Governor's budget recs need work to meet her population goals
Michigan's population growth is second-worst in the nation, continuing a decades-long, largely downward trend. It's why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made population retention and growth a leading message.
Her proposed state budget, however, doesn't fully put her vision into action.
Among the budget recommendations released Wednesday is a $40 million cut in public transit funding compared to the last fiscal year and only minimal investments into retrofitting Michigan’s aging housing stock.
Better transit and housing were key provisions urged by the Growing Michigan Together Council. Gov. Whitmer created this group of citizen experts and legislators to determine what investments Michigan must make to keep and boost its population.
The report notes that, "since 2000, Michigan has spent substantially less than other states on capital investment in infrastructure." That includes housing—which just had the third-highest rent increase in the nation according to Rent.com—and transit—which scores a 2.1 out of 10 according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
"Michigan has some of the greatest lakes in the nation, stunning parks systems, and charming cities of all sizes. It's also home to essential things like good healthcare, jobs, and schools," said Ross Gavin, urban land use, infrastructure & transportation policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. "People want these things, but if they can't conveniently and affordably travel to them or find reasonably priced, quality homes nearby, they'll look elsewhere, just as they have for years. We urge Gov. Whitmer and Michigan legislators to heed what the people and our population experts have called for: better home and travel options."
The Environmental Council and other leading environmental organizations released their budget requests earlier this year. Included were hundreds of millions of dollars to make housing safe, more affordable, and less polluting, and to make our transportation infrastructure cleaner and more accessible
"The Governor's budget recommendations have some great pieces, like major climate investments, increasing the waste disposal fee, and some water infrastructure investments," said Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Environmental Council. "Unfortunately, when the budget proposes investing another $150 million in a nuclear plant with a questionable future; when it cuts transit funding we desperately need and underfunds critical housing retrofits; when it fails to clean up contaminated sediment from major rivers; that budget is not prioritizing Michigan's environment and communities. We know what we need to fund to protect our state and grow our population. Now we need decisionmakers to make it happen."