Michigan In Budget Crisis, Whitmer Calls On Federal Government For Help

WWJ News
May 28, 2020 - 6:18 pm

    (WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan needs help, and fast, in the form of a federal bailout. 

    With massive budget shortfalls looming because of the virus crisis, the governor said she wants to protect K-12 schools from funding cuts.

    According to state budget director Chris Kolb, there's no way to complete the next budget by a July deadline, and Michigan will lose around $6.3 billion in anticipated state revenues this fiscal year and the next.

    Whitmer said it's her hope that Congress will soon approve another round of funding for states to help avoid steep spending cuts during the pandemic. Along with more money, she said more flexibility with that money is also needed. 

    "Michigan is not alone. States across the country are facing budget challenges due to COVID-19," the governor said, at a COVID-19 press briefing Thursday. "I'm hoping that President Trump and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell will do the right thing."

    Whitmer said she's eager to put political rivalries aside to work with state Republicans to help secure the federal funding Michigan needs. 

    "I know that we have shared priorities when it comes to protecting the people of our state," she said. "And the vast majority of these issues are not partisan in nature."

    Along with protecting funding for school classrooms and literacy, she said budget priorities also include: 

    • Funding for police and fire services
    • Worker protections
    • Hazard pay for first responders
    • Extending unemployment benefits
    • Funding the COVID-19 office of Worker Safety
    • Funding vaccine research at Michigan research universities
    • Rebuilding the Michigan bonding program to start fixing state roads right now and keep drivers safe
    • Paid sick and family leave

    Kolb said that with General Fund that has been flat for more than 20 years, there's very little left to cut from state government without impacting essential and critical services and programs. 

    “The numbers announced today clearly show that the COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on state revenues and they present enormous challenges for the state budget…The bottom line is, if we’re going to save lives and provide critical services to Michiganders throughout this crisis, we’re going to need flexibility and support from the federal government."

    Kolb said he believes legislative leaders agree this is an "unprecedented challenge unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime," adding. "We will need to work together and find common ground to solve the budget challenges in front of us."

    In other news from the state on Thursday: the health department says at least 1,216 residents of nursing homes have died from the coronavirus, nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths.

    This afternoon, officials announced 406 new cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, and 38 new deaths — including 17 deaths identified during a Vital Records review. That brings the totals to 56,014 cases and 5,372 deaths statewide amid the pandemic. Get more updates coronavirus stats from the state, including cases by county, HERE

    Residents should note that Whitmer's stay-at-home order, which she now refers to as "Safer at Home," remains in effect through June 12. Michigan's state of emergency runs through June 19.