Mich. gov finishes signing $53.2 billion budget, again vetoes high-speed rail pilot project

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday finished signing a $53.2 billion state budget that commits to spending 6 percent more than this year, largely because of Michigan's new expansion of Medicaid eligibility to more low-income adults and anticipated higher tax collections in an improved economy.

The $3.1 billion funding increase includes an overall 7 percent boost in revenue sharing to local governments — with amounts varying depending on the community — along with money to train 100 new state police troopers and 31 new motor carrier officers, and hire 25 more conservation officers. There is almost $200 million to help prevent steeper cuts in Detroit retiree pensions and the sale of art in the city's bankruptcy.

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By privately approving the $37.5 billion general budget bill the last day of the month after signing a $15.7 education spending plan in public last week, Snyder was able to boast of four straight years of completing the budget in June, at least three months before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The Republican governor — who has enjoyed GOP control of the Legislature his whole term — said it gives K-12 school districts and municipalities time to plan their budgets.

More than three-quarters of the budget is devoted to education and health and human services, he said.

"These are protections and improvements that affect every member of our state," Snyder said in a statement.

The governor exercised two line-item vetoes. Like last year, he again nixed $1.5 million to explore putting barriers at crossings along a higher-speed rail line in southwestern Michigan, saying "current traffic control measures are consistent with federal standards."

Snyder also removed $80,000 to study the feasibility of building a pedestrian-only bridge over the Bear River in Petoskey, calling it an "unnecessary" expenditure and noting a plan to raise more revenue for road upkeep is still pending in the Legislature. He urged lawmakers to keep working to pass road-funding legislation, saying it is a critical issue affecting all residents and tourists and essential to accelerating economic growth.

Bills that would more than double state gasoline and diesel taxes stalled earlier this month before legislators adjourned for much of the summer, and it is unclear if some lawmakers could become more receptive to hiking taxes after the November election.

"It's unfortunate that Gov. Snyder signed a budget without fully funding our roads and bridges," said Geno Alessandrini, business manager of the Michigan Laborers District Council, which has been traveling the state on a "Fix our Roads" tour. "We'll continue to call on the governor and the state Legislature to address the dire need for critical infrastructure funding."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, who will face Snyder in November, continued to criticize the governor for his 2011 push to offset a major business tax cut in part by eliminating tax exemptions on pension and retirement income for people born after 1952.


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