State Budget Deal Leaves Billions Unspent in Pandemic Year

Gov. Whitmer says she “can’t explain” why state lawmakers continue to refuse to allocate $10 billion in federal aid and state revenue.

Michigan State Capitol

Michigan State Capitol building.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers have agreed to a budget deal after months of negotiations. The GOP-controlled state Legislature gave the budget bills final passage last week. They are now on the governor’s desk.

Democrats and Republicans alike have hailed the budget as a bipartisan effort that both balances the state’s books while making big investments in roads and bridges, child care and other areas of high need.

But that budget is also going to leave quite a bit of money on the table — about $10 billion. While Whitmer calls the budget overall a “great step,” she’s not happy that so many billions of dollars are going unspent.

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“I can’t explain it to you,” Whitmer told WDET’s Stephen Henderson at last week’s 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference. “I’ve been trying to get the Legislature to spend these dollars and focus on things like affordable housing and skills training. I think we’ve got an incredible opportunity and we cannot falter here.”

According to Gongwer Michigan, “Besides the $2.86 billion in state revenues still on the balance sheet, there remains $5.77 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) state fiscal recovery funds available to spend now, as well as $2.1 billion in ARPA funds that are earmarked for specific purposes.”

Those ARPA federal dollars were given to the state as aid from the economic downfall the pandemic has caused. This is money that the governor and legislature have been fighting over for awhile.

Related: Mackinac Policy Conference 2021: Whitmer Says She’ll Sign Budget Deal But Criticizes Lawmakers Over Unspent Billions

The governor and legislature have had two main beefs: that Whitmer was over-regulating during the pandemic and overstepping her powers and whether to spend all this federal money.

Whitmer says she’s feeling confident that they’ll be able to spend at least some of that money through supplemental budget bills this year, and talks are ongoing with legislative leaders.

More from MichMash:

What We’re Learning As Michigan Redistricting Commission’s First Political Maps Take Shape

Mask Mandates, Vaccines and Virtual Learning: Schools Forced to Make Tough Decisions in New School Year

Amazon’s Expanding Michigan Footprint Is Good News Only If Workers Can Unionize, Levin Says

Michigan’s Petition Initiative Process Is A Mess

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.