With federal budget cuts, the sky may really be falling

My son loves books, and one of our favorite things to do every night is read before bed. Many of the stories we choose also provide a learning experience. One of our recent favorites has been Chicken Little, which I think my son chooses to laugh at me stumbling over tongue-twisting character names. It also gives us a chance to talk about thinking rationally.

This lesson is applicable from our kids to my policy work to the highest levels of government. But when President Donald Trump released his “skinny budget” in March—despite being light on detail—the potential impact it could have on our state budget and Michigan residents was stifling. And at times, I really do feel like the sky is falling.

My fear is not unfounded. Michigan has grown increasingly reliant on federal funds. Over the past decade, while our total state budget has grown by about 29%, federal funds in our budget have grown by nearly 69%. In our current budget, federal funds provide $22.7 billion of our $54.2 billion state budget. This means that more than $4 out of every $10 provided for important programs like public education, healthcare for children and families with low wages, food assistance and road maintenance are paid for by federal dollars.


These federal grants do matter to our state budget. According to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal grants to states and local governments make up nearly one-third of non-defense discretionary spending. Michigan receives 3% of total federal grants to states, and only California, New York, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio get a bigger share than Michigan. Cuts to these discretionary programs, which are already at historically low levels, would harm workers, college students, local communities and families with low- and moderate-incomes.

What’s more is that this “skinny budget” proposes to completely eliminate funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps families and many seniors pay heating bills; a block grant that supports housing, community facilities and economic development; the HOME program which helps develop and repair affordable rental housing and repair homes for homeowners with low incomes; and the Community Services Block Grant, which provides anti-poverty services.

While President Trump’s budget only outlines changes in discretionary spending, changes to mandatory grants may still be forthcoming, for example block granting or putting a per capita cap on Medicaid. (While the first round of the American Health Care Act was withdrawn, you can bet that Congress will try, and try again, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and alter Medicaid funding.) Changes in these programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), free and reduced-priced school meals, child care assistance and other assistance for families with low incomes, would mean deep cuts to these programs as states would be unable to absorb the costs themselves. This would reduce services to those Michigan residents who really need it.

Cuts to federal grants to state and local governments, and changes in federal programs, will only mean cuts to the very Michigan residents that rely on these services. Changes will result in more potholes and unsafe bridges, fewer Michigan residents with healthcare coverage, more children going hungry, less affordable housing, more poverty and more problems, all having a long-term negative impact on our economy.

So pardon my doomsday sentiment, but states really rely on federal funds to run. And these changes would affect our state for years to come. But we can change the future. It is important for all of us to get in touch with our members of Congress and tell them the things that really matter to us as they make decisions on the federal budget that will have a direct impact on our great state.

— Rachel Richards

Statement: State budget needs policy changes, new revenue and ideological shift to prevent future crises

Alex Rossman


LANSING —The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on Governor Rick Snyder’s 2017 budget presentation. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. (more…)

2016 Community Health Budget Continues Key Investments


The 2016 budget for the health programs within the Department of Health and Human Services continues key investments, and includes few of the program reductions and funding shifts recommended by the governor.

The vast majority of health funding, nearly 90%, is for the state’s Medicaid-funded programs, including the Healthy Michigan Plan and Medicaid-funded mental health and substance abuse services. In 2016, federal funds will make up over 70% of the health component of the budget.

Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan

Nearly one in every four Michigan residents is enrolled in Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan for healthcare coverage. Implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan together with enrollments through the Marketplace have dramatically reduced, from 14% to 7%, the number of uninsured adults in Michigan according to a survey by the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.

In the current budget year, the governor projects that 1.7 million Michigan residents will be covered by Medicaid, with an additional 540,000 recipients enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan. The governor’s proposed budget for 2016 projected a very small increase in Medicaid enrollees (about 13,000) and continued growth in Healthy Michigan Plan enrollees (40,000), bringing total average enrollment for the Healthy Michigan Plan to 580,000.

