Stamas supports $1.3B plan to fix Michigan bridges in severe condition

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Stamas on Thursday voted to invest $1.3 billion in federal recovery funding to repair Michigan bridges listed in severe condition — including 11 bridges in the 36th District.

“I have repeatedly said we need to use our historic level of federal funding to make long-term and transformational changes that will benefit the people of Michigan for decades — and that is exactly what this proposal would do,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Our roads and bridges are critical to our economy and way of life. Investing this one-time funding in fixing our worst bridges would dramatically improve safety on our roads and provide much-needed relief to local communities to fix their local roads.”

Senate Bill 529 would use $1.3 billion in federal recovery funds to fix bridges across the state in severe condition through bundling, where the design and construction of multiple projects around the state are contracted at the same time.

Of the nearly 12,000 bridges in Michigan, 7,038 are managed by local municipalities. Of that number, over 400 are in critical need of repairs. SB 529 would fund repairs for the bridges in severe condition.

The bill also includes over $195 million to cover local road agency revenue losses and $126 million in federal money to improve safety at several intersections between railways and roadways.

Michigan has over 4,000 rail crossings with public highways within the state, and in 2020, was ranked the 15th worst in the nation for the total number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail crossings. The funds would help reduce or in some cases eliminate train-vehicle interactions through grade separation at crossings throughout the state.

SB 529 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Stamas comments on Senate finalizing K-12 budget

Budget for local revenue sharing also completed

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement on Wednesday after the Senate finalized fiscal year 2022 state spending plans for K-12 schools and revenue sharing for local governments:

“We are providing our teachers and students with an historic level of funding to ensure our children get the education they need after more than a year of facing unprecedented challenges.

“While we have provided record levels of state funding to our schools for several years, this game-changing K-12 budget includes a $683 million boost to bring every Michigan school’s foundation allowance up to at least $8,700 per student — finally achieving Proposal A’s goal of closing the gap between the highest and lowest funded school districts.”

“The budget also provides $362 million for equalization payments, $155 million for reading scholarships, and a more than $168 million boost for preschools.

“We are prioritizing our schools and local governments, whose fiscal years start on July 1. We will continue to work with the House and the governor to finalize the remaining state budgets this summer.

“In non-educational spending, we’re increasing funding for local governments by over $25 million, providing grants to counties for secondary road patrols, increasing support for our child care providers, providing disaster assistance and using $260 million in federal resources to support nursing facilities and hospitals facing losses due to the pandemic.”

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Photo caption: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, urges senators to approve fiscal year 2022 state spending plans for K-12 schools and revenue sharing for local governments on Wednesday.

Doing the right thing for Michigan’s families, economy, environment and energy future

Earlier this month, I submitted this opinion column concerning the future of Line 5 and our economy:

I am committed to leading and supporting efforts that contribute to making Michigan the best place in the country for families, workers and job creators. Northeast Michigan’s economy took a beating from the pandemic and the business shutdowns that compromised our region’s many small businesses and family incomes.

As a recovery begins, we need to be sure the economic crisis is not worsened by an energy crisis the administration is on a path to create. The administration continues to pursue the reckless and irresponsible shutdown of the Line 5 pipeline that is an energy lifeline for northeast Michigan and our state.

If the governor is successful in shutting down Line 5, Michigan stands to lose more than $3 billion in economic activity, $56.8 million in state revenue and almost 6,700 jobs, according to a recent independent economic commissioned by Consumer Energy Alliance.

Line 5 pipeline is important to our state’s energy and economic security.

From Midland to Alpena, Gaylord to Tawas City, and the many towns, villages and rural stretches of Michigan’s Sunrise Coast that I am proud to represent, families and businesses depend on affordable energy to support daily activities and needs.

