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Whitmer: Congress can stop steep cuts; K-12 aid is priority

 (Source: Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office)
(Source: Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office) (WILX)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that protecting K-12 funding is her priority as Michigan seeks a federal bailout to avoid steep spending cuts during the pandemic, and her budget director signaled the next state budget won’t be complete by a July 1 deadline.

The state is facing a nearly $6.3 billion revenue hole over this fiscal year and the next. The governor previously said “hard decisions” would need to be made if Congress and President Donald Trump did not act by the end of May. Whitmer now hopes for movement in Washington in the coming weeks.

“We need flexibility and financial support from the federal government to support essential services like health care, education, public safety and transportation during this crisis,” she said at a news conference.

The chairmen of budget committees in the Republican-led Legislature renewed their call for the Democratic governor to submit proposed spending reductions to balance the current budget, as required under two laws.

“Waiting on a Hail Mary from Congress is not a plan,” said Sen. Tony Stamas of Midland. “We now know the full scope of the budget problem, and we need the governor to start working with the Legislature to solve it.”

Whitmer signed a Republican-sponsored bill in December that requires lawmakers to send her a spending bill by July 1 — three months before the start of the fiscal year.

But budget director Chris Kolb said the “budget timeline is going to have to be different.” He said the administration and legislative fiscal agencies will have a rare third revenue-estimating meeting this summer to finalize the 2020-21 budget. The state government has received $3 billion from the federal coronavirus rescue package, but it cannot be used to cover shortfalls.

Kolb called for Congress to give states flexibility to account for COVID-19′s impact on tax revenues.

“Three-fourths of discretionary state spending goes out to other entities like schools, local governments, health care providers,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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