Skubick: Fate of $18 billion in federal aid uncertain as Whitmer, GOP leaders can’t sing same tune

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – If the Democratic governor and GOP legislature can find a way to cooperate, the state will be spending upwards of $18 billion in federal assistance for schools, infrastructure and new jobs, but it seems the two sides are not singing the same song.

On the table: $3.9 billion from Washington for Michigan schools, $4.4 billion for local governments, (including funds for public safety and other local needs,) and $5.7 billion for the state government.

Governor Whitmer outlined how some of the money would be allocated in a press release.

“Several key priority areas for investment that have sustainable and long-term benefits include job creation, infrastructure, access to health care, and children and their education, which could involve: 

  • Grant programs for small businesses to keep our main streets vibrant and our communities resilient, support for Michigan’s community development financial institutions (CDFI) to compliment the traditional lenders supporting businesses through Paycheck Protection Program loans, and creation of a small business accelerator to provide startup capital and support for entrepreneurs.  
  • Business attraction efforts to invest in future technologies, mobility, and advanced vehicle technology research & development is also important. Investing in workforce opportunity and talent retention will also help transorm the state.  
  • Addressing the long-term neglect of our infrastructure to help provide all Michiganders access to clean drinking water, broadband, public green space, climate resilient dams and local infrastructure, and a clean environment.  
  • Using lessons learned this past year to fuel investment in improved public health capacity, expanded access to behavioral health supports, additional services to the aging and expanded options to age in place, and redesigned and integrated access to state benefits. 
  • Making long-term investments in our children and the next generation, including expanding access to preschool and childcare, addressing pandemic learning loss, creating out of school learning opportunities, providing wraparound supports for mental health and social-emotional wellbeing, creating safe learning environments, and providing incentives to improve teacher recruitment and retention efforts.”

“Michiganders expect and deserve state leaders to work together to ensure the spending of the federal funds is done in a way that transforms Michigan into a better place and helps our residents and businesses,“ said State Budget Director David Massaron in a press release.

For over a month the governor has been singing the same old song to the GOP legislature. “Let’s work together.” A song that has so far fallen on deaf ears.

“I want to keep singing it because I want to get stuff done and I want to find common ground,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“And I know we can be stronger if we do that, so lets turn it from a solo into a duet.”

Normally with 18 billion dollars to spend, the governor would decide where every dollar would go and then ask lawmakers to pass it or change it.

But, the Governor is taking a different tact, she is outlining her values and asking the two GOP leaders Shirkey and Wentworth to help her decide specific buckets for the money.

“Get the politics out of this. I don’t know if that is feasible. I think it’s possible. I really do, and that’s why instead of putting together a full proposal, I wanted to set forth what are values are and invite the legislature to the table,” said Whitmer

When Skubick asked if an agreement had been made, Whitmer responded “Well , Tim, we’ve had a lot of conversations at this juncture.”

But you know what they say about talk.

What the governor needs is talk that produces GOP votes for her values with the clock ticking.

“We don’t have unlimited time here. Time is important. It is crucial that we get to work and do that.”

so far Whitmer and GOP leaders have not been singing the same song, but with $18 billion riding on the outcome, maybe they can harmonize over that on behalf of Michigan residents.  

Maybe.

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