Getting state priorities right by investing in children and families

With the reassurance that state revenues will grow slightly next year, state legislators will soon meet to iron out differences between the House and Senate spending plans for 2019. Decisions are expected to be made quickly, in part because it is an election year and both House and Senate members are eager to return to their districts to campaign. At the League, we hope that in their haste lawmakers don’t forget to make wise investments in the state’s children and families—many of whom have yet to recover fully from the great recession in Michigan and nationally.

Kids Count data show that despite lower unemployment rates statewide, for many families the only jobs available are low-wage and lack benefits, leaving parents struggling to make ends meet. The result has been stubbornly high rates of poverty, affecting one of every five children in the state, including more than 40% of African-American and 30% of Latinx children.

So what is the connection between the state budget and childhood poverty? It is through the allocation of state revenues—not campaign slogans—that lawmakers reveal their true priorities. By controlling the state’s purse strings, Michigan legislators have the power to change the odds for families struggling to find their way in the state’s shifting economy by investing in human capital, including health and human services, education, and early childhood education and care.

Poverty is itself a barrier to work. Parents who struggle to secure adequate food, clothing, shelter and transportation are less able to find and keep jobs—much less get the education and training they need to move forward and secure their children’s futures. Yet, state investments in public assistance programs that help stabilize families and ensure that children do not live in deep poverty have dropped dramatically.

House_Senate Human Srvcs chart 2One painfully blatant example is the state’s failure to increase income assistance grants for decades, along with the adoption of strict lifetime limits and other punitive policies for the Family Independence Program (FIP). The result has been a steep decline in the number of children receiving income assistance at the same time that child poverty remains high.

The governor recommended a very meager FIP grant increase of 1.2% for 2019, an increase that equates to $2 per person per month and leaves the maximum grant at only 29% of poverty. The House and Senate rejected even this tiny recognition of the continual erosion in purchasing power of state assistance, seemingly unaware that 80% of the beneficiaries are children, or not understanding that children won’t succeed if their parents can’t.

The League supports the governor’s grant increase as a baby step in the right direction, and further seeks an expansion of the annual clothing allowance for children receiving income assistance. In addition, the League is advocating for adequate healthcare services, more access to high quality child care for families with low wages, funds to expand the early identification of children with developmental delays and better support for high-poverty schools. Check out the League’s website for summaries of the differences between the House and Senate budgets, and join us by contacting your legislators.

— Pat Sorenson

What to watch for in 2019 state budget

The state budget is a big focus of the League’s work each year, and often our most viable opportunity for victories for the people and kids of Michigan. And while we were disappointed that lawmakers passed a personal exemption increase, it should not affect this year’s budget as much as earlier proposals (the bigger cuts will be left to future legislators instead).

budgetandmagnifier175-by-116Here are the main things good and bad in—or absent from—Governor Rick Snyder’s 2019 budget that the League is keeping an eye on as the legislative process gets underway. You can learn more about these issues in our “First Look” at the governor’s budget and we will continue to provide updates on our budget page.

thumbs up The Good
  • Continues funding for the “heat and eat” policy that provides increased food assistance to families with low incomes, people with disabilities and seniors.
  • Supports the Healthy Michigan Plan that has provided health insurance for over 675,000 Michigan residents.
  • Provides $5 million for Michigan’s Early On program that identifies and serves infants and toddlers with developmental delays—the first investment of state funds in Michigan’s grossly underfunded early intervention program.
  • Provides a small increase in monthly Family Independence Program income support provided to children in deep poverty after decades of flat funding that pushed families to less than 30% of the federal poverty line.
  • Provides increases of between $120 and $240 per-pupil for the state’s public schools—with additional funding for students in high school or career and technical education.
  • Expands funding for partnerships with school districts that are needing academic supports from $6 million to $8 million.
thumbs down The Bad
  • Continues funding for Michigan’s successful preschool program for at-risk four-year-olds, but does not expand services to three-year-olds from families with low incomes.
  • Fails to expand funding for At-Risk School Aid and the school-based literacy programs needed to prevent the retention of children in third grade, including a disproportionate number of children of color.
  • Does not increase funding for adult education after deep cuts over the last two decades.
  • Leaves in place Michigan’s child care assistance eligibility cutoff, which is one of the lowest in the nation.
  • Diverts School Aid money intended for K-12 public schools to fund the state’s community colleges—rather than securing adequate General Fund revenues for post-secondary education.
  • Does not restore financial aid for an increasing number of college students who are older and supporting families.
  • Reduces cities, villages and townships (CVT) and county revenue sharing payments, neither of which have received full statutory funding in nearly two decades, so that many communities would either receive decreased CVT and county revenue sharing payments or no payment at all.
question mark The Absent

The League will keep pushing for these and other budget priorities in the coming months, and advocate for racial, ethnic and social justice in all state budget decisions this year and every year. We also encourage you to use our advocacy tips and budget timeline to get involved and speak up for the priorities you believe in.

— Alex Rossman

Governor’s budget continues key investments, urges Legislature to abandon risky revenue cuts

For Immediate Release 
February 7, 2018

Alex Rossman

Snyder recommends funding for education, roads, public safety, healthcare and more

LANSING—Following Governor Rick Snyder’s 2019 budget presentation, the Michigan League for Public Policy voiced support for his calls for continued investment in vital programs, and echoed his warning against reckless tax cuts by the Legislature. The League also called for a solution to Michigan’s ongoing revenue problem, and urged action on its own budget priorities as ways the Legislature can have a more significant impact on state residents’ well-being than a tax cut.

“There were a lot of great proposals in the governor’s budget today, including new and first-time funding for Early On, efforts to increase the existing low level of Family Independence Program cash assistance, and continued investments to support Michigan’s kids and families through ‘heat and eat,’ the Healthy Michigan Plan, lead pipe replacement in Flint, roads and public safety,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These are all longstanding priorities for the League and we appreciate the governor’s recognition that they are key to a better Michigan for everyone. But these very items could be first on the chopping block for the Legislature as they seek to reconcile hundreds of millions of dollars in ineffective and unaffordable tax cuts that give very little money back to most taxpayers.”

While the governor’s budget contained many positives today, there weren’t a lot of dramatic funding increases, because the money is simply not there as a result of previous policy decisions. The major tax cuts passed over the past several years have put Michigan’s budget in an untenable situation where we are unable to make significant investments in all of the things that state residents, businesses and communities depend on. League budget experts continue to sound the alarm on the decline in the purchasing power of the state’s General Fund—which is now estimated to be nearly 6 percent lower than the level in 1968 when adjusted for inflation.

“Michigan has a revenue problem, and has for decades. Lawmakers are still budgeting like it’s 1968,” Jacobs said. “The Legislature is still trying to make Michigan competitive with other states while picking the wrong role models. The Legislature is still underinvesting in nearly everything kids, families, workers and businesses depend on. And disregarding past mistakes, the Legislature is still looking to cut taxes when they should be raising revenue.”

As the budget process gets officially underway today, the League continues to outline its own budget priorities and 15 related policy recommendations. A recent poll from EPIC-MRA showed that the League’s priorities are Michigan voters’ priorities, and resonate much more than “Keeping state and local income taxes low,” an important point with the state budget’s current revenue constraints.

“We don’t work in a vacuum and we know that calling for new investments in our current fiscal climate is bold. But our budget priorities are optimistic and aspirational—here are 15 things we think would better serve the people of Michigan than a tax cut,” Jacobs said.


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

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