Feb. 12 | This Week in Government: Pandemic Recovery Key to Proposed State BudgetFebruary 12, 2021
- Mostly Flat Budget Sees Focus on Investments Addressing Pandemic
- LEO Budget Seeks To Tackle Slew Of Pandemic-Caused Economic Issues
- House Panel Takes Up Bipartisan Election Law Changes
- Bureau of Elections Officially Investigating Weiser Allegations
- Senate GOP Supplemental Contains $2B, No Education Ultimatum
People and some of the organizations facing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic are the prime beneficiaries of the one-time revenue surplus Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposes spending in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget her administration unveiled Thursday.
Outside of those targeted investments, however, the budget is flat, with most areas seeing a 2% increase, just slightly above inflation, at most. With a relatively restrained budget, the reaction was restrained as well from Republicans and interest groups other than those stakeholders standing to benefit from the surplus. Democrats rallied to the budget proposed by the Governor.
Gov. Whitmer said this budget is about getting the fundamentals right with the revenues available. Of the new General Fund spending, $593 million is labeled one time, meaning it is not considered built into the base of the budget and cannot be presumed funded for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
“It’s the realities of the moment that we’re in,” Gov. Whitmer told reporters when asked about the contrast between a handful of programs getting big increases and most of the budget seeing small ones. “We wanted to prioritize and really stay laser-focused on the things that we need to do to help get our state through this tough time and get our economy back on track. We’ve really been disciplined about staying focused in those spaces, and I think and hope that by doing so we will see there is some common ground there and people recognize this is for the health of our Michigan economy and the Michigan people and the children of Michigan.”
The state had a $3.31 billion balance in state revenues at the close of the 2019-20 fiscal year. It spent $243 million in PA 257 of 2020, a supplemental passed in December. Gov. Whitmer has proposed spending $574 million in money from the General and School Aid funds in her COVID relief supplemental and then Thursday proposed new supplementals spending $1 billion. Subtracting all of that, plus a proposed $175 transfer to the Budget Stabilization Fund, that leaves a $1.3 billion balance ($1 billion in the General Fund, $307 million in the School Aid Fund) available for the upcoming fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The concern appears for the 2022-23 fiscal year when the one-time monies and federal COVID-19 aid will presumably be gone. Among the pressures building on the state that year is the possibility of an income tax reduction based on a mechanism built into the 2015 road funding plan.
While all budgets are only good for a single fiscal year, Gov. Whitmer made it clear that at this point the new spending would be for the 2021-22 fiscal year only. Underscoring the cautiousness of this budget was that the 2% increase for the state’s 15 public universities was labeled one-time instead of ongoing.
And Gov. Whitmer is proposing no major ongoing new programs in a budget that stands at $67.1 billion total ($11.4 billion General Fund). There are few reductions of note in the budget with a cut to cyber charter schools and the full-year recognition of the Detroit Reentry Center closure recognized.
“100%, it’s an inflationary budget and that’s the constraints of the revenue that we have,” Budget Director Dave Massaron told reporters.
Among the budget areas seeing a 2% increase:
- Those school districts currently receiving the minimum per-pupil foundation grant (a total cost of $203 million);
- Funds for school districts with at-risk students, English language learners, special education students, and students in rural and isolated districts;
- Statutory revenue sharing payments to cities, townships, villages, and counties (cities, townships, and villages will see an additional 1.8% increase in their constitutionally earmarked revenue sharing funds); and
- The state’s 15 public universities and 28 community colleges.
But because of the targeted, one-time increases, General Fund spending would rise by 7.5% over the current fiscal year.
In the Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s largest budget area at $31.5 billion ($5.2 billion General Fund), Gov. Whitmer proposed a couple significant increases: $360 million more ($121.4 million General Fund) to make permanent the $2 per hour increase in wages to direct care workers. Gov. Whitmer already in a supplemental 2020-21 fiscal year proposal asked the Legislature for $110 million ($43.1 million General Fund) to extend the raise for the remainder of this fiscal year.
