LANSING - House Democrats today refused to give their support for a Republican-backed supplemental budget that didn’t specify which programs would receive funding and left only blank spaces where lawmakers could fill in dollar amounts at a later date. Instead of passing a fill-in-the-blanks version of a supplemental budget and trusting Republicans to fairly allocate funds at some point in the future, Democrats said the Legislature should be funding programs today that help Michigan schools, families and homeowners.
“It seems as though the Republicans are stumped when it comes to divvying up the state’s resources among our state’s to-do list,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (Mount Morris Township). “There’s a lot of work to get done in our state, and a lot of programs and people who need help. To offer up a bill with no allocated funds is not only irresponsible, but unimaginative. Michiganders deserve better.”
House Bill 5015 was rushed through the House Wednesday as part of the Republican’s last-minute push to wrap up the budget. Included in the budget should be funds awarded to Michigan under a foreclosure settlement between state attorneys general and five national mortgage servicers. While homeowners continue to lose their houses to foreclosures, schools suffer for lack of funding and middle-class taxpayers struggle to come to terms with tax increases, the Republicans opted to postpone help rather than stay and hammer out the details on the supplemental budget bill.
Rather than approving a fill-in-the-blank budget, Democrats would rather:
Offer substantive foreclosure avoidance help to homeowners.
Provide restitution for foreclosure scam victims.
Assist school children that have been displaced and had their education interrupted due to foreclosure.
Provide funding for continued prosecution of foreclosure scams.
“It is unconscionable to me that funds given to the state through the foreclosure fraud settlement aren’t being used to help people keep their homes,” State Representative David Nathan (Detroit) said. “Many homeowners are in danger of losing their homes now. They can’t wait for the Legislature to decide how they want to spend the settlement money. If they are to keep their homes, they need housing help today.”
Without seeing exactly how the funds would be allocated, many Democrats said they couldn’t vote on the bill in good conscience. With no dollar figures committed to the bill, it is impossible to know whether money will be spent wisely on behalf of the people of Michigan or if funds will be allocated to satisfy the wants of special interests.
“If somebody asked you to write them a check but leave the dollar amount blank, there’s no way you’d say yes,” said State Representative Richard LeBlanc (Westland). “To vote yes on this blank check supplemental budget would have been irresponsible to the people of Michigan.”