Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed 147 line-items to pass state budget on Sept. 30. | Flickr

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state leg­is­lature passed a budget during the final hours of Sept. 30 to avoid a gov­ernment shutdown, but Whitmer vetoed 147 line-items from the budget pro­posed by Repub­licans, resulting in almost $1 billion in cuts. 

According to James Hohman of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the budget that the Repub­licans sub­mitted was meant to fund budget pri­or­ities without raising taxes. The Repub­licans specif­i­cally wanted to avoid a 45-cent gas tax pushed by Whitmer. 

“Leg­is­lators were able to fund 99% of what the gov­ernor rec­om­mended in school funding, and 93% of what she rec­om­mended in trans­portation funding,”  Hohman said. 

Rep. Eric Leutheuser of Hillsdale and Branch counties said the gas tax was meant to fund a “wish list” of pro­grams that were too expensive to be included in the budget. However, increased gasoline prices would have dis­pro­por­tion­ately impacted people living in rural areas, who often drive long dis­tances to get to work, Leutheuser added.

“When we did this budget, we had record amounts of spending for schools, record amounts of spending for roads,” Leutheuser said prior to the budget approval. “These are very good budgets. We think they address people’s pri­or­ities, and we’re doing it within our means.” 

Whitmer did not express the same con­cerns as her Repub­lican col­leagues. Despite the fact that edu­cation is one of Whitmer’s pri­or­ities, she made cuts which included a $38 million decrease in higher edu­cation tuition grants and vetoed a $35 million allowance for charter schools. 

Whitmer cited that these cuts in edu­cation were made “to protect … classroom spending for our children,” according to a press release pub­lished on Sept. 30 from the Office of Gov. Whitmer. 

The press release said Whitmer vetoed $128 million in school aid funding that she claimed was “pork barrel” spending, or money that was going to private com­panies rather than class­rooms.

Leutheuser said the money was meant to be spent on things like lit­eracy coaching and special edu­cation. 

“We were padding money for lit­eracy coaches because lit­eracy is truly a big indi­cator for success,” Leutheuser said. “Local school dis­tricts des­per­ately need special edu­cation.”

As for Whitmer’s other vetoes, “some of them are ques­tionable,” Hohman said. “She ran on more road funding, and then vetoed more road funding.”

Although these cuts may seem drastic, Hohman took an opti­mistic view. 

“The items vetoed by Whitmer are really a very small part,”  he said. “She only vetoed 1.6% of the budget.”

As for the $1 billion decrease in spending, Hohman said that the number should be viewed in com­parison to the total yearly budget, which is $550.7 billion. 

Hohman said he doesn’t think it’s likely that Repub­licans will try to rene­go­tiate. 

“There’s not a good impetus to make the thou­sands of deci­sions that are nec­essary in order to com­promise on a budget,” he said. “Since we have an ongoing budget and the deadline has passed, there’s a sense of urgency. The time to com­promise has van­ished.”

At the end of the day, the budget will still increase by $543 million this year in spite of Whitmer’s cuts, Hohman added. 

“Vetoing the spending doesn’t mean vetoing rev­enues,” he added. “They can still decide how they want to spend those in the future.”