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New Michigan Budget May Affect You In Many Ways

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By David Eggert, Associated Press

LANSING (AP) - Schoolchildren, college students and others will be impacted when the next state budget starts in about three months.

The Republican-written spending plan, which Gov. Rick Snyder plans to finish signing as early as Monday, affects many corners of Michigan life – from how much it costs to attend a state university and whether low-income 4-year-olds can go to preschool to increased funding for the arts and how many state troopers patrol the highways.

Here’s a look at the $53.2 billion budget:

EDUCATION

If you:

– attend one of the state’s 15 public universities, your tuition and fees are unlikely to rise more than 3.2 percent or else the school will lose funding.

– go to a private college, you might get extra help with tuition if you can demonstrate the need for financial assistance. Funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant program will increase 5.9 percent.

– have a 4-year-old, your child might be eligible for publicly funded preschool under an effort to end a waiting list for disadvantaged kids.

– are in 1st through 12th grade, you may be going to school longer. K-12 districts are required to have at least 175 days of instruction instead of 170, with exceptions for snow days. Many districts already provide 180 days of instruction.

– have a child in a traditional public or charter school, per-pupil funding will increase by between $50 and $175. Exactly how much varies, depending on whether you live in a higher-funded or lower-funded district. Some districts aren’t happy, saying their $50 boost is an effective cut because it won’t fully offset higher employee retirement costs. Supporters say the gap between wealthier and poorer districts will shrink.

– are in grades 3-8, you’ll take revised Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP, tests in math and reading that are supposed to align with national Common Core standards designed to improve problem-solving skills. Lawmakers rejected a plan to switch to Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests being developed by Michigan and other states – at least for now – until the state reviews bids from competitor testing companies.

TRANSPORTATION

If you:

– drive, you probably won’t see significantly more construction. The budget includes an extra $144 million for state and local bridge projects. But a push to more than double state gasoline and diesel taxes and change vehicle registration fees to boost spending by $1.2 to $1.8 billion a year was defeated before legislators broke for the summer. They could try again after the November election.

– take the train, you may have more options in the future. The state must study the feasibility of a passenger rail service between Detroit and Holland, with stops in Lansing and Grand Rapids.

– renew your license plate, expect more scrutiny from the secretary of state’s office. The agency will have additional funding to verify that paper certificates are proof that you have auto insurance. It conducted a snapshot of 3,500 paper insurance certificates submitted by customers when electronic verification wasn’t available last year and found 16 percent were invalid or fraudulent.

LAW AND ORDER

If you:

– are interested in a career in law enforcement, you can apply to become a state trooper. The state plans to graduate 100 new troopers from a training academy.

– live in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw or Pontiac, you may see a new state police helicopter flying overhead. The state says spending $5.2 million to buy and retrofit a third helicopter will help it dedicate more hours to the four high-crime cities while also responding sooner to search-and-rescue missions and vehicle chases in west Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

– are a victim of sexual assault in Detroit whose rape-evidence kit sat on a shelf for years without being tested, justice could be closer. The budget includes $3 million for the attorney general’s office to prosecute cases.

CAPITOL

If you:

– visit the state Capitol, you might see a renovation project. The budget includes $3 million in tobacco tax revenue specifically designated for restoration and upkeep of the 135-year-old building. The Capitol’s east steps – a regular site of rallies and other events – are being refurbished with new technology to melt winter ice.

– are a state representative, you’re getting a varnished desk in the state House chamber and a new ergonomic chair.

TAXES

If you:

– owe income taxes to the state, you could be able to pay with a credit card. The budget includes money for the Treasury Department to make the payment option available.

MOVIES

If you:

–  like Michigan’s film incentives program, you don’t have to worry about a big drop in production. The state again will entice Hollywood with $50 million worth of incentives. Snyder had wanted to cut the program in half.

ARTS

If you:

–  like arts and culture, there’s an extra $2 million in state-based funding for programs in local communities, a more than 28 percent increase.

EARMARKS

– Depending on whether you support earmarks or specific causes, you may or may not support $10.2 million for “special projects” that legislators included in the Michigan Strategic Fund’s budget:

• $1.5 million for the Yankee Air Museum at the Willow Run Airport near Belleville;
• $1 million for the Saginaw Art Museum;
• $1.25 million for the West Michigan Regional Airport in Holland;
• $1.5 million for the Grand Rapids Downtown Market;
• $700,000 for the FirstMerit Bank Event Park, an outdoor event venue in Saginaw;
• $225,000 for a senior center in Capac;
• $175,000 for the Waterford Township Fire Department in Oakland County;
• $2 million for the Michigan Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Monument Fund, which is raising money to build a memorial in Lansing to commemorate more than 500 officers killed in the line of duty.

There’s also $1.5 million to continue a year-round school pilot project and $300,000 for a pre-college engineering program for Detroit students.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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