Engaging with…the State Budget

By Brad O’Neil

Federal budgets, state budgets, city budgets – they’re always in the news and they’re always being fought over. They’re dense, boring, and often so partisan we tune them out and read the next article. Who cares anyway?

Well, we should all care because Michigan’s budget is perhaps the truest reflection of the priorities of our elected officials and (hopefully) us. Information regarding our state’s investments and whether or not they truly represent the goals and values of the people can help all of us become better informed and engaged citizens.

Budgets are usually shaped with things like education, transportation, and public safety at their core. What varies are a number of programs and initiatives that are proposed to address specific issue areas such as child poverty or poor healthcare outcomes.

Passing a budget every year is a long and arduous process of presenting, drafting, debating, and amending – all with the possibility of a deadlock resulting in things like a government shutdown. It can get dirty and it’s no wonder so many of us tune out.

Governor Snyder’s budget recommendations and the response from the legislature serve as the most recent example of this cycle. A State House Committee released their School Aid Fund proposal earlier this week and it didn’t include many of the Governors priorities such as a third grade reading initiative and extra money for at-risk schools.

The State Senate proposal, however, does fund many of the Governors’ initiatives. The question now is how the two will be reconciled. And this is just within the Republican Party – the folks in power. Democrats are sure to have objections of their own.

We all know we wield no power over headlines in the coming months, but how we’re going to react to them is up to us. We should prepare to pay attention this time around – especially in light of a massive budget shortfall that threatens to cut vital services we all rely on.

Here’s an overview of what the Governor proposed in his 2015-2016 state budget. Take a look and if you see something you don’t like, get loud. Get engaged.