Halfway through Lent, the celebration of Easter—and the hope it embodies—is drawing closer. It comes as many Michiganders are exhausted from the ongoing pandemic and social unrest. However, the Holy Father reminds believers that each small step towards love has meaning; each can contribute to a deeper relationship with God and the wider community.
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis shared that “Love rejoices in seeing others grow…it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.” Catholics are called to love.
Reflecting on these words, how will people of faith act as Easter approaches? Will Catholics grow in love and charity towards others? Will they advocate for loving decision-making in society, considering justice and the needs of others? These questions are particularly relevant as the Legislature formulates the 2021–2022 state budget.
Just as a family determines how income should be spent, the State also makes budget determinations for its people. If done well, the budget can act as a document of love and of care, recognizing all Michiganders have value and considering carefully the needs of the marginalized.
In February, the State Budget Director shared Governor Whitmer’s $67.1 billion executive proposal for the 2021–2022 state budget. Now lawmakers are discussing their own recommendations.
Creating a budget with concern for the needs of the vulnerable is a significant undertaking. With limited resources, public officials must make difficult choices. Michigan Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in this state, believes the budget provides a moral statement about the kind of society in which Michiganders want to live. In this spirit, MCC has noted the following regarding next year’s state budget:
- Comprehensive support for pregnant women, mothers, and their children. Past state budgets have helped women in crisis or unexpected pregnancies receive counseling, prenatal health information, parenting education, and material support. Sadly, Governor Whitmer vetoed funding for this program the last two budget cycles because it does not allow for the promotion of abortion. By reinstating funding for this policy, the Legislature can affirm that abortion should never feel like a women’s only option and that women are never alone.
- Educational opportunities for students. MCC supports funding for low-income students to attend college through the Tuition Grant and Tuition Incentive Programs, for nonpublic school students to participate in the First Robotics Program, and for students to continue participating in shared time instruction.
- Safety for students and educational staff. As all children deserve to learn in healthy and safe environments, MCC supports helping public and nonpublic schools with COVID-related costs. The Conference has also championed reimbursements for nonpublic schools for dozens of health and safety requirements from the State, such as conducting background checks on staff.
- Basic needs and support for individuals suffering hardships. Initiatives that provide clothing for low-income children, energy and food assistance for families in need, intervention services for human trafficking victims, and services for homeless and runaway youth are critical. Each of these efforts provide opportunities to walk alongside one another with love.
- Mental health services for Michiganders. While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted rates of depression and anxiety, these and other mental health needs did not appear overnight. In recent years, MCC has advocated for increased mental health services that are available for public school students to also be available for students in nonpublic schools.
MCC will remain engaged in the Fiscal Year 2021–22 state budget process until the governor signs the final version into law. It is the hope of the bishops’ conference that the final budget takes small steps of love and “creates bonds of sharing and communion” for Michiganders in the face of difficulties. To follow along, sign up for email updates.
May God bless everyone during the remaining weeks of Lent.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets. Through these columns, MCC outlines current advocacy issues of importance to the Conference and discusses the Catholic position and role in the political process. This publication complements the more regular updates provided by MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.