Michigan OKs spending for tuition aid and tourism campaign | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Michigan OKs spending for tuition aid and tourism campaign

March 12, 2020 - 2:11 PM

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Legislature on Thursday approved $312 million in spending to provide financial assistance for adults age 25 and older to attend community college and partially revive the state's tourism campaign.

The supplemental bill won bipartisan approval, 36-2 in the Senate and 101-6 in the House. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign the legislation.

Some of the money will partly or fully restore funding that Whitmer vetoed last fall amid a budget impasse with the Republican-led Legislature over fixing roads.

The measure includes:

— $35 million to fund the Reconnect Grant program, which Whitmer proposed a year ago. Starting next school year, the state will provide tuition-free community college or technical training for 25,000 people age 25 and older who have graduated from high school or received a GED and have not previously earned an associate's or bachelor's degree. The aid will cover tuition or mandatory fees not already offset by need-based federal Pell Grants or Michigan's tuition program for Medicaid recipients.

— $31 million for legal settlements. There is an initial $25 million payment as part of the state's $80 million settlement with male teens who said they were sexually harassed or assaulted in prison while housed with adults. Legislators also allocated $6 million to cover costs associated with a $12 million settlement with the family of a Detroit teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died after he was shot with a Taser by a state trooper.

— $25 million to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, after Whitmer declared a state of emergency.

— $16 million for the Pure Michigan tourism and marketing campaign, which was not funded for five months and has not aired ads since late last year. Though it had $36 million in funding last fiscal year, both Whitmer and top GOP lawmakers have said the tourism industry should contribute money to the Pure Michigan campaign.

— $15 million to the Going Pro campaign, which helps businesses recruit students into the trades and other high-demand fields. Whitmer had blocked its funding during the budget stalemate.

— $37 million in earmarks, or "enhancement grants," for projects in individual legislative districts. Republican Sen. Jon Bumstead of Newaygo said he voted no because they had not been vetted and “will cost Michigan taxpayers millions of their hard-earned dollars" and are why people “have a huge mistrust in government.” He cited $1 million for the North American International Auto Show and funds for garden restorations, green space initiatives, art centres and picnic shelters.

But Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr of East Lansing, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said all of the projects are “incredibly important” for economic development and public safety.

Also Thursday, the House approved bipartisan policy bills to implement Whitmer's tuition program, which were sent to the Senate for its expected passage. Whitmer has said the initiative will help reach her goal of increasing the number of residents age 16 to 64 with a postsecondary credential to 60% by 2030.

A sponsor, Republican Rep. Ben Frederick of Owosso, said the program “has the potential to change lives all across our state” by removing the “biggest barrier that prevents adults from going back to school or an entering occupational training program."

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News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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