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Senate adopts alternative COVID budget

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Courtesy capitol.michigan.gov
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The Republican-controlled state Senate adopted a COVID-19 budget bill today (THU) over the objections of Democrats. The GOP bill holds back some federal funds that could be used to bargain with Governor Gretchen Whitmer over COVID restrictions.

GOP lawmakers said they were exercising their authority over spending decisions against the governor and her administration’s use of emergency powers.

“Send money! Spend money! Demand more money! As if money were some magic bullet that’s been missing when it comes to solving our epidemic,” said Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), who argued the state’s been overreaching in its response.  

Democrats say allocating COVID funds has become a pawn in a power play between Whitmer and GOP leaders. Democratic Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said that and conditions Republicans are trying to put on how the money could be used puts people at risk.

“This type of treachery and torture of our residents cannot stand,” she said. “We must do better and be better for Michigan’s people.”

Whitmer’s office released this statement following the vote:

“Today the Senate Republicans left $4 billion dollars on the table in federal resources meant to get our kids back in school, keep families in their homes, and ramp up vaccine distribution and testing. The legislation includes language that could mean Michigan gets fewer vaccines from the federal government, and hampers our ability to provide COVID-19 testing to student athletes, nursing home residents, and keep our state safe.  Today’s actions by the Senate Republicans also mean the State could run out of funding for food assistance for Michigan families by the end of March. It’s time for Republicans to pass Governor Whitmer’s full MI COVID Recovery Plan because we can’t afford to wait.”

The bill now goes to the state House, which is also controlled by Republicans.

The vote came on the same day that a Senate committee opened confirmation hearings on Whitmer’s new Department of Health and Human Services director, Elizabeth Hertel.