Discussion schedule, annual state budget, school funding
It is an honor to write to you again as your representative in Lansing. Your input on issues in state government helps me represent you better, so I hope you will contact me about the issues that are important to you. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at email@example.com, or on my website, rabhi.housedems.com. Additionally, I will send these e-newsletters monthly to update you on legislation and community news. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to working together to move Michigan forward.
Yousef and You discussion schedule
I periodically hold events where any constituent can come to discuss legislation and state issues. I hope to be able to speak with many of you in person. My next Yousef and YOU discussions will be:
Saturday, Jan. 27
10 a.m. to noon
1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor
Monday, Feb. 12
6 to 7 p.m.
Wolverine Brewing Company
2019 W. Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor
Saturday, Feb. 24
10 a.m. to noon
1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor
The 2019 Budget Process Begins
Every year, the Legislature decides on a budget for our state. The budget doesn’t get a lot of headlines, with its opaque jargon and ocean of numbers. It can be easier to attract public attention with heated rhetoric. But the budget embodies our collective priorities as a state. Many legislators say they value education, for example, or supporting working families. In order to be meaningful, though, our stated principles must be reflected in the choices we make about how to allocate public resources. The budget is the Legislature’s opportunity to put our money where our mouths are.
I believe it is important for citizens to understand how the budget is decided so that they can offer real input to their elected representatives. The budget is formulated between January and June. Every January, the nonpartisan fiscal analysis agencies of the Michigan House and Senate and the Department of Treasury meet to reconcile their estimates of how much money the state will bring in. For fiscal year 2019, General Fund revenue is expected to be pretty much the same as this year at $10.3 billion, while School Aid Fund revenue is expected to increase slightly to $13.5 billion. Once we know how much money we can expect to be available, the governor makes an executive budget recommendation to the Senate and House Appropriations committees in February.
This executive budget represents the governor’s vision for the next year, but legislators always have questions and proposed changes. The House Appropriations Committee has 15 subcommittees to examine and debate specific sections of the budget because it is so large and complicated. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I sit on the Higher Education and Community Colleges subcommittees, and I am the minority vice chair of the Department of Environmental Quality Subcommittee. The subcommittees make changes to their sections of the proposed budget and send them to the full Appropriations Committees in each chamber in April.
Once the Appropriations Committees have voted to move the marked-up bills out of committee, the House and the Senate will each vote on their versions of the General Omnibus and Education Omnibus budgets. Because the House and Senate committees each make their own changes to the budget, the House and Senate versions may be quite different. Around this time, another revenue estimate is undertaken so that the budget bills can be adjusted if necessary. Around May, the House and Senate form a Joint Conference Committee to negotiate what the final budget should look like. Both chambers must pass identical versions of the budget bills, which they usually do in early June.
The budget bills then go to the governor, who can sign them, veto them or veto selected line items. The Legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds majority. If necessary, the Legislature passes supplemental funding bills or transfers of funds throughout the year.
Last year, I voted against the final budget because it failed to adequately fund crucial programs across our state. I hope that the 2019 budget will place a higher value on education, protecting our air and water, investing in public infrastructure and ensuring economic prosperity is broadly shared. In my position on the subcommittees for Higher Education, Community Colleges and the Department of Environmental Quality, I will advocate to restore funding for our public universities and community colleges, and to fund environmental cleanup and enforcement. I would appreciate it if you would let me know what is important to you in the budget, so that I can better understand how the people of Ann Arbor would like to shape our state’s future.
For more detailed information about the Michigan budget and the appropriations process, please visit the House Fiscal Agency at https://www.house.mi.gov/hfa/home.asp .
Federal Funding Changes Would Affect Health Care for Michiganders
You may have heard in the news that renewal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been up in the air during federal budget debates. I am happy to report that Congress is expected to renew CHIP funding Monday evening. CHIP is a federal program that funds MiChild health insurance for children from low- and lower-middle income families. CHIP also includes the Flint waiver program, which covers children and pregnant women affected by the Flint water crisis. About 116,000 Michigan children rely on CHIP health care coverage, and our state has special permission to use CHIP funds to deal with lead pipes and other lead hazards.
CHIP requires periodic funding renewals from Congress. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that funding CHIP would actually save the federal government $6 billion over 10 years because of reduced spending on other programs. The current authorization expired Jan. 19. While some states would have run out of funds to run their CHIP programs as early as this month, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services estimates we have sufficient reserves to operate until June. If Monday’s votes go as expected, the state will not have to dip into those reserves. The Congressional CHIP funding deal likely means Michigan Legislature will not have to decide whether to use state funds to continue the program, and where that money would come from.
Funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers also expired at the same time, and it is unclear at this time whether those funds will also be renewed as part of Monday’s deal. Michigan’s FQHCs provide care at 240 clinic sites to 680,000 people who would otherwise have difficulty accessing health care. Packard Health, the FQHC for the Ann Arbor area, provided more than 25,000 primary care visits in 2016. The centers lost up to 70 percent of their funding Jan. 19.
Because families in Ann Arbor and across the state depend on these life-saving federal programs, I will be following the funding situation for CHIP and FQHCs closely. In the event that federal funds are cut off, I will work with colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and across the aisle to find ways to potentially use state funds so that services can continue.
Bill Passes to Allow Charters to Siphon Millage Funds
Last Thursday, the House passed Senate Bill 574, which would allow charter schools to receive funds from countywide tax millages. I opposed this bill because I believe public funds should go to traditional public schools. When voters choose to support their public schools by passing millages, they shouldn’t see those funds diverted to enrich private interests. Michigan has by far the highest percentage of for-profit charter schools of any state, with nearly 80 percent of charters run or staffed by for-profit entities.
SB 574 is expected to pass a vote in the Senate to authorize technical changes, and will head from there to the governor’s desk for a signature or a veto.
Beware of Phone Scams
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, a utility provider or another official agency is contacting you. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
Legitimate agencies and utilities will never:
- Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
- Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, bills will be sent first through the U.S. mail.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have a person arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Call or email to demand that payment be made immediately to prevent utility shutoff.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers to pay taxes over the phone.
People who are contacted by a scammer should hang up or ignore the email. Never give a caller your account number or personal information like your date of birth or Social Security number. You can report tax scammers to the IRS through the web or by calling (800) 366-4484. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft. For other types of scams, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, www.michigan.gov/ag, or the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4357.
If you’ve mistakenly provided bank account information, call your bank and local police department. Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report for at least 90 days.