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Budget Surplus Gives Michigan an Opportunity to Invest in a Brighter Future

January 27, 2022 |

State of the State is usually a night like no other at Michigan’s capitol. 

Under normal circumstances, both bodies of the legislature convene jointly in the House chamber, with invited poohbas and various VIPs from the ranks of business and local government. The governor and her family are led into the room by a select handful of legislators, and she then addresses the state in a televised broadcast of her policy priorities for the year and highlights of the past year’s achievements. 

The highly choreographed and scripted event comes with about as much pomp and ceremony as we can expect to see in our fair republic. In normal years, it is the high water mark of Lansing’s entertainment calendar. As a House staffer in various capacities, I never missed one between 2004 and 2014.

Lansing’s big annual show, however, was far more muted this year. The 2022 event, held on the 185th anniversary of Michigan’s statehood, was a solemn and cautious one.

Solemn, in recognition of the tragic events at Oxford High School in Oakland County. And cautious, as the Omicron variant runs its course through our elected representatives and the executive branch. Governor Whitmer wisely opted for a virtual event, instead of cramming 300+ guests and dignitaries into a chamber and gallery that usually holds less than half that many.

Fresh on the heels of LG and GM’s massive $7+ billion dollar investment in a Lansing-area battery plant and other electric vehicle operations, Governor Whitmer has exciting economic development success to tout as she carefully positions herself in an election year.

A year ago, when I wrote my Groundwork 2021 State of the State summary, I somewhat cynically mused: “After this Annus Horribilis, we are all looking forward to an Annus Mirabilis.” And in the budget sense, something amazing did in fact happen. State tax receipts have offered a huge bright spot, exceeding anyone’s wildest expectations. With the treasury being flush, state appropriators will have the means to craft a state budget without the need to slash state departments and services in order to have a balanced budget, which is required by law. Fears of Michigan sliding back into a devastating recession like we experienced in the 2000s have been assuaged. For now.

In her fourth State of the State address, Gov. Whitmer assertively stated her administration’s case for reelection by highlighting milestones such as:

  • Repairing, rebuilding, or rehabbing over 13,000 lane miles of road and over 900 bridges, supporting nearly 82,000 jobs.
  • Proposed restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), potentially offering families tax savings of up to $3,000.
  • Prescription drugs affordability.
  • Proposed $2,500 electric vehicle rebate for families—$2,000 for the car and $500 for in-home charging equipment, building on the $7,500 federal electric vehicle credit.

Governor Whitmer also teased what she referred to as “the biggest state education funding increase in more than 20 years.” We will find out more about that when she presents her executive budget recommendation for FY 22-23 to the legislature in February.

And in a manner reflecting the convivial and festive spirit of State of the State festivities from years gone by, a Whitmer-aligned nonprofit provided a select few supporters with a margarita kit from Petoskey-based American Spoon

It is certainly relieving to know that Michigan is standing on sound financial footing at a time when it’s most needed. At Groundwork, we will be advocating to see continued full funding of the 10 Cents a Meal program to better ensure all Michigan’s children have the nutrition they need to learn and grow; funding for planning and launch of A2TC Passenger Rail Project; dollars to help speed deployment of clean energy infrastructure; and investment to strengthen Michigan’s health, farm families, and food supply by expanding our local food economy.

Full disclosure, I’m a Lansing-based, dyed-in-the-wool creature of the legislature, and with 2022 being a huge election year—congressional seats, the state legislature, statewide offices including governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all up for grabs—you can rest assured that I will keep abreast of the state budget process, legislative affairs and advocacy opportunities as they arise. And I’ll be sharing the Groundwork perspective along the way. 

This is going to be as busy a political year as we have ever likely seen in Michigan since the adoption of our current state constitution in 1963, so stay tuned! 

Nathan Medina

Nathan Medina is Groundwork’s Lansing-based policy specialist.

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