Medicaid Caseloads

The governor recommended the continuation of $100 million savings in state funds for Medicaid based on lower projections of the number of persons who will be enrolled in the current year.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the governor’s recommendation.
  • Final Budget: Based on the May Revenue Estimating Conference, the projected Medicaid caseload was increased for both the 2015 and 2016 budget years, and additional funding of $46.6 million in state funds, $190.2 million in total funds, was recommended for 2016. The Legislature adopted the consensus recommendations.

Healthy Michigan Plan Funding

The governor recommended $3.5 billion for the Healthy Michigan Plan (including behavioral health services), which is financed with all federal funds for the final year. For the program to continue after April 30, 2016, Michigan must submit a second waiver to the federal government by September 1, 2015, and it must be approved by the end of 2015. The second waiver requires increased cost-sharing for those with incomes between 100% and 133% of the federal poverty level who have been enrolled in the program for 48 months.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the governor’s recommendation.
  • Final Budget: Based on the May Revenue Estimating Conference, the Legislature increased Healthy Michigan Plan funding to $4.1 billion, all federal funds, as the caseload continues to increase.

Prescription Drugs

The governor recommended the removal of prescription drugs from Medicaid managed care contracts and the development of a separate pharmacy benefit contract. This proposal was expected to generate higher drug rebates based on higher purchasing volume, as well as administrative savings, for a total of $16.8 million in state funds.

  • House: The House rejected this proposal and retained the pharmacy benefit in the managed care contracts with changes, including the adoption of a single formulary (list of covered drugs) and shared pharmacy rebates with the state. The House assumed greater state savings of $2.0 million than did the Senate.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the House, but retained the Executive recommended savings.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the House recommendation.

Autism Services

The governor recommended $36.8 million for autism services, restoring the reduction made in 2015 due to the slow start of the program. The Executive Budget also recommended increasing coverage through age 21 from the current age 6. One-time funding is continued to train autism services providers through Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University. Total funding for training is reduced from $7 million to $2.5 million, with $500,000 allocated to each university.

  • House: The House concurred with expansion of services to Medicaid beneficiaries through age 21, but eliminated all but $100 of the university funding.
  • Senate: The Senate concurred with the governor.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the Senate, but moved the university funding from one-time funding to ongoing funding to eliminate the uncertainty that one-time funding creates.

Increased Payments to Primary Care Providers

The governor recommended $8.3 million in state funds ($24.2 million in total) to provide full-year funding to continue approximately half of the rate increase for primary care providers implemented in 2013 to increase access. Full federal funding for this initiative ended in December 2014, so an additional state investment is required to continue this rate increase in 2016. This critical state investment is intended to encourage primary care doctors to serve the Medicaid population, particularly with the coverage expansion under the Healthy Michigan Plan.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the governor.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation.

Adult Dental Services

The governor recommended funding, effective July 1, 2015, to develop a statewide managed care contract for dental services for adult Medicaid enrollees to increase dental access for adults. Currently adult Medicaid beneficiaries experience great difficulty finding a dental provider who will accept Medicaid. An investment of $23 million, of which $7.9 million would have been state funds, was recommended and was financed from savings in other program areas. The total annual cost of the program would have been $92 million, of which $31.7 million would be state funds.

  • House: The House included only a $100 placeholder for this initiative to ensure discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee.
  • Senate: The Senate supported the policy but delayed implementation to September 1, 2016, to reduce the cost in budget year 2016.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature did not include funding for this initiative, instead using the funding to increase the number of children covered by Healthy Kids Dental (see below).

Healthy Kids Dental Expansion

For 2016, the governor recommended expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program to an additional 210,000 children—ages 0 through 8—in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties, with an investment of $21.8 million ($7.5 million in state funds). With this expansion, the program would cover over 800,000 children, but not all eligible children in the state. Yet to be covered would be more than 170,000 older children in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Michigan currently provides enhanced dental services to more than 600,000 children in 80 counties. Access to dental services is essential to prevent tooth decay, the No. 1 chronic disease in children. Healthy Kids Dental improves access to care by partnering with Delta Dental of Michigan to increase provider reimbursement rates and simplify administration. With the expansion in 2015, all counties are now covered except Kent, Oakland and Wayne.

