Moolenaar Speaks on Federal Budget in Montcalm
SIDNEY TOWNSHIP — Montcalm County’s two local legislators will likely be facing one of the most difficult state budgets to pass in either of their tenures in Lansing.
Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, described the upcoming 2016-2017 state budget proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder as containing “signifiant challenges” to overcome due to events in the cities of Detroit and Flint.
Snyder’s budget calls for critical investments for the Flint water crisis and Detroit Public Schools, which face a crisis of potential bankruptcy.
“In his first year, the governor said we were going to burn the midnight oil when it comes to the budget, and we will continue to do that through this budget,” Outman said. “But we have significant budgetary challenges this year, there’s no doubt.”
The budget proposed by Snyder totals $54.9 billion, $10.28 billion of which is of the general fund and are state discretionary dollars.
Snyder proposed $195 million to address the Flint water crisis, which would bring the total in aid to Flint from the state to $232 million. Of that, $37 million would be allocated toward safe drinking water, $15 million to food and nutrition, $63 million to physical, social and educational well-being, $30 million to water bill relief, and $50 million in reserves.
“When he came to present his plan to us, that was pretty much the talking points that he focused on,” Outman said. “He talked about other areas where he was going to appropriate money, but by and large, those were the pressing issues. He’s committed to every Flint resident having access to care and water.”
Outman said the controversy in Flint has resulted in the expected pointing of fingers as to who is at fault, but stressed that the focus needs to be placed on moving forward and helping those in need.
“Nobody disagrees that what happened in Flint was an absolute tragedy, you expect when you turn on your water that it is clean and safe,” he said. “The lead levels in the water, it was definitely a failure — failure at many levels. But what I’ve always appreciated from this governor, his mantra always was ‘no credit, no blame.’ He says that doesn’t help anybody and that doesn’t move the ball forward, and that’s what we are trying to do here, move the ball forward.”
Snyder has proposed a total of $720 million over 10 years to be allocated to Detroit Public Schools to pay off debt in excess of $500 million.
Outman took issue with the funding of Detroit Public Schools.
“We have school districts, like here in Montcalm County, that have done the right thing, that have tightened their belts,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like it is happening down there in Detroit, and that’s not fair to us here in other parts of the state … it seems like our money continually goes to fix things in southeastern Michigan. It seems like we are rewarding the bad actors, paying the penalty for them.”
But Outman agreed that steps need to be taken to correct the situation in Detroit, stating that steps taken thus far, including the use of emergency managers, have not worked.
Just paying off the debt of $515 million alone is not enough,” he said. “We need to proverbially throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to start over.”
Emmons said her main concerns with the budget are making sure funding is allocated properly toward the issues Snyder has outlined.
“That was one of our concerns in the senate, nothing is more frustrating than pouring money in and not knowing where it’s going or how it’s being used,” she said. “We’ve made that a number one priority.”
U.S. Congressional Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, also spoke Monday, but on the subject of the national budget.
“The first three months of the year are really focused on the budget, and so we’re in the process right now of developing our budget, which we hope to have passed in the House and the Senate by the springtime,” he said. “That kicks off the appropriations process, which actually funds the priorities within the budget.”
Moolenaar did not go into detail about which issues are at the forefront of the budget, but said that issues such as it being an election year and a vacancy on the Supreme Court would likely make things more difficult.
“The president will likely nominate and the Senate will consider a nominee for Supreme Court, and that could actually change the dynamics of Congress this year very much because those are very political, divisive situations,” he said. “It’s also a presidential year, which also has an impact on the legislative process … my hope is that we go through a process where we get the budget done in the spring, and have put on the president’s desk 12 different appropriations bills so that we have better priorities and spending throughout our government.”