Budget expectations

The new Legislature is well underway and we are already fast-approaching budget season.

In just a few days, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be releasing the details of her proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

My colleagues and I have our expectations of what proposals the governor will put forward, but until we hear more, it’s all just speculation. Many of our expectations are founded in campaign promises and what she mentioned in her State of the State speech in mid-February. It is probable that we will see her focus on water quality, education and road funding.

I think these are good places to start. These are all issues that aren’t necessarily partisan. Everyone can agree that our infrastructure, both above and below ground, needs improvements, that preparing our children for their futures is important, and that clean drinking water is critical to everyday life.

With regard to road funding, I think the message is good, though I share many of the same reservations other lawmakers are feeling. We have yet to fully implement the 2015 road funding package and we have made tremendous investments in recent years. I think before we look at turning to the people for more money, we need to wait until the 2015 funding is in full effect and see how these funds are utilized.

Water quality is another great place to start. Again, this is something everyone can agree is important, and actions taken by the Legislature in recent years show that. We have done significant testing to groundwater sources across the state and promptly addressed problems when needed. The issue is the difficulty surrounding testing procedures. A lot of the technology used for testing is new, which means it is incredibly costly.

I am open to discussions on how we can continue leading the nation in PFAS testing. I have discussed this issue with residents and with representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and we plan to continue forward. The only issue is finding the money for ongoing testing and research and development.

Lastly, I look forward to hearing the governor’s proposals for the state’s public schools, community colleges and universities. We all want Michigan to succeed, and while there are some disagreements as to what the best avenue is, we can all agree that diversifying our work force is necessary. I hope to hear the governor address the skills gap and include proposals that strengthen the state’s skilled trades industry. Michigan is home to manufacturing and we cannot let our manufacturing continue to fall behind other states.

The Legislature has worked with the governor to approve a budget ahead of schedule for eight years now. It is always a long, arduous process, but the end result is financial stability for the state and local governments, Michiganders being able to rely on the programs they need, and increasing our state’s savings and paying down debt. I hope this year marks yet another successful budget season and in my role as vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.

Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.