The Governor also proposes a $37.5 million increase ($9 million General Fund) for Medicaid payments to nursing care facilities.
Gov. Whitmer proposes a substantial increase in two programs to increase tuition-free post-secondary education options. The budget contains $192.4 million General Fund toward reaching the Governor’s goal of 60% of the state having a post-secondary degree or industry credential by 2030.
There would be a $120 million increase for the Michigan Reconnect program, designed to cover both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 fiscal year cost of expanding the program that covers tuition for those 25 and older at a community college, and $60.4 million for the new Futures for Frontliners program that covers tuition for pandemic essential workers. There’s another $12 million to cover child care, tutoring, and career counseling for participants in these programs.
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy also would see a number of spending increases to support clean water.
In the K-12 school aid budget, there would be $200 million to districts who have seen enrollment declines during the pandemic. There also would be a $145.4 million increase in the state’s contribution for teacher retirement benefits and a $32.2 million increase for state-funded preschool programs. The Governor said it is the first per student increase since 2014 and brings preschool funding to $8,275 per pupil, on par with the Governor’s proposed minimum foundation allowance for K-12 students.
One of the new programs in the governor’s budget is $250 million for student recovery services to help students recover academically, physically, and mentally in the wake of the pandemic.
In maybe the biggest surprise of the budget, there’s $300 million General Fund to pay for locally owned bridge repairs and replacement on 120 structures as part of the governor’s 2020-21 supplemental budget request. Gov. Whitmer has long slammed the use of General Fund to pay for road needs. It was a similar proposal from legislative Republicans that blew up the 2019-20 budget process.
Gov. Whitmer’s proposal to spend $360 million over three fiscal years to increase eligibility for workers the state’s child care program from 150% of the federal poverty level to 200% is a good example of the spending cliff the 2021-22 fiscal year would represent. Under the Governor’s 2020-21 supplemental, there would be $157.5 million for child care programs in the current fiscal year. That would hold relatively steady in 2021-22 at $156.8 million. But then for the 2022-23 fiscal year, spending would drop to $45.6 million.
Gov. Whitmer was asked about all this investment drying up after one year and the impact that would have.
“We are still in the midst of this global pandemic and economic crisis that is related to it, caused by it frankly, and as we look to reengage in our economy, we utilized dollars that are one time for investments that will really help us get our economy back on track and get people back to work and give people the ability to get the skills that lead them to better and more recession-proof jobs,” she said. “That was our philosophy as we built this budget. We are mindful that there is some one-time funding in here, but this is also a unique moment where we’ve got to really be focused on reengaging our economy and child care is an important part of what’s going on with women leaving the workforce right now and what families are struggling with and what employers need solved as well. Would we like a long-term solution in that space? Absolutely. Do we welcome partnership to design that? Absolutely as well.”
The reaction from several quarters was muted. Randy Liepa, superintendent of the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency, credited Gov. Whitmer and legislators with avoiding cuts so far to schools but seemed tepid about Gov. Whitmer’s proposal in a statement on behalf of the School Finance Research Collaborative, which has recommended fundamental changes to school funding.
Gov. Whitmer sought to make some of those changes in her first budget, but not this time.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on the huge inequities and lack of fairness in Michigan’s school funding approach as students face new academic, emotional and physical challenges,” he said in a statement. “It has never been more important for Governor Whitmer and lawmakers from both parties to heed the SFRC’s research, which provides the roadmap for serving the unique, individual needs of all students, regardless of their circumstances. We would like to see these investments in next year’s budget.”
The two legislative Appropriations chairs took different tacks in their response. Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Senate Republicans would continue to prioritize families and struggling small businesses, increasing COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution, and rebuild the economy.
“I support closing the gap in school funding, investing in our local infrastructure, and depositing additional resources into the budget stabilization fund, but the devil is in the details on how to make it work. I am very concerned about the significant growth in spending and how we will pay for it in the long term when we run out of the one-time federal funding,” he said in a statement. “Despite our differences, we have many of the same budget goals, and I look forward to working with the governor and our legislative colleagues to find common ground on a responsible spending plan that helps improve our state and the lives of our people.”
Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, however, issued a more combative statement in which he seemed disinclined to work with the Whitmer administration.
“I look forward to reviewing the governor’s recommended budget and affording her as much input as she has afforded the people of Michigan during this pandemic,” he said.
He did say though that he was pleased Gov. Whitmer’s recommendation acknowledges the House supplemental’s funding to help students recover learning lost during the pandemic but called for doing more to get children back into classrooms.
“There will be common themes between the Governor’s recommendation and our developing proposal – and there will also be sharp differences,” he said. “We must remember that state tax revenues are declining sharply – our finances are propped up by artificial and temporary federal COVID relief. It’s not sustainable.”
Overall, Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, praised the approach of the budget though she too called for more in K-12.
“We appreciate Governor Whitmer’s continued commitment to promoting equity for all residents in the state’s approaches, policies, and funding priorities, including in today’s 2022 budget proposal,” she said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare longstanding health disparities, and the Governor continues to call for targeted and strategic investments to help improve the experiences and outcomes of all residents. Education continues to be a top and necessary priority, with major investments proposed in child care and preschool, K-12 schools, and higher education and skills training for adults and frontline workers.”
LEO Budget Seeks To Tackle Slew Of Pandemic-Caused Economic Issues
Additional dollars for pandemic recovery, post-secondary credential acquisition, affordable housing, and child care are some of the bigger issues addressed in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget, which would see the agency receive a more than 12% increase in funding from the year prior.
As proposed, LEO’s budget is $1.8 billion ($421.1 million General Fund) which is a $204.3 million increase from the year prior ($228.3 million General Fund, or 118.4%). The increase is mostly made up of one-time funding proposals.
State Budget Director Dave Massaron during a presentation to lawmakers said there was a “need to make strategic investments” due to the level of economic pain Michigan has incurred because of the pandemic. Among those investments are the Michigan Reconnect program, Futures for Frontliners, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Going Pro initiative.
Each of these programs, along with several others, would receive one-time funding investments in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, cumulatively totaling $221.3 million, all General Fund.
A total of $1.2 billion in new funding for the department would go toward programs helping people and businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic between fiscal years 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Of this amount, $661 million would go toward emergency rental assistance; $235 million toward economic recovery programs; $192 million toward the Michigan Reconnect and the Futures for Frontliners programs; $27 million toward the Going Pro initiative and workforce development; $25 million toward the state’s Mobility Futures program; and $15 million toward addressing affordable housing, child care, and poverty.
Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores), chair of the House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee, said that while a deep dive of the budget is still pending there are shared similarities between the governor’s budget and what Republicans are pushing for.
But his initial concern lay with whether funding needed to go into new programs pitched by the governor in her budget, or if money could be routed through existing programs to aid struggling Michiganders. There was, however, nothing that initially jumped out at him as being overly or underfunded within the governor’s proposed budget.
“We’ll be looking at the budget in detail and be coming out with our own budget, as well,” he said.
FUNDING THE 60 BY 30 PUSH: The 60 by 30 initiative – looking to get 60% of Michigan’s adult age population a post-secondary degree or skills certificate by 2030 – would receive $192.4 million in general funds. Of that money, one-time funding includes $120 million for Reconnect, providing tuition-free training for students older than 25 toward receiving a credential, certificate, or associate degree.
Another $60.4 million would go toward Futures for Frontliners to provide frontline workers with a tuition-free pathway to a degree or certificate, as a thank you to work done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Of this funding $25 million would support an expansion of the program for frontline employees who became newly unemployed between Nov. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, in industries disproportionately impacted by the virus.
A portion of this funding, $21.3 million, is recommended in the fiscal year 2021 supplemental to support the existing population of frontliners in the program and expand the opportunity as quickly as possible.
