LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Thomas Albert on Thursday said the Michigan Legislature must significantly improve upon the state’s next budget plan before it is finalized in the weeks ahead.
Albert, R-Lowell, voted against Democrat-sponsored budget proposals in the Senate this week. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Albert has proposed several alternative plans and amendments in recent weeks that Democrats rejected. Albert said he will continue fighting for his financially responsible and solution-oriented proposals in the weeks ahead.
“I know from personal experience that putting together a state budget is difficult,” said Albert, a former chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “I also know from personal experience that budgets absolutely can win bipartisan support. But to get there, this budget plan needs major improvements. It should include less overall spending, more transparency for taxpayers, and a commitment to continuing strategies that truly make Michigan a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Albert said the overall budget plan advanced by the Senate is too expensive — largely wiping out a $9 billion budget surplus. Albert said more money should be left unallocated and more should be done to pay off debt so the state will be in a stronger financial position moving forward.
“We don’t yet know how bad the economic challenges we’re experiencing may get,” Albert said. “We cannot recklessly overspend and put the state in a dangerous financial position where budget cuts will be needed if future revenues don’t come in as previously expected.”
Albert has proposed an alternative state budget plan for preschool through college that does more to pay down debt, help students catch up on lost learning, address the teacher shortage and improve school safety.
“I appreciate that the Senate plan recognizes K-12 special education has been underfunded and follows through on legislative intent to fully fund it in the next fiscal year,” Albert said. “But other areas need improvement, especially when it comes to Democrats’ unworkable preschool plans. My alternative is to expand within the framework of the Great Start Readiness Program and provide enough resources for providers to hire teachers, add staff and truly increase the number of kids who can attend preschool in Michigan.”
Albert’s plan would increase the per-pupil funding for Great Start to $14,000 — up from $9,150 — and expand the program to five days a week. The additional $190 million investment would create the framework to add students to the program.
Albert’s plan also dedicates funding specifically to school safety at all education levels — $286 million total for K-12 school safety grants, $150 million for universities and $50 million for community colleges. Funding for school resource officers at the K-12 level would be doubled, compared to Democratic plans that remove state funding targeted specifically for school resource officers.
Albert said the Democratic budget plan also weakens reporting requirements and legislative oversight of state department spending.
“There is some common ground to explore as the budget process moves forward, and I am hopeful we can reach a bipartisan consensus,” Albert said. “But the people of Michigan deserve better than these initial proposals approved by the Senate.”