  • House: The House concurred with the governor.
  • Senate: The Senate delayed coverage until July 1, 2016, but covered all children in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature expanded coverage to more than 290,000 children ages 0 through 12 in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties, adding $37 million in total funds, of which $12.7 million are state funds. With the higher caseload projections, this still leaves about 130,000 children behind.

Hospital Obstetrical Services Payments

The governor recommended the elimination of $11 million in total payments, $3.8 million from state funds, to rural hospitals for the special payment implemented in the 2015 budget year for obstetrical services. To stop the erosion of obstetrical services in Michigan hospitals, the Legislature created a special payment for qualifying rural hospitals in the current budget year. Over the last few years, a number of hospitals have closed their OB units and there are now 17 contiguous counties in northern and mid-Michigan with no hospital OB units. The special payment is to stop more closures, not reopen any units that have closed.

  • The House and Senate both rejected this recommendation and retained the funding.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature retained funding for this special payment to encourage rural hospitals to maintain their obstetrical units.

Hospice Room and Board Payments

The governor recommended no change in funding for hospice room and board payments, which were discontinued in budget year 2014 when federal funds were no longer available to cover a portion of the cost.

  • House: The House included a $100 placeholder to continue consideration.
  • Senate: The Senate restored funding of $3.4 million, all state funds.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature included $2.5 million, all state funds, but specified the funding is “one-time.”

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

The governor recommended continued restoration of $20 million, all state funds, as included in the current budget year supplemental to cover community mental health and substance abuse services for persons not eligible for Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan.

Implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan resulted in dramatic reductions in the state funds needed to serve those not eligible for Medicaid, as the vast majority of individuals were expected to transition from state-funded services to Healthy Michigan Plan services, which are 100% federally funded. The transition has not been smooth, and concerns continue that state funding reductions were too large and too fast. An increase of $20 million was included in the current year supplemental appropriation in recognition of the significant funding shortfalls to provide needed services to those not eligible for Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the governor.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation.

Mental Health and Wellness Commission

The governor included funding to continue implementation of the recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission ($12.7 million in state funds, of which $1.5 million continues to be one-time funding). The governor’s budget for 2016 eliminated all but $1.5 million of the one-time funding included in the 2015 budget. This one-time funding would be used to fund programs in the current year that were delayed by a budget-cutting Executive Order, and to establish a transition program for children who have had multiple hospitalizations at Hawthorn Center, the state’s mental health facility for children.

  • House: The House concurred with the reduction in one-time funding and also delayed the children’s transition program by six months and reduced funding correspondingly.
  • Senate: The Senate included a placeholder of $100 for one-time funding, proposed a further delay of nine months for the children’s transition program, and recommended about half of the ongoing funding for Commission recommendations be replaced by Michigan Health Endowment funding, which is controlled by the Board of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the Executive recommendation, but delayed the children’s transition program until the last quarter of budget year 2016.

Public Health and Child and Adolescent Health Services

For 2016, the governor’s proposed budget restored a $1.5 million increase that was originally provided in the 2015 budget to local public health departments for essential services, but was subsequently eliminated in Executive Order reductions. The governor’s recommendation brought funding for local public health essential services to the level it was ten years ago.

The governor’s proposed budget also eliminated funding for a pilot program that began in 2015 to improve child and adolescent health services by working with existing school-based clinics to develop satellite locations that will provide nursing and behavioral health services ($2 million in one-time funding).

