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Snyder Wants 2 Percent Bump In Education Funding

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UPDATE 12 PM: Snyder Budget Plans Calls For Higher Gas Tax, Education Bump

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will propose giving public schools, universities and community colleges two percent more overall funding in the next school year.

State budget director John Nixon told The Associated Press that the governor’s budget being released later Thursday would require universities to hold tuition and fee increases to under four percent or lose part of their state aid.

The Republican governor also will ask lawmakers to double enrollment of 4-year-olds in a preschool program for kids at risk of failing, Nixon said. Over two years, the number of participants in the Great Start Readiness Program would rise from 32,000 to 66,000.

“If we can have early intervention with these kids and get them prepared to start school, obviously it will further their ability to excel in the K-12 system,” Nixon said in an interview.

Snyder already has announced plans to seek $1.2 billion in higher taxes and fees from the GOP-controlled Legislature to fix ailing roads and bridges, though he is expected to give more details Thursday.

On Wednesday Snyder got behind expanding Medicaid to 470,000 residents under the federal health care law despite reluctance from Republican legislators. He argued it would help the uninsured but also save the state because the influx of federal dollars would cover services currently paid by the state.

After his Medicaid announcement, Snyder told The AP that a major theme of his budget will be to stay fiscally responsible as Michigan’s economy rebounds from a decade-long recession. He is expected to propose socking away more money in the state’s so-called rainy day fund.

“That doesn’t mean you should all of a sudden say, ‘Well let’s spend a lot more.’ It also means you shouldn’t just say, ‘Well let’s just not want the revenue and give it all back,”‘ he said.

Democrats and school officials will likely support Snyder’s call for more early childhood funding but complain that overall education spending is not going up enough. Snyder and GOP legislators cut education funding significantly in 2011 and slightly increased it last year – after a few years when it was propped up with federal stimulus money.

Nixon said K-12 districts that now get the minimum amount of aid would receive $34 more per student this fall, with the minimum grant being raised from $6,966 to $7,000. Mid-level and wealthier districts would not get the extra money but could qualify for additional funding if they meet performance benchmarks (up to $100 per pupil) or “best practices” ($16 per student) – incentives similar to what the governor included in his last budget, too.

Though the focus traditionally has been on per-pupil funding levels, Nixon said that is not the best gauge of school spending because of a change in paying for retirement benefits for school employees. A 2012 law limits the portion of districts’ payroll required to go toward the retirement system, which means the Snyder administration is budgeting to spend $430 million for excess liabilities – or the equivalent of $250 per student, he said.

Districts have grappled with mandatory retirement payments eating more of their budgets.

“What this does is it gives them stable funding, funding they can count on looking forward,” Nixon said.

Universities and community colleges also would see an overall 2 percent increase in funding. The amount each schools gets would depend on its ability to meet performance standards – graduation rates, how much research and development they do and the number of graduates in high-demand degree programs, for example.

Lawmakers want to pass the budget by June. The next fiscal year starts in October.

Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for more on Snyder’s fiscal year budget recommendations.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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