Also as part of funding for 60 by 30 goal, $12 million would go toward Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners wraparound services, all of which is General Fund dollars. This money would go toward supporting single parents enrolled in either program, with customized services aimed at leading a participant to completion. Within this $12 million in funding, $6 million was included as part of the COVID Recovery plan supplemental in fiscal year 2021, with the other $6 million recommended for fiscal year 2021-22.
These supports include things such as child care, tutoring, and career counseling.
Gilda Jacobs, Michigan League for Public Policy president and CEO, said in a statement Thursday that the funding being put toward initiatives like Going Pro or Futures for Frontliners gives residents the chance to better themselves.
“As much talk as there is about talent attraction and retention, policymakers must not overlook the potential our existing workforce has. They just need a chance,” she said. “And these programs not only offer workers a chance at a better opportunity, but a boost toward making it a reality by reducing and eliminating the overwhelming costs of a college degree, trade certification or skills training.”
MORE MONEY FOR MOBILITY: The budget proposal also allots for $47.3 million in workforce development and the Mobility Futures initiative, aimed at closing the skills gap employers in Michigan are facing and for funding emerging mobility platforms.
Of this money, Mobility Futures would see $25 million of General Fund go toward supporting a statewide collaboration between LEO, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on initiatives addressing environmental sustainability, connected and autonomous vehicle deployment, the alleviation of systemic mobility inequities in underserved communities and more.
Business Leaders for Michigan president and CEO Jeff Donofrio, who also served as the former head of LEO, praised the additional mobility funding in a statement Thursday.
“With COVID accelerating what was already a changing landscape for jobs and mobility, it is critical that we provide a strong educational foundation, ability to upskill throughout life and keeps us in the lead on future mobility,” he said. “Plans released by legislative leaders have addressed many of these critical areas as well, and we look forward to working with the administration and legislative leadership to move our state forward.”
Another $15 million in funding would go toward MEDC’s Going Pro program to further expand employer-based training grants, bringing the total funding for the program to $43.7 million in fiscal year 2021-22.
A statewide pre-apprenticeship program, aimed at expanding the state’s talent pool for the construction and building trades, would see $3 million under these efforts. Another $1 million for Focus: HOPE, all General Fund, was also proposed in the effort to support workforce and youth development, as well as community empowerment and advocacy programs.
Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement Thursday that funding toward Focus: HOPE will be “an integral part of getting people back to work on the path to financial stability.”
“The amount of value Focus: HOPE brings to our community is unparalleled when we look at the opportunities for job training, youth development, food for seniors, and advocacy for leadership, antiracism, and race equity that this program can provide,” he said.
Additionally, $3.3 million is slated for the modernization of the One-Stop Information Management System which will replace the current 20-year-old system with a customer-centered, case management system for the state’s workforce development system. This would be funded from the Information Technology Investment Fund within the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.
ADDRESSING HOUSING, CHILD CARE NEEDS: A total of $15.5 million in General Fund would go toward addressing the critical needs faced by state residents living in poverty. Of this money $10 million, General Fund, would go to the Michigan Housing and Community Development Program to alleviate the affordable housing needs across the state and revitalize downtowns across the state.
This funding comes in addition to the $660.9 million of federal funds recommended in the fiscal year 2020-21 supplemental, which provides emergency rental and utility payment assistance.
In questions from lawmakers later in the presentation, Massaron stressed that “acting quickly and passing the supplemental is extremely important to the economy overall.”
“We have $560 million or so of rental assistance money, and as you all are probably aware, there’s limitations for landlords on evictions. …There are tenants that are struggling because of the impacts of the pandemic,” he said. “That money is sitting in a bank account. A number of providers across the state are out of rental assistance funding. They have none. That means landlords, banks, individuals’ utilities are all being hurt – and the money is sitting in a bank account, not being spent.”
Another portion of the $15.5 million in funds – $2.2 million, all General Fund – would go toward a pilot project called the Child Care Facilitator, in continuation of an ongoing state effort to increase access to high quality and affordable child care.
