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MiBiz with Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez

Governor Whitmer and legislature negotiating state tax cuts. Patrick Center spoke with MiBiz Senior Writer Mark Sanchez

*This conversation aired July 20, 2022*

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon, time for our bimonthly conversation with might be is senior writer Mark Sanchez, Governor Whitmer, the budget not signed off on yet and there are still negotiations taking place when it comes to tax cuts.

Mark Sanchez: Well, that was something that was supposed to be in the budget back almost 3 weeks ago that the Legislature passed, right on deadline. The governor obviously had her people at the table, they agreed to, the Legislature passed it. The governor has yet to sign the budget, although that expected any day now. You know, Patrick, we talked about this back in the spring that

it looks like we're going to get some tax cuts in Michigan this year because the state's sitting on billions of dollars in budget surpluses, plus the one time federal COVID relief money from ARPA and other programs. Going up to that deadline here, as the budget deadline looms the governor and the lawmakers decided to take that conversation out of the budget discussion and now they’re ready to go back and talk about tax cuts there's any number of ideas out there. The governor wants to repeal what she calls the pension tax, she wants to increase the earned income tax credit, which is something that has a very wide support, including many Republicans. She also wants to pause the gasoline tax and she’s talked about a $500 inflation tax relief checks. The Republicans back in the spring they had some plans they passed, 2.5 billion dollars’ worth. They were going to lower the personal income tax rate and increase and income tax credit. The governor promptly vetoed those. These were not negotiated, we did not agree to this,

we did not work things out together. She used her veto pen. Now the budget’s settled, it will be signed and they're going to return to the table here this summer or this fall in Lansing and they're going to try to work out some kind of tax cut proposal. In fact, when the governor was in town last week because Mary Free Bed unveiling that was a partly funded through the budget, she talked about wanting to sit down with legislature and work out a tax cut proposal. She has her ideas, they have their ideas. So, we'll see what's to come out of it but there is still chance, as we’ve said a few times on this program, there is still a chance to get some election-year tax cuts in Michigan.

PC: A lot of that has to do with the deployment of federal relief aid to states, Ottawa county also receiving some of those dollars. It's now trying to figure out what it wants to do with that big lump sum from the feds.

MS: Yeah, there's of course, a boatload of money out there that the federal government has doled out, Congress passed last year. Pandemic relief funding and we did a section about this in this week's edition of MiBiz looking at some of these issues from along the lakeshore, economic issues and such, and one of the things I wrote about is…looking at… Ottawa county has 57 million dollars of ARPA money and what does it do with that money? It’s begun a process it’s got a committee put together. This is the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress enacted last year. There’s 57 million dollars, and talking to the folks, John Shea, the county administrator said they really wanted employ this money for long-term uses, transformational projects, he described it. They're looking at how they can support affordable housing, how they can support a robust growing economy and other issues. So, that money is coming, that money is going to get deployed here in Ottawa County, you know, and expanding broadband Internet access is another issue, plus looking at social and human service needs. Talking to the folks here in Ottawa County they said they could do probably the first round of funding by the end of the year. They’re right now gathering information going about the process… some time…probably late summer, early fall, they will open up an application process for folks. If you have a project that kind of fit into these categories with the county's calling “Bucket,” again affordable housing, broadband expansion, supporting business, and social and human service needs, you’ll have an opportunity to submit to a grant application for your project. And I should also add Ottawa county is not the only one going through this process. So many counties. A lot of folks got ARPA money and have it available so there are many counties going through this process. Now that we have it, what do we do it? Do we do it internally; do we fund it externally? Do we look for outside projects and proposals…so it’s a the process many counties and cities are going through.

PC: We’ll bounce it back to the state. Same topic here with what to do with the money part of the state budget is also addressing mental health.

MS: Yeah. You know, we have seen during the last two and a half years in the pandemic. Just mental health includes where it's just take off of depression,

anxiety, suicidal thoughts or substance use disorder have gone off the charts.

So we're seeing a lot of movement from health care providers to try to improve access and expand capacity. And there's a boatload of money in the budget for this 233 million dollars alone just for infrastructure projects. A Pine Rest in Grand Rapids is going to get a good chuck of money up to 50 million dollars this year marking the books for Pine Rest Christian mental health services. There's also a money for other uses to establish crisis unit through state competitive grants to expand psychiatric capacity. Ten million dollars for residential treatment facilities. So there's a lot of money in the budget. And as we talk about in the story about this week. It's the beginning.

It's a beginning to start addressing this mental health crisis is out of line to use that word, but to expand capacity to expand access. And there's also the issue of the poor people tell me that that shows capacity. You can open more pets,

but you have to staff those a psychiatrist, a psychologist, but nurses who are trained in that area. So it's a big issue in this budget that we talked about that because moving down the road to address it.

PC: It seems to be a part of so much of our life these days when it comes to the workspace or in education or even public safety mental health is really risen to the top of the list.

MS: It absolutely has risen to the top of the list. I’ve talked to folks who also have a generation that’s of age that’s more use to talk openly about issues they may be having or seek treatment and seek out help. It’s not going to be something they just suffer in silence with, they’re going to reach out and they're going to seek support. So is it higher incidence rates or higher willingness to seek support? I've had people tell me a combination of both. The bottom line, there is some movement afoot to expand capacity to expand access for mental health care.

PC: And we’ll end with Spectrum Health. A groundbreaking today in downtown Grand Rapids on its new outpatient facility.

MC: Yeah, this is a project we wrote about back earlier this year when they first announced it…it’s an outpatient facility, it’s going to go up is going to go up at the old Cook Institute site there on Michigan Street by the Butterworth campus. Part of 151 million dollars in projects that Spectrum Health is doing right now. There's also projects going on the Big Rapids and Lakeview. So there's a groundbreaking, the ceremonial groundbreaking this afternoon and they're expecting on-site and you'll soon see another building rising on the Medical Mile.

PC: What do you know about the need for outpatient services?

MS: The project basically…is to put those services in the lower cost setting. So much of health care today occurs on an outpatient service basis. You go in, you have a procedure done, your diagnostic test done, you go home. When I had a procedure done on my back late last year it was in the morning, home by the afternoon. It's so much of what is the current health care is done on an outpatient basis now, and a lot of it is done in a hospital, which is kind of a higher cost setting. So the thinking, and we wrote about this back in January, is, take those services and put them in a setting, a clinical setting that’s more appropriate for those particular clinical services, a lower cost to operate and maintain, and efficient. That's part of the strategy and we’re seeing the actual execution with this new facility that they’re breaking ground on this afternoon.

PC: MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

MS: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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