate instead proposed $17.5 million.

The Senate school spending plan did include $1 million to reimburse nonpublic schools for complying with state mandates, as well as $600,000 for robotics program grants for nonpublic schools. The House did not include these provisions.

Besides those items, the House and Senate left out nonpublic schools from programs to expand breakfast and lunch availability to students, as well as from the student teacher stipend or future teacher fellowship programs, which are intended to increase the number of teachers in the state.

However, the House and Senate budgets did include $3 million to continue dual enrollment opportunities for nonpublic high school students to obtain college credits.

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Legislation Ensuring Immediate Tax Relief for Working Families Approved by Senate

A bill to allow working families to benefit immediately from the increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was approved by the Senate in a bipartisan vote of 27-10 this week.

Senate Bill 144 is needed because the previously enacted legislation that contained the EITC increase to 30%, along with other tax-related measures, did not pass with enough votes to make it effective immediately, which would delay relief to people who would benefit from it starting with the 2022 tax year.

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), would make the EITC increase a standalone issue, with the hope that it will get bipartisan support in both chambers to earn immediate effect. People who received the EITC for tax year 2022 would automatically get the rest of the expanded credit if the bill passes with immediate effect and is signed into law.

Senate Bill 144 must still pass the House.

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Bill Encouraging Charitable Support of Homeless Shelters, Food Kitchens Advances in Senate

Legislation to encourage donations to homeless shelters, food banks or food kitchens cleared a Senate committee with MCC support.

Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), would allow taxpayers to claim a credit equal to 50% of the sum of their contributions to a homeless shelter, food kitchen, or food bank.

However, this credit would be limited to no more than $100, $200 for a joint return, or, in the case of a resident estate or trust, 10% of the taxpayer’s total tax liability or $5,000, whichever was less.

MCC supports this legislation to encourage people to charitably support the work of agencies that feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. The bill is now on the Senate floor for further consideration.

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Senate Committee OKs Bill Making Juneteenth State Holiday

Juneteenth would be an official state holiday under a bill approved by a Senate committee with MCC support.

Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), commemorates the day in 1865 when African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed from slavery two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation.

The bill heads to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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