Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her inaugural budget presentation before the Legislature’s appropriations committees this week. Her recommendations mark the beginning of the House and Senate’s process of crafting a budget that may or may not follow Whitmer’s direction.
There are four categories of interest to Michigan Farm Bureau and the state’s agriculture industry:
Within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Whitmer is proposing these new investments:
- $5 million for technology modernization within the department’s licensing and inspection systems to, “enhance functionality and improve the customer experience.”
- $4 million to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program and, “increase the purchasing power of residents who receive food assistance by providing a dollar-to-dollar match to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmer’s markets.”
- $200,000 to create an Emerging Contaminants Coordinator Position, “responsible for providing outreach and education to farmers, local health departments, food service establishments, and local conservation districts on emerging contaminant issues as they relate to plants, dairy, meat, and animal feed.”
The Governor is also proposing two reductions:
- A $2.6 million cut to the Food and Agriculture Investment Program which, in recent years, has helped expand food and agriculture processing initiatives. Of the 29 projects approved in 2017-18, the return on investment included 684 new jobs and more than $848 million in private investment.
- $200,000 less in county fairground grants, leaving $200,000 in remaining general fund for projects.
“Our members have long seen the need for technology improvements within the department and appreciate the dedicated funds to see it through,” said MFB Government Relations Manager Matt Smego. “That said, we’ll be continuing conversations with our legislative partners to ensure they understand where our members’ priorities fall within the department, including support for funds to continue the work of the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture that did not receive recommendation for funding by the Governor.”
The state’s colleges and universities would receive a 3 percent funding increase under Whitmer’s recommendation. Michigan State University AgBioResearch and Extension also each receive a 3 percent increase—$1.9 million—bringing their total funding to $66.4 million.
High school career and technical education programming also receives an increase of $50 million under Whitmer’s plan, totaling approximately $487 per pupil.
“We appreciate the Governor recognizing the importance of career and technical education programs and how they come with higher costs for material equipment and staff,” Smego said.
Whitmer also recommended maintaining existing funding for other CTE and vocation educational programs totaling $109 million for the programs.”
In addition, Whitmer’s proposing $110 million to establish the Michigan Reconnect Program aimed at providing students ages 25 and older with tuition-free educational opportunities toward earning an industry certificate or associate degree.
Most widely discussed is Whitmer’s proposal to increase the state’s gasoline tax from 26.3 cents per gallon to 71.3 cents per gallon expected to generate $2.6 billion in revenue.
“MFB policy supports user-fees when new revenue is needed for roads and bridges,” Smego said. “That said, this is only the beginning of the road funding discussion because the Governor’s proposal also redirects revenue to the higher education and K-12 budget which could impact other agencies and programs depending on how funds are moved or allocated by the appropriations committees.”
Lastly, Whitmer’s budget proposal is calling for a Corporate Income Tax to be levied on an estimated 100,000 S-corporations and limited liability companies, increasing their tax burden by 1.75 percent. Entities with less than $50,000 in income would not pay the additional tax.