Our families, friends and neighbors rely on Line 5 to deliver the propane that heats homes throughout rural Michigan. According to the independent U.S. Energy Information Administration, Michigan has the largest residential propane use in the nation. That alone makes Line 5 essential. Read More

Line 5 delivers more than propane. The petroleum it delivers efficiently, safely and without imposing truck traffic on our roads to our regional refineries is processed into gasoline, jet fuel and many other fuels and products used through Michigan each day. Manufacturers, farmers, small businesses, hospitals, schools, utilities, and households throughout our area depend on these products to keep things moving and people safe.

We all agree that Line 5, which runs through the Straits of Mackinac, must be properly operated and maintained to prevent any kind of accident that could damage the waters of the Great Lakes and our Lake Huron shoreline. We also all agree that reasonable steps that can be taken to improve safety should be taken.

That’s why I support building the Great Lakes Tunnel, making the project a priority, and holding Enbridge and the state accountable to project agreements they signed.

Under the agreement, Enbridge is investing more than $500 million to build the Great Lakes Tunnel. When completed, the tunnel will encase the section of Line 5 that crosses the Straits of Mackinac deep below the lakebed, which will eliminate the risk of an oil spill in the straits. The tunnel is also planned to hold other public utilities, like broadband fiberoptic cables.

Between now and when the tunnel project is completed in a few years, extra precautionary measures are required by the agreements, and already are in place, to protect both the pipeline and the Great Lakes, while keeping the energy resources we need coming. Ships moving through the straits are prewarned of pipelines and other utilities that cross the area to make sure anchors are up and out of harm’s way. Weather conditions are carefully monitored, and other commonsense precautions are being taken.

While plans and permitting are well underway by Enbridge, legal challenges brought by the governor’s administration that could delay the project are moving through the court system. Meanwhile, Enbridge and the administration are working with a legal mediator; we need them to work together, resolve their differences and move the tunnel project forward.

The Great Lakes tunnel project will create good-paying jobs for Michigan workers and will boost business for northern Michigan’s small businesses. Construction of the tunnel will involve local suppliers, materials and employers, including those from Alpena County. It also will add to an important tax base for our local governments, schools and public services.

More than 30 county commissions throughout the region now have passed resolutions to urge safe Line 5 operations, and support moving the Great Lakes Tunnel project forward as quickly as possible. I encourage other counties to join the momentum.

I am proud of our communities and those with whom I share an unwavering commitment to protecting our shores while doing the right thing for Michigan’s families, economy, environment and energy future.

Stamas comments on state budget progress

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement on Thursday regarding the status of negotiations on the fiscal year 2022 state budget and the news that the House might pass its own plan:

“My understanding is the House is putting together both a K-12 budget and a General Fund omnibus budget. I’m anxious to see what is in them. Once we get the House plan, we’ll review it, see where the funding is coming from, how much it is, and whether they stayed with the original plan or decided to do something different.

“I’ve always been open and in support of equity funding payments to school districts, and I put $450 million in the budget for the first equity payment. We wanted to look at the entire K-12 budget versus doing the second equity payment as part of a supplemental. I’ve always been supportive of looking at how we balance the difference between Title 1 and the rest of our school districts across the state.

“We’re also waiting to see what happened with the K-12 supplemental funding. We had an agreement, and we’re now waiting for that to be finalized by the House.

“We want to work with the House and the governor’s office on getting this done. The speaker and I have been clear we would like to have a budget finalized by July 1. I’ve committed to look at what is sent to us by the House and see if we can get it done.

“Even if we are unable to get the budget done by July, our schools have already received substantial additional dollars, and both our schools and our local and state governments are still funded through Oct. 1. While there may not be an immediate impact, I understand that our schools and our local communities would like to know what their funding levels will be before they set their budgets.”

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Senate approves $4.3B in school aid supplemental funding

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Tuesday voted for a supplemental budget bill to invest over $4.3 billion in federal funding to support Michigan students and schools.

“Many Michigan students struggled and continue to struggle with the sudden and confusing change to virtual or hybrid learning for more than a year during the pandemic,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This supplemental would invest $4.3 billion in federal assistance to help our children recover from any learning loss they experienced and to ensure that our schools and teachers have the resources necessary to provide their students with the instruction and support they need.”

