Editorial by Rep. Cochran on the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Budget
One of the most important duties of the State Legislature is to pass its annual budget. Crafting a budget that funds schools, public safety, and other services, while staying within our state’s financial means, is always challenge. On May 28, after months of negotiating, the Michigan State House of Representatives approved the School Aid Budget - which provides funding for K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities - and the General Omnibus Budget - which funds everything else. The version passed by the House allocates $49.5 billion to operate the State of Michigan for the next fiscal year. Although I thought there were areas for improvement in both budgets, I voted for them because they were a step in the right direction and an opportunity to work with my colleagues in a spirit of bipartisanship.
One important reason I supported the budget was that, while it fell short of restoring cuts that had been made to our schools in past budgets, it did increase funding for education. Some schools in the 67th District will see relatively small increases in funding. Lansing and Holt schools, for example, will have increases of $6 and $15 per pupil, respectively. Other districts will see more generous increases in their allotments. The Dansville, Leslie, Mason, Stockbridge, and Webberville school districts, for example, will all have their foundation allowances increase by more than $70 per pupil. In addition to increasing foundation allowances for K-12 schools, the budget also provides an additional $65 million to fund Great Start Readiness, a program that has a proven track record of providing effective early childhood education.
Ensuring that we have an educated workforce is vital to increasing Michigan’s competitiveness in a global marketplace. We need to not only make sure that our high school graduates are prepared for college, vocational schools, or the workplace, we also need to make sure that tuition is affordable and graduates do not have to venture out of state to find a rewarding and fulfilling career. This budget also included a 2.2 percent increase in funding to Michigan’s public universities, and a 2 percent increase in funding to community colleges.
At their core, budgets are statements about our values. In my opinion, this budget does not sufficiently demonstrate a commitment to education, a commitment I hold dearly as a parent, school board member, and State Representative. But I also value bipartisanship and compromise. I recognize that just because I do not support every detail of a proposal does not mean that I should lose sight of what is best for the people of the 67th District and Michigan. Time and time again I hear from constituents that they want us to stop the bickering and work together to solve problems. So no, I do not believe that the budget we passed was perfect. I do, however, believe that working together and setting aside partisan squabbles is the best way to serve the people of Michigan.