The pandemic, Massaron added, has disproportionately affected women as they are typically seen as the primary caretaker in a household.
“In that sense, we believe a substantial investment in child care is really important,” he said.
A further $2 million, again all General Fund, would go toward a child savings accounts initiative which would support organizations that advance these accounts to improve financial literacy, build wealth in low-income families and boost educational attainment for low-income children. These funds would also be used to support two pilot programs in a rural and urban community that use these funds to match outside contributions to child savings accounts.
And also addressing poverty, $1 million in General Fund would go toward the Michigan Poverty Task Force to conduct research and planning to lead the way toward improving the effectiveness of the state’s benefit programs. This money would also help the task force address barriers limiting an individual’s ability to access these programs.
ADDITIONAL FUNDS: In baseline adjustments for the 2021-22 fiscal year, $336.8 million in gross funding would go toward the executive organization of transferring the Women’s Commission from under the jurisdiction of the Department of Civil Rights to LEO. Settlement debt service for the city of Flint would also see $35 million in gross funding.
Another $2.1 million would go toward the State Historic Preservation Office, which would be an appropriation of a new revenue stream from recently passed legislation, completing a technical cleanup stemming from Executive Order No. 2019-13. A little more than $1.1 million of gross funds would go toward aligning authority with revenue collections for the state’s Brownfield Redevelopment Fund.
LEO would also see a reduction of $2.1 million ($180.6 million General Fund) for employee-related payroll adjustments. Other technical adjustments for the department would cost $1.77 million ($78.1 million General Fund).
House Panel Takes Up Bipartisan Election Law Changes
The House Elections and Ethics Committee Tuesday heard testimony on legislation focused on improving absentee voter regulations and cleaning up the voter rolls, among other reforms.
In December 2019, the Office of the Auditor General released a Bureau of Elections audit bringing up some issues that some of the bills seek to address.
HB 4127 and HB 4128 would require the Department of State to remove from the qualified voter file voters who do not respond to a mailing notifying them they have “placeholder” birthdates in the QVF.
HB 4129 would require the agency to post on their website in odd-numbered years the names of clerks who have not completed required training.
Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) testified on behalf of those first three bills. She said if the department does not know a voter’s birthdate, it enters in the year 1900.
“The auditor general found that there were over 220 individuals who still had that birthdate of 1900,” Calley said. “HB 4128 deals with individuals who have not participated in our voting system since the year 2000, and in both cases, they are given two more general elections to respond and clarify they are indeed active voters in the state of Michigan.”
Adam Reames, legislative policy director for the Department of State, said finding the number of voters who did not participate in the previous election would be somewhat difficult.
“As far as the number of voters who have not participated since 2000, that’s a harder number to come up with. We have to do some significant programing work,” Reames said. “We are looking into it though. We’re hoping to find that stat soon.”
Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) asked Reames how much time the agency would need once the bill became law to begin sending out notices and obtaining that information. Reames said six months would be reasonable.
“Six months? That’s a lot (of time),” Johnson said. “You guys sent out absentee ballots to the whole state in a very short amount of time, so I think we can do under six months.”
Reames told Johnson that even if the agency got the voter cards out quickly, it would still have to go through two federal elections to properly update their numbers. However, if it confirmed a voter is deceased, it can immediately remove the individual from the QVF.
House Bill 4130 amends the timing for filing of lobbyists’ reports while HB 4131, amends the timing in the Campaign Finance Act for correction of errors and omissions in a filed campaign statement or report.
Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) testified for HB 4130. The bill would move both filing deadlines back by one month, moving the deadlines from Jan. 31 and Aug. 31 to Feb. 28 and Sept. 30, respectively.
“This helps with workflow since only four people handle thousands of reports,” Koleszar said. “And it makes it easier to meet deadlines for the Bureau of Elections.”
Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) testified on behalf of HB 4131. Sabo said the adjusting of the timing in the Campaign Finance Act would be beneficial for both the elections officials and candidates.
“It extends the timeline in two ways. Number one, for them to be reviewed by election officials,” Sabo said. “But also for the response of the candidates as well. So, it extends those timelines on both ends.”
