A spike in March income tax collections, lower-than-expected tax refund payouts and a generally improving revenue picture mean Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature may have as much as $500 million extra to work with in finalizing the state budget for 2012.
The outlook is to be clarified at a revenue-estimating conference May 16. But the improving numbers are complicating the budget process, as some lawmakers and interest groups push to soften planned cuts while GOP leaders worry about a return to "business as usual" and a missed opportunity to put chronic budget deficits into structural balance.
"We can … put money in areas that are hurting," Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, minority vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Friday. He wants to offset revenue-sharing cuts to Detroit and other big cities while increasing spending on education.
Nah. Republicans are going to make these cuts anyway. This is what they have always wanted to do.
That would be a mistake, said Rep. Chuck Moss, who chairs the committee. He wants any extra money put in the state's depleted Rainy Day Fund or used to pay down debt.
"This is the story of the last eight to 10 years, where you would get good news and you would put off making hard decisions," said Moss, R-Birmingham.
Here is a brief recap of those "hard decisions" they made to cut $1.5 billion from the kids, the college students, the seniors, the poor, the sick, and the disabled.
The plan hashed out Thursday in the Senate slashes $735.5 million from K-12 schools, $213.1 million from universities and $10 million from community colleges. Statutory revenue sharing, which helps communities pay for police, fire and other basic services, would be cut by nearly $400 million.
The Senate on Wednesday cut $290.2 million from Community Health, $201.1 million from social safety net programs and $101.1 million from prisons. The budget plan was opposed by Democrats, unions, teachers and advocates for the poor.
All totaled, the cuts recommended by the Senate in all state departments equal $330 million more than Snyder recommended in his February budget plan.
Went out of their way to bring more pain to the people who can't fight back. And you can afford private schools and your own security and fire protection, can't you?
Well, that's just too bad.