State legislators restore 27 line items vetoes
Lake County -- The state House and Senate passed supplemental spending bills Dec. 4, to restore a portion of the funding vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October.
During a sit-down with Sen. Rick Outman, R-33rd District, he said the supplemental funding bills are awaiting Whitmer's signature.
"There is every indication the governor will sign the bills next week," Outman said.
The supplemental funding bills will restore funding to 27 of the 147 line items vetoed by Whitmer, including funding to charter schools, secondary road patrol, county jail reimbursement, child care state reimbursement and PILT payments.
Many of the vetoes impacted Lake and Osceola County budgeting for fiscal year 2020.
Osceola County Coordinator Susan Vander Pol said the county lost nearly $217,000 from the governor's vetoes. With a looming budget shortfall of more than $600,000, that loss of funding was critical, she said.
Lake County lost more than $200,000, according to Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake.
"It doesn't eliminate all the line item vetoes, but many of those that were critical to rural areas have been restored," Outman said.
Whitmer's administration said the governor was pleased with the action taken to "restore critical funding for public health, public safety and public education."
Republican legislative leaders had been at a budget stalemate with the Democratic governor over the manner of generating additional road funding for state infrastructure.
Whitmer proposed a 45-cent gas tax increase for roads, but shelved the plan after Republicans argued the state should first ensure all taxes paid at the pump go to the roads.
Outman said the gas tax and registration fee increases from the 2015 budget have not been fully implemented as yet, and he believes no additional increases should be considered until that implementation is complete.
"Nobody disagrees that our roads are fundamentally crumbling and that we are not keeping up with infrastructure," Outman said. "The question is where do we come up with the money."
From 2011 to 2015, the state had been funding roads out of the general fund every year with between $400 and $600 million in appropriations. It wasn't enough, and it was not guaranteed money, he said.
In 2015 the legislature passed a 7.3 percent gas tax increase and a 20 percent registration fee increase to pay for roads.
At the time, they decided it would be best to implement those funds slowly.
Many road construction companies survived the downturn in the economy by lowering their workforce and their equipment inventory, and because of that, they don't have the workforce or the time to complete the amount of jobs out there, Outman said.
"It doesn't do any good to throw more money at it if the workers aren't there and the time is not there," he added. "We need to stay the course and re-evaluate once the current plan is fully implemented, which is planned for in this year's budget."