House Bill 4421 includes $3.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to be distributed through the Title 1 formula. School districts receiving the funds must use at least 20% of the support to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions.

The bill would use $93 million in federal ARP funding to provide services or assistance to nonpublic schools that enroll a significant percentage of low-income students and are most impacted by COVID-19.

HB 4421 also includes $840 million in federal relief funding to be distributed according to the federal Title I formula to support disadvantaged students and nearly $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grants for nonpublic schools. These federal dollars were previously appropriated in HB 4048 and Senate Bill 29 but vetoed by the governor.

The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Stamas comments on state revenue estimate

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement after state fiscal and economic leaders made their economic and state tax revenue projections during Friday’s annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference:

“We will have an historic amount of funding available this year, and along with that comes a responsibility to Michigan families to use that money in a fiscally responsible manner.

“As we continue the process of finalizing a balanced budget on time and using federal relief funds this year, we must wisely and effectively use this once-in-a-lifetime funding for purposeful and lasting projects that improve our state for every Michigan family.

“We also need to be guarded with new spending programs. While the federal relief is helpful to support people, businesses and communities affected by the pandemic and free up state resources for long-term investments, it’s not sustainable.

“My goal is to work with the House and the governor to put our federal and state resources to productive use in meeting our current needs, supporting our people and economy, and investing in a brighter future.”

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Senate passes FY 2022 budget plan

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas this week led Senate passage of a budget plan that meets the pressing issues facing Michigan and its people, continues to provide critical services and makes key investments to improve the state.

“A budget — whether for a household, a small business or all of state government — is a statement of priorities. Like any family or business, elected officials must decide how to best use our limited resources,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “It’s our responsibility to remember the reality being faced at family kitchen tables and in small businesses throughout Michigan as we make our spending decisions. This budget plan focuses on wisely investing our hardworking taxpayer dollars to benefit everyone in our state while living within our means.

“It is the next step in laying the groundwork for productive negotiations with the House and governor on enacting a budget by July that supports healthy families and communities, builds a healthier economy, and puts our state on a path for a healthy future.”

Senate Bill 83 would invest $15.8 billion in K-12 education, a total increase of $249 million. The bill dedicates an additional $20 million to assist students dealing with mental health challenges and boosts preschool funding by $32 million to help reduce class sizes. It also dedicates $1.7 billion to help cover the costs of school employee retirement.

“To help create a healthier future in Michigan, we continue to focus on investing in our children’s education. Our plan continues a record level of support for Michigan schools and increases the minimum foundation allowance by $250 to $8,361 per pupil,” Stamas said.

The Senate budget plan also includes $72 million for competitive and need-based scholarships for higher education students, $40 million in the Going Pro program to provide grants to support employee training, $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide tuition-free community college and training, $77 million to provide child care for more families, and $161 million for wage increases for direct care workers and front-line workers at child care institutions.

The bills prioritize more revenue sharing funding for local governments, more resources for state road and bridge construction, $2.2 billion for local transportation infrastructure projects, a 60% increase to the Pure Michigan campaign, a 50% boost for grants to help struggling veterans with expenses, and a new program to incentivize locals to reduce their long-term debts.

SBs 77 and 79-94 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com/Photowire.

Photo caption: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, outlines a Senate budget plan for fiscal year 2022 during session on Tuesday. The Senate plan focuses on maintaining record funding for schools, meeting the pressing issues facing Michigan and its people, continuing to provide critical services and making key investments to improve the state.

Senate budget committee approves over $4.4B in federal funding

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas said the supplemental budget bills approved by the committee on Wednesday would invest over $4.4 billion in federal funding — including all the state’s remaining COVID-19 relief funds from December.

“This plan would continue to responsibly invest billions of dollars in federal assistance to provide much-needed relief to Michigan families, schools and communities and help get people back to work,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Our goal is to continue to be responsible with how we use this once-in-a-lifetime federal support to maximize the benefits for everyone in our state. Much of the funding would help struggling families with food and rental assistance, provide important COVID-19 testing, and invest $1.4 billion in child care support to help people trying to return to work.