Two of every $3 spent on public health services is federal. Over the last decade, nearly all increases in total public health funding have been from federal grants or other sources, while state investments have not been made despite numerous emergency and ongoing needs.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the governor on funding for local public health departments, and put a $100 placeholder in the budget to continue discussions of the child and adolescent health services pilot program.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation for local public health department funding. It also removed the funding from the Department of Health and Human Services budget for the child and adolescent health services pilot program, but funding is included in the School Aid budget.

Vaccine and Immunization Education and Promotion

The governor included no new funding for immunization education and promotion.

  • House: The House also made no recommendation.
  • Senate: The Senate provided $500,000 in state funds for immunization education and promotion. Expenditure of these funds would be dependent on receiving private donations with a match rate of $1 of state funds for every $4 of private funds received.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the Senate, added authority to spend the private funds, and designated that the project focus on vaccinations for infants and toddlers.

Services for the Aging

The governor’s budget continued funding of $84 million for senior in-home and nutrition services. The state continues working to become a “no wait” state for senior services.

The governor also recommended expansion of PACE (Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to Jackson County and Traverse City, funded through corresponding savings in nursing home costs.

  • The House and Senate concurred with the expansion of PACE.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the PACE expansion but transferred the funding from Medicaid to the Aging and Adult Services Unit within the Department of Health and Human Services.


Making kids count in the state budget

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Conditions for Michigan’s kids are progressing in some areas of child well-being but in others…. well, let’s just say we’ve got some major work ahead of us, particularly when it comes to economic security. That’s the upshot of the newly released Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Fortunately, the budget plan spelled out by Gov. Rick Snyder last month does a good job in a tight budget year of addressing inequities by making some investments that will drive improvements for Michigan’s kids.

Most welcome is a $49 million initiative, including $24 million for child care quality improvements, to increase the chances of more children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.


‘Yes’ on road funding is right direction

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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It’s a pivotal time for Michigan public policy. Decisions made in the next few months will determine the path Michigan takes into the future.

In three short months, voters on May 5 will decide Proposal 1, the road funding package. There’s no doubt that this is Michigan’s single best chance to raise sorely needed money to pay for road repairs and put new dollars into school classrooms all while protecting families earning the least. (more…)

Tax policies gone wild

Shortsighted tax policy decisions by Michigan lawmakers have created a budget shortfall of $325 million in the current fiscal year, despite growth in the state’s economy.

Because Michigan must balance its budget every year, cuts will be made in the state’s General Fund, the major source of funds for health and human services, higher education and public safety – before the end of September. The 2016 budget, scheduled to be released by the governor on Feb. 11, has an additional revenue shortfall of $532 million. (more…)

More child care oversight needed

Every day in Michigan, parents head out to work with their young children in tow, dropping them off at local child care centers or homes. Child care is a necessity for many working families because they rely on two incomes to make ends meet or because they are raising children as single parents.

Yet oversight of health and safety requirements is stretched far too thin in Michigan, a new policy brief from the League concludes. (more…)

High poverty, unemployment harm economic growth

Often touted as the “Comeback State,” Michigan’s economic recovery has not included everyone as reflected in the state’s high poverty and unemployment rates. Leaving people behind will only hinder Michigan’s potential economic growth, which has already showed signs of slowing.

A recent report ranking states based on multiple indicators of economic security and opportunity reveals the state’s major lack of investment in its people. On almost every factor from poverty to education to affordable housing, Michigan is ranked worst or second-worst among the Midwest states. (more…)

Oh Michigan!

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‘O’ stands for October — and it also stands for Opportunity.

With just a few short weeks before the Nov. 4 election, now is your best chance as a concerned Michigan citizen to make a difference. (more…)

Small problems get big with misplaced priorities

In kindergarten classrooms in one Michigan school district, work tables are now cleaned only weekly instead of daily due to severe budget cuts that have reduced cleaning staff and supplies. Teachers must buy their own cleaners and wash the tables to maintain sanitary conditions for the youngest students

The dirty tables was one of the anecdotes offered about Michigan’s misguided spending priorities during a news conference held at the Capitol this morning by Priorities Michigan. (more…)

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