John Proos: Finished state budget focuses on roads, schoolsPublished 4:10pm Wednesday, June 12, 2013
By Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph
For the third consecutive year, Michigan has passed a balanced, fiscally responsible budget before July that supports vital services and forces the state to live within its means — just as Southwest Michigan families do every day.
The Fiscal Year 2014 budget builds on the reforms we made during the past two years, which have resulted in an improved economy. Michigan’s economic turnaround means less unemployment and more jobs, and when teamed with a more efficient state government it means additional funding for key priorities like education, roads and public safety.
Our improved economy resulted in a forecasted $702 million surplus. While there was no shortage of ideas on what to do with this money, I strongly believed the surplus should go toward improving our roads and schools and saving for a rainy day.
I am proud to say that the finalized budget focused on increased support to all three areas.
Education has always been one of my highest priorities, and this budget increases funding for every student in every Southwest Michigan school at an average of about $214 per student. The total school aid funding will increase by more than $400 million to a total of $13.4 billion, which is the most the state has ever spent on educating our kids.
Quality roads are critical for protecting drivers and attracting tourists and job providers; yet Southwest Michigan residents are keenly aware of the poor condition of Michigan’s roads compared to those of our neighbors.
The 2014 budget invests up to $350 million to ensure our roads and bridges are safe as we debate a long-term solution on how we maintain our aging infrastructure system.
To help keep our communities safe, we included funding to put 107 new troopers on the roads and gave an additional $46 million in revenue sharing to local governments to support police and fire-fighting services.
This responsible plan also includes enhanced government accountability measures, increases government efficiencies and pays down billions in long-term debt. It reserves an additional $75 million for the state’s rainy day fund to reduce the cost of our debt and end the days of government shutdowns.
Michigan’s economy and budget outlook are both improving, but we cannot become complacent.
Since I took office in January 2011, Michigan has the fourth-fastest employment growth in the nation and the fastest among the Great Lakes states, but this could change at any time due to circumstances beyond our control.
That is why I am proud we were cautious and responsible with spending for next year. As a result, we have a 2014 budget that saves for those possible rainy days, improves government efficiency and also increases investment in priorities — like our roads and education.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien and Cass counties and most of Van Buren County.
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