“We are also ensuring that this federal assistance is used with an eye toward making wise investments that will benefit us for years to come, such as enabling local communities to better improve their roads and helping schools educate our students.”

Senate Bill 36 includes $3.5 billion in federal and state funding, including:
• $1.4 billion in federal funding for child care grants to lower tuition
• $726 million in federal support for the Supplemental Food Assistance Program;
• $347 million in federal COVID-19 testing funding, including $20 million for testing in schools and $20 million for testing in corrections facilities;
• $378 million in emergency rental assistance;
• $35 million for substance abuse prevention and treatment;
• $32 million to address mental health issues during the pandemic;
• $4 million to provide home-delivered meals to seniors;
• $46 million in FEMA-approved payments for disaster assistance; and
• $260 million for hospitals and nursing facilities to help cover COVID-19-related costs.

The bill also invests $387 million in federal transportation funding. Of that funding, $261 million would be conditional upon the enactment of SB 394, which would direct $261 million of the federal funding to local governments for local road repair.

SB 216 includes $943 million to restore school funding previously vetoed by the governor, including $840 million in federal Emergency and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, $10 million to reimburse parents for summer school expenses, and $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund grants for nonpublic schools.

The ESSER funding was appropriated in House Bill 4048 but effectively vetoed by the governor with her veto of HB 4049. The other funding was included in both HB 4048 and SB 29 and vetoed by the governor.

SBs 36 and 216 now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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Stamas supports giving governor 2nd chance at relief funding

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas on Wednesday supported passage of supplemental bills to restore COVID-19 relief funding vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Everyone deserves a second chance, and the bills will give the governor a second chance to provide critical COVID-19 relief to our struggling small businesses and families who desperately need it,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Just a few weeks ago, we voted overwhelmingly to get more shots in arms, more kids in school and more small businesses back on their feet. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed much of it.

“None of this funding is tied to anything else, and we are giving her a chance to fix her mistake and support important funding to help small businesses stay afloat, replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund, safely reopen schools and reimburse parents for school expenses.”

Senate Bill 114 features $555 million in funding previously vetoed by the governor, including:
• $300 million in grants to offset property tax payments for affected homeowners and businesses facing financial ruin due to the governor’s shutdown orders.
• $150 million to repay the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund for fraudulent benefits paid out by the Unemployment Insurance Agency.
• $55 million for grants to help struggling businesses with unemployment taxes.
• $50 million to reimburse Michigan businesses that were charged licensing and inspection fees by the state even when their businesses were closed through no fault of their own.

SB 29 includes $10 million to reimburse parents for costs associated with summer school and $87 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) grants for nonpublic schools.

The bills now head to House of Representatives for consideration.

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Stamas disappointed Whitmer chose ‘keeping her absolute power’ over additional school funding

LANSING, Mich. — After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed a bipartisan COVID-19 relief supplemental budget plan while cutting millions of dollars in support for schools and small businesses and vetoing a measure limiting her unilateral power to shut down schools, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas, R-Midland, issued the following statement:

“I am disappointed the governor chose keeping her absolute power over getting more federal money out to our schools and providing relief to struggling small businesses. It is a sad day for our system of government, our students trying to catch up, and the family-owned businesses trying to survive after being shut down by the governor without a path for reopening.

“We worked hard to put together a responsible bipartisan plan for effectively using the federal COVID-19 funding to meet our state’s most critical needs, and I am glad the governor has agreed to help get more people the lifesaving vaccines, increase testing, provide vital rental assistance and support our direct-care and front-line workers.

“We have more to do, and I hope the governor will work with us and share her spending plans on how to best invest the remaining federal funds instead of just asking us to give her a blank check. We owe it to the Michigan people to ensure our federal assistance is directed to families and small businesses in need.”

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