As members of the Shiawassee County Democratic Party, we are thrilled to share some good news that resonates with our mission to ensure the welfare of our community. Michigan’s Democrat-Controlled State Government has just approved a transformative state budget for the fiscal year 2023-24. A budget that, with its $15.2 billion in general funds, places a renewed focus on rural areas, including Shiawassee County, and promises tangible benefits for our people, our farms, our schools, and our infrastructure.
It is easy to dismiss state budgets as mere political tools, but this one is different. This is a budget that prioritizes you, the hard-working residents of our county. It's not about partisanship; it's about uplifting communities that have been overlooked for far too long. It is about investing in our future and ensuring that everyone can reap the benefits of economic growth and sustainable development.
Agriculture and Rural Development: Seeds for a Greener Tomorrow
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will receive a hearty $92.7 million from the general fund, breathing new life into programs critical to our county's farming community. The budget places a unique emphasis on environmental sustainability with initiatives such as the $7 million Agricultural Climate Resiliency Program aimed at promoting regenerative agricultural practices and technology to combat climate change.
Furthermore, an additional $6 million has been allocated to encourage soil health and foster farmer-to-farmer networks, aiming to improve the adoption of soil health and regenerative agricultural practices. The budget also pioneers a $3 million grant program designed to expand minority businesses in food and agriculture. These funds signify an unprecedented focus on supporting our farmers while ensuring that our agriculture industry is resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.
Education: Investing in Our Children
The new budget prioritizes our children's education, marking a 5% per pupil increase, amounting to about $9,600 per student. This is a considerable 22% increase since Gov. Whitmer took office. The budget also includes provisions for free breakfast and lunch at public schools, an essential step towards ensuring that every child in our county has the nutrition they need to succeed in their academics.
An additional $150 million is being dedicated to tutoring and other support programs to help our children rebound from the academic challenges faced during and post-pandemic. And let's not forget the $25 million designated for equipment upgrades in career and technical education programs. These investments will foster a nurturing and conducive learning environment for our children, paving the way for a brighter future for Shiawassee County.
Infrastructure: Building for Tomorrow
Our roads, bridges, and public infrastructure have not been left out of this budget. With an investment of $416 million in various road and public infrastructure projects, we can expect smoother commutes and improved public spaces. An $80 million investment has been designated specifically for Michigan's Bridge Bundling program, aimed at replacing or rehabilitating over 20 structurally deficient bridges. These investments will not only enhance our day-to-day life but also ensure that our farmers and agribusiness owners have the infrastructure they need to thrive.
As we come together to celebrate this new budget, we must remember that these investments are about more than just numbers on a balance sheet. They represent a significant commitment to you, the people of Shiawassee County. They represent an investment in our children's education, our farmers' prosperity, and our community's infrastructure. But most importantly, they represent an investment in our future.
In a world that often feels like a zero-sum game, this budget offers a ray of hope. It shows us that it is possible to create a society where everyone can succeed. We are excited about what this budget means for Shiawassee County and look forward to working alongside each of you as we invest in our community and reap the benefits together.
Stephen Schlaack, MBA
PO Box 634
Owosso, MI 48867