Michigan lawmakers unveil massive $4.8 billion spending plan for water infrastructure

Michigan lawmakers late Wednesday unveiled and began passing a massive $4.8 billion mid-year spending plan, one that will upgrade long-neglected infrastructure including water pipes, dams, roads and parks.

The legislation is the product of months of negotiations between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration over how to spend an unprecedented billions of discretionary pandemic funding that was enacted by Congress and President Joe Biden last year. The governor will sign the bills that legislators plan to approve Thursday, following an initial unanimous vote by the House budget committee Wednesday night.

The measures contain more than $1.7 billion to provide safe, clean water — replacing lead pipes, fixing septic systems and combating "forever chemicals" known as PFAS, according to a one-page summary provided by House Republicans. There is $300 million for dam safety, including $250 million for disaster relief and repairs in the wake of dam failures that led to Midland-area flooding in 2020.

The plan has more than $380 million for road and bridge repairs and pump stations to prevent highway flooding; $250 million to improve state parks and recreations areas; $200 million for local parks; $250 million to expand broadband access; and $100 million to expand access to affordable housing.

Other big-ticket items include an additional $500 million for rent and mortgage assistance, $322 million in COVID-19-related spending, and $140 million to stabilize the unemployment benefits fund and improve the functioning of the state agency that disburses the aid.

Whitmer said the main bipartisan supplemental budget bill, which is far larger than typical mid-fiscal year spending measures that total hundreds of millions of dollars, will help grow the economy amid "tough times."

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"Today we have proven once again that here in Michigan, we get things done together," she said in a statement.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas, a Midland Republican, called the investments "transformative." Rep. Thomas Albert, a Lowell Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee, said the one-time resources are "an unprecedented opportunities to make monumental improvements to the structural foundation of Michigan communities for decades to come."

Of the $4.8 billion, $4.2 billion is federal — including $2 billion in flexible funds allocated to the state under a law Biden signed a year ago to speed the pandemic recovery and nearly $1 billion from the infrastructure law he signed in November. House Fiscal Agency Director Mary Ann Cleary said once the the legislation is signed, Michigan will have $2.8 billion remaining of the $6.5 billion in federal discretionary funding it was allocated.