The Michigan House took an initial step toward balancing the state's government budgets Wednesday, approving a bill that would shift $208 million from the state's school aid fund to help pay for other programs.
The Democratic-led House passed the measure to use part of the state's school aid surplus to help cover a general fund shortfall by a 57-47 vote, mostly along party lines. The measure now goes to the Republican-run Senate.
Senate Republican leaders have been generally supportive of the fund shift, proposed as part of the plan to eliminate shortfalls in the state's general fund covering a wide range of programs. It wasn't immediately clear if any specifics in the House plan might make the measure more difficult to pass in the Senate.
The proposal to shift funds picked up more support this month after it was learned Michigan is getting more than $300 million in unexpected additional federal schools aid.
Lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm are trying to erase a general fund deficit of $302 million this fiscal year and a shortfall of $484 million for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.
The surplus school aid money would be used to replace money from the general fund that goes to community colleges. That would free up money for other purposes, such as public safety programs.
The House also voted Wednesday to accept the extra schools money coming from the federal government. Democrats said the money could replace previous cuts made in the schools budget, with enough cash left over to increase funding by $17 to $34 per student.
Some House Republicans criticized the plan because it relies on what they called federal handouts and short-term fixes that won't do anything to fix Michigan's long-term budget problems.