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.