HB 4132 and HB 4133 were also up in committee Tuesday.
Chair Ann Bollin (R-Brighton) testified on behalf of both bills. She said the bills would ensure absentee voter applications were sent to the correct address. HB 4132 would make it a felony to misrepresent information on an application. HB 4133 would add the sentencing guidelines.
“Many of these were delivered to households where the addressee no longer lived – some had moved away and others were deceased,” Bollin said of applications sent out in 2020. “Additionally, local clerks, political and advocacy groups also sent out AV applications, creating confusion and possible opportunity for fraudulent activities.”
Bollin also testified on HB 4134 and HB 4135. HB 4134 would increase the maximum number of electors allowed in a precinct from 2,999 to 5,000 beginning in 2022.
HB 4135 would amend the rules for establishing an absent voter counting board. Bollin, a former clerk herself, said these bills would be “another tool in the clerks’ toolboxes.”
Cards were submitted opposing certain bills, but they did not wish to speak. Alex Rossman with the Michigan League of Public Policy and Merissa Kovach with ACLU Michigan opposed HB 4132, HB 4133, and 4134.
The committee did not act on the bills.
Bureau of Elections Officially Investigating Weiser Allegations
Allegations against now-Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser – who was elected to a third non-consecutive term on Saturday – that he made improper payments to a secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018 are officially being investigated by the Bureau of Elections, a spokesperson for the state confirmed Monday.
Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow said the bureau is investigating a complaint submitted by former Chair Laura Cox.
Weiser was elected chair amid an 11th-hour push by Cox to convince delegates to reject his candidacy, alleging that Mr. Weiser had paid off a former candidate and another Republican operative to leave their respective races in 2017 and 2018 with more than $200,000 of the party’s money.
Weiser has called Cox’s claims “baseless” and a smear.
Alongside Weiser, Meshawn Maddock, a key force over the past several years in the party’s grassroots movement, was elected co-chair.
Shortly after his election, Weiser named political strategist Paul Cordes the new chief of staff for the party. A change in media contact for the MIGOP was also announced immediately following Saturday’s election.
“I could not be more excited for Paul to be a part of the dream team,” Weiser said in a statement. “He brings a breadth of grassroots and political experience, having worked with both the Michigan House and Senate Caucus, several County parties, and multiple Michigan statewide elected officials over the last several election cycles. We are committed to cutting edge tactics and new ways of doing things in the coming election cycle. As one of the sharpest young political minds in Michigan, Paul will be pivotal in this process, and to helping us win in 2022.”
Delegates voted Saturday for various leadership positions during the party’s state convention. A statement from Weiser said he and Maddock won with 66% of the vote. He also said that the next two years will be critical for the party.
“Our overwhelming victory today is just the beginning. The beginning of our road to victory in 2022. The beginning of a better, brighter future for our children, for our families. The beginning of unifying our party. The skirmishes of yesterday are over,” Weiser said in a statement. “Our focus now rests on the great challenges before us: Rebuilding our party. Defeating Whitmer, Nessel, Benson, and other far-left radicals. We must strengthen our House and Senate majorities. We must win back the Supreme Court and the Board of Education. The time is now to focus on the great challenges before us.
Weiser added: “We are unified by a common goal, a vital aspiration to improve our lives, our state, and our nation. To that end, Meshawn and I have assembled an extraordinary team. We have a tremendous plan. And we will win in 2022.”
Neither Cox, Maddock, Weiser, or outgoing party co-chair Terry Bowman presented stump speeches via video. However, Maddock in a video posted Saturday said Cox is trying to burn down the party on her way out and accused Cox of teaming up with Democrats and making “last-minute political hay, all out of spite.”
Aside from the video, Maddock did not release a separate statement following the announcement of her election.
In a tweet, Cox said it was a pleasure serving as chair over the past two years.
