By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING - Public universities and local governments that sustained steep cuts in state aid during Michigan's economic slide would see sizable funding increases under a budget agreement signed Thursday that cleared the way for approval of a roughly $52 billion spending plan in the next week.
The deal OK'd by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration and Republican lawmakers would boost spending on 15 universities by nearly $75 million, or 5.9 percent, with the amount varying by school depending on their graduation rates and other performance benchmarks. The schools could raise tuition by no more than 3.2 percent to get their entire funding increase.
Wayne State would get the smallest percentage boost at 3.9 percent; Grand Valley the biggest at 9.2 percent. The University of Michigan and Michigan State, the state's biggest schools, would receive 5.7 and 5.9 percent more.
Revenue-sharing payments to counties, cities, townships and villages would rise roughly 9 percent overall - generally in line with Snyder's recommendation, said state budget office spokesman Kurt Weiss. Exact figures will not be finalized until a Monday conference committee meeting.
The agreement pertains only to general - but not K-12 - spending for the fiscal year that starts in October, so key details such as an expected per-pupil funding increase for school districts had yet to be resolved. It was still a significant step forward, allowing House-Senate conference panels on Thursday to initially approve 11 of 19 budget bills a week before lawmakers likely adjourn for a couple of months.
Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the House higher education budget subcommittee, said even with the "strategic reinvestment" in universities next year, they will get 4 percent less than they did four years ago.
"It is going to take some time to reverse that trend," he said. "The big thing is we've got to be able to hold the line on tuition as we're doing it because we are going to price families and kids out of higher ed. Nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to see their kids coming out with huge amount of debt."
As talks continue over permanently raising at least $1.2 billion more a year for road and bridge repairs through tax and vehicle registration hikes, Snyder and legislators agreed to set aside $127 million to ensure federal matching aid comes through. They also authorized $145 million more for state and local roads and bridges - $235 million less than approved earlier by the House but before revenue estimates were revised downward.
Negotiators also dropped a Senate provision that would have specifically prohibited the state Transportation Department from buying or assisting in the purchase of land for a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.