Michigan Governor Eyes $230M in Budget for Flint

     LANSING, Mich. (CN) – A $54.9 billion budget Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder laid out Wednesday includes more than $230 million to aid the city of Flint, plus $72 million a year for 10 years to fix Detroit Public Schools.
     “I’m committed to providing critical investments needed for the Flint water crisis and Detroit Public Schools while maintaining the long-term focus on the key priorities of education, job creation, health and human services, public safety and fiscal responsibility,” Snyder said in a statement.
     Presenting the 2017 budget to Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Wednesday kept Snyder from accepting an invitation to testify before Congress about the Flint crisis.
     As protesters outside the Capitol called for Snyder’s impeachment over his handling of the disaster, the governor said he earmarked $30 million in the budget to cover water bills that Flint residents faced for lead-contaminated water since 2014.
     Snyder included another $200 million for Flint, money he wants to pay for safe drinking water, food, educational intervention and any other physical and or social support the people of Flint require.
     Flint has been in a state of emergency for over a month after researchers linked the city’s poisoned drinking-water supply to health problems like elevated lead levels in children’s blood and an uptick in Legionnaire’s disease.
     Officials are finally taking action, but Flint water has been unsafe to drink since April 2014 when an emergency manager appointed by Snyder switched the city from Detroit’s system to the corrosive Flint River, as a cost-cutting measure.
     The delay has heaped scrutiny on city, state and federal officials about what they knew and when they knew it.
     Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a Democrat who represents Flint, called the 2017 budget Snyder unveiled a step in the right direction.
     “The priorities laid out in this proposal for Flint seem to match the areas we have been stressing for some time – health, education and infrastructure,” Ananich said in a statement. “Although this is a step forward, I’m going to keep pushing for resources to get results for the people in my community. Our challenge now is to make sure that the state delivers and we don’t take our foot off the gas.”
     Snyder also wants to reallocate $165 million from his “rainy day fund” to a new account called the “Michigan Infrastructure Fund,” in response to recommendations from the Commission on 21st Century Infrastructure.
     The funding for the recovery of the Detroit Public Schools will come from the Michigan Tobacco Settlement, a fund the state has been receiving from cigarette manufacturers since 1998.
     Teachers complaining of mold and other deplorable conditions in the Detroit school district waged a sickout this year that closed dozens of schools in the city.
     State budget director John Roberts said the budget hits the right notes.
     “I am proud of this budget because we addressed the challenges we have in Flint and Detroit while remaining committed to our core budget principles and managing the taxpayer dollar wisely,” Roberts said in a statement.
     State lawmakers will review the proposed budget over the next several months and put it to a vote this June. If approved the new budget will take affect Oct. 1.

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