Michigan Lawmakers Move to Privatize Some Programs

Thursday, 26 Apr 2012 10:30 AM

By Greg McDonald

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Republican legislators in Michigan are moving a budget-tightening plan that could throw a wrench into GOP Gov. Rick Snyder’s own spending proposal that focuses on reinvestment after years of cuts, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“There are a lot of unknowns out there,” Republican Rep. Chuck Moss, chairman of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, told the newspaper Wednesday. “Unknowns basically tell that we need to be cautious.”

Snyder has proposed a 3 percent increase in the state’s general fund to $9 billion, a move the Free Press said signals “a shift to reinvestment after years of austerity” budgets.

But legislators want to make big cuts in Snyder’s plan by closing a state prison and a juvenile justice center and moving the inmates and residents to private-run facilities. They also are proposing other privatization efforts that would affect the state Medicaid and child welfare programs.

The state’s House and Senate versions of the 2013 general fund budget differ. But Roger Kahn, the Republican chairman of the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Free Press he expects his chamber’s version to come in about $130 million below Snyder’s recommendation.

Michigan union leaders, meanwhile, have expressed alarm at the privatization proposals, saying similar efforts to save money under former Republican Gov. John Engler did not work. They say there are other ways to cut costs without eliminating government or public-sector jobs.

Moss, however, told the Free Press it makes more sense now to see what kind of savings result from private contracting, given the high legacy costs associated with state employees.

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