“It has been an honor to serve as @MIGOP Chairman these last two years. While I’m no longer leading the party, I will NEVER stop fighting for our conservative principles and what we stand for. Thank you, Michigan Republicans!” Cox wrote.
The 48 hours preceding the convention were a whirlwind for Michigan Republicans as allegations against Weiser swirled from Cox’s former office.
The stunning cascade of events included Cox accusing Weiser of paying off Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot to exit the secretary of state race in 2018.
Cox jumped back into the chair race last week but vowed if she won, she would immediately resign to let the Michigan Republican State Committee appoint a successor.
Weiser admitted he authorized $200,000 in payments over a period of months to Grot but insisted it was for work for the party, not to sway him to yield in the secretary of state race.
Cox then filed a complaint with the Bureau of Elections, setting the stage for departments overseen by two Democrats, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel, to open an investigation into Michigan Republican Party finances.
On Friday, Cox held a virtual and tele-town hall to further make her case, which yielded a mixed bag of support and condemnation.
The salvo against Weiser ultimately failed, leading to a two-to-one victory for both he and Maddock.
While it was initially unclear of how much support Weiser still had going into the weekend, the tea leaves pointing to Weiser’s victory came into focus at the outset of the convention. During an opening benediction, delegate Linda Lee Tarver, referenced blessings for “Chairman Weiser” before any votes had been cast.
It is possible Tarver’s portion was prerecorded prior to Cox’s reignition of her candidacy and her subsequent allegations.
Weiser and Maddock were nominated by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) and seconded by U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Township).
“With these two, we’re going to make Michigan red in 2022,” VanderWall said. “So, get out and support them and let’s take this state by storm.”
McClain spoke less about Maddock than she did Weiser, praising his fundraising abilities and his support for former President Donald Trump.
“Ambassador Weiser has had a great business career, is a solid conservative, a prolific fundraiser and has been a strong supporter of President Trump,” she said. “He is best suited to lead us and unify us, he will lead our party to victory in 2022.”
The nominating speeches for Weiser and Maddock were not the only callbacks to Trump, as many of the nominating and stump speeches throughout the day made mention of his debunked claims of voter fraud and the need for future election integrity.
At one point, Dana Whitehead, who lost her race for outreach vice chair, said in her stump speech that her hometown of Flint became destitute solely due to Democratic Party leadership over the years and that one of her main goals would be to try and convert Democrats of the Christian faith to “make them aware of what their party stands for, what their party’s policies are, that they booed God at their convention and took God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.”
“If we could educate all the Christians on what’s happening with this party, that 14 percent of them voted for … This is not about Democrats and Republicans, this is about good versus evil,” she said. “That’s what we’re seeing right now. I will unite those Christians and we won’t lose.”
In another stump speech, Tami Carlone, who was elected Saturday as the party’s coalitions vice chair, said that she believed Democrats in the state would eventually “flee the crazy Biden-Harris ship,” and instead flock to the Michigan Republican Party.
Carlone also said she was refusing to concede in her unsuccessful bid for an at-large seat on the State Board of Education in the 2020 election, saying that she won statewide, but her election was stolen from her, “in our 83rd County, in the wee hours of the morning.”
She later made a mention of the audit of results in Antrim County, which became the subject of controversy among Trump and his supporters over tabulation errors that were later determined not to be the product of election fraud but rather human error.
Those errors were quickly corrected.
Other candidates elected to various party posts include Paul Stephens, elected as youth vice chair; Marian Sheridan, elected as grassroots vice chair; and Diane Schindlbeck, elected as administrative vice chair; Ty Bundy as outreach vice chair; and Bernadette Smith as ethnic vice chair.
Senate GOP Supplemental Contains $2B, No Education Ultimatum
Senate Republicans introduced a $2 billion supplemental coronavirus response appropriations proposal Tuesday, with funding being directed to schools, grants for businesses, pay increases for front line workers, and vaccination efforts, among other priorities.
The Senate plan calls for a $450 per pupil increase for schools to address impacts of long-term school closures as well as funding for summer schools, mental health services, and student assessments. The education piece of the supplemental was about $1 billion.
