Education Front and Center in Governor's Budget

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will unveil his fourth budget Wednesday, one his budget director says is well thought out and balanced.

"Michigan's economy is coming back, and this is proof of that," said State Budget Director John Nixon. "We've got a balanced budget, not a claim a lot of states can make."

While particulars won't be divulged until the entire budget is presented, Nixon says the priorities will be what they always have been: public safety and education.

"We like education," Nixon said. "There's a billion dollars more going to the state for education."

The governor has increased spending on education each year that he's been in office, Nixon said, and he hopes to do more.

"We've really prioritized our needs, made strategic investments," he said. "We've looked at all the priorities out there and we've come up with a good investment plan."

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) agrees investing in children's education is a top priority, but she says the governor isn't doing it.

"He wants to say the money he's put into a retirement system that he is mandated by law to do counts as money for education, and that's just baloney," Whitmer said. "That doesn't fly with the teachers and the parents and the educators who are in the classroom everyday."

Whitmer and House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) held a press conference Tuesday to "expose" Gov. Snyder's "budget gimmicks."

Whitmer says Snyder has cut $440 per pupil since he's been in office, disguising it as contributions to pensions and healthcare.

"The number that matters is what is actually going into the classroom," she said. "Our class sizes have increased, our buildings are struggling. We're in a situation where our kids and education have been compromised and we don't think it's right for the governor to reinvent his record on education."

Gov. Snyder has said giving the money to retired teachers has the same effect as funding classrooms directly.

“If someone showed up to help you pay your mortgage, doesn't that give you more dollars to pay your other bills?” he told the Associated Press. “So that’s the point — it really does help in the classroom by helping pay a bill that they’re otherwise going to have to pay and reducing that bill.”

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