Center those vital to stronger state

When we make a budget for ourselves, we’re essentially prioritizing what is most important to us.

And, while the state budget is far more complicated, that essential idea remains: Our budget should align with our values.

And, in Michigan, our greatest value is our people.

Right now in Michigan, policymakers are at a critical point in the budget season and have the opportunity to create a people-centered budget that works for all of us.

During last week’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, state fiscal experts determined that overall state revenues were coming in a tad stronger than originally anticipated in January. Those projections will kick off final negotiations between the state House, state Senate and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration, during which policymakers will set funding for departmental budgets and negotiate priorities, with a goal of passing a budget before July 1.

After decades of disinvestment, the last several years have taught us that our state is stronger when we center the lives of Michigan residents and invest in what they are asking for — vibrant communities, healthy families, and high-quality education. Those investments need to be bold and enduring, building on the successes of our current budget and rectifying previous decisions that created barriers for families trying to make ends meet.

And Friday’s Revenue Estimating Conference, showing a stable economy and a stable revenue forecast, allows Michigan’s policymakers to do that.

The needs of Michiganders — especially those with low incomes — should remain a central part of all budget decisions, with dollars prioritized toward things like basic cash assistance, child care, housing support, healthy food access, equity-focused school funding, and health care.

With 13% of Michiganders and nearly one in five of Michigan’s kids living in poverty, strengthening our state’s basic cash assistance program is necessary to help families meet their basic needs.

Right here in the 106th state House District that encompasses Northeast Michigan, nearly 20% of families with children live in poverty.

But, for years, harmful policy changes and stagnant budgets have damaged our state’s cash assistance program, the Family Independence Program. Despite hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line, the Family Independence Program now serves only 12,000 Michigan families, a staggering 85% drop over the past 12 years.

This year’s budget means policymakers have a chance to improve the system, though, and we are pleased to see that the governor, state House, and state Senate have all recognized that improving the Family Independence Program is necessary to respond to the needs of families and communities.

Another crucial investment we can make for families in this 2025 state budget is in child care.

Accessing affordable, high-quality child care still remains out of reach for many of Michigan’s families and workers, and last fall’s fiscal cliff only exacerbated that barrier.

Meaningful investments in helping Michigan families access low- or no-cost child care and supporting child care providers must continue to be a priority.

Our state has the tools to make Michigan a place where all people can thrive and the state budget is one of the most important tools.

We have seen the power and positive outcomes in investing in Michigan’s people, and this budget gives us the opportunity to do just that.

When our people are strong, our state is even stronger.

There are still a few short weeks left to let your lawmakers and the governor know what you value and what you believe should be included in the 2025 state budget.

Now is the time to make your voice heard so that we can build a stronger Michigan together.

Rachel Richards is fiscal policy and government relations director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.


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