No ultimatum was included in the bill to provide funding to schools on the condition that local health departments rather than the state would be able to close school or pause school sporting events. The House last week passed legislation that included such a provision.
Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), who introduced the supplemental appropriations contained in SB 114, said in a statement the proposal targets primary needs to address the pandemic and undo what he called damage done by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration in business closures and emergency orders.
“This plan is responsive and responsible. It helps meet the dire needs facing our state and our people while also being smart in how we spend federal assistance dollars,” Stamas said. “Instead of issuing a blank check for the governor to use without a detailed plan, our plan funds our state’s most pressing needs and saves potential additional resources so we can continue to assess the situation and have the ability to respond to problems as they arise.”
Stamas later said in a Tuesday afternoon interview about $650 million of the education funding is federal Title I funding another $153 million is federal funding that has more flexibility in how it is spent and another $130 million is from the state School Aid Fund.
A total of $547.58 million, with all but $60 million in General Fund being federal funds, would be provided to the Department of Health and Human Services under the Senate proposal.
Under SB 114 there is $110 million in federal funds included for vaccination efforts from the federal COVID Immunization and Coronavirus Vaccine Grant Reserve Fund.
Of this total, about $36.75 million was authorized to be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to support local health departments and other health care providers.
The remaining funds would not be spent unless there is a legislative transfer request made by the State Budget Office.
Prior to issuing a request, DHHS would be required to provide a report to appropriators in both chambers and their respective fiscal agencies and the SBO on how the funds would be spent.
Gov. Whitmer later Tuesday criticized the approach from legislative Republicans not to immediately appropriate all federal COVID funds.
If the state starts to falter in vaccine distribution, she said, suppliers might not provide the state with as many vaccines. Gov. Whitmer added that she could not say when that issue would hit critical mass.
“Other states are deploying these resources to support their children, to support businesses that are struggling, to roll out their vaccine distribution. Michigan is sitting on them, and it’s because we’re waiting for the Legislature to appropriate these dollars,” she said. “The quicker that it happens in full, the better we can support the incredible progress that we’ve made as a state. Meting it out in tranches, if you will, is foolish because it undermines our ability to keep Michigan at the top of the list for the supply chain as we are addressing COVID-19 needs. I’m not sure that maybe that aspect is really appreciated. I know that the Legislature is trying to do a good job, that they say they want to accomplish the same goals that we have. We just need to get these resources deployed.”
The bill also calls for a pay increase to direct care workers of $2.25 per hour from March 1 through June 30. Direct care workers were defined as “a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, competency evaluated nursing assistance and respiratory therapist.”
Total funding for direct care workers would be $170 million in federal funds.
Another $75 million from the federal COVID-19 Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant Reserve Fund would be provided to school districts, public school academies, intermediate school districts, and nonpublic schools for grants.
More than $25 million was also provided in federal funding for substance abuse prevention efforts and mental health services.
For the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, $220.3 million in federal funding is recommended for emergency rental and utility assistance, and $150 million General Fund is included for the Michigan Unemployment Compensation Fund.
Senate Republicans also included $350 million General Fund for the Department of Treasury.
Of this, $300 million was for the creation and operation of a property tax relief program for businesses in the state impacted by the pandemic in the form of grants. Several provisions are outlined on how to disburse grants based on the size and type of qualified business.
Out of the remaining $50 million, the funds would be split between three different items for grants.
A total of $22 million would be set aside for grants for food service establishment grants, $16.5 million for on-premises retail liquor establishment grants, and the final $11.5 million for relief of inspection fee grants for licensees across the state.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement he believed lawmakers can do much more than what was contained in SB 114.
“We have $5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government ready to go to support Michigan’s families,” Ananich said. “To withhold more than half of that is unnecessary. Senate Democrats don’t want one dollar of the relief funding to go to waste or to go unused, which is why our plan makes sure we utilize as much of it as possible before it gets caught up in Lansing’s political budget games.”