AP NEWS

The Latest: Whitmer seeks big boost in preschool funding

March 5, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Latest on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal (all times local):

6 p.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is proposing a big increase in spending to help more 4-year-olds attend preschool.

The Democrat on Tuesday outlined an $85 million, or 35 percent, funding increase for the Great Start Readiness Program. It would increase the income threshold to qualify to 300 percent of the federal poverty level from 250 percent. Children now must live in a household with income under roughly $64,000. The cutoff would be about $77,000 under Whitmer’s plan.

Her recommendation also would increase per-child funding for full-day preschool to $8,500 a year, from $7,250. It is distributed to county-level intermediate school districts that administer the program.

Whitmer says high-quality preschool programs have a positive impact on children’s emotional and behavioral development and increase the likelihood that they enter kindergarten ready to learn.

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5:15 p.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 45-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase is getting a lot of attention.

But her budget plan also includes other changes to the tax code.

She wants to repeal the so-called retirement tax that former Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers enacted in 2011 to eliminate or reduced exemptions from the taxation of pension and other retirement income. To account for the tax cut, she proposes “parity” so 150,000 businesses pay the equivalent of the 6 percent corporate income tax instead of the 4.25 percent personal income tax.

Whitmer also wants to double a tax credit for low-income earners.

Her proposals are getting mixed reaction. Small-business groups are criticizing them, while advocates for the poor are applauding the plan.

Both Republicans and Democrats have backed repealing the “pension tax,” but some legislators say Michigan should not return to favoring public pensioners in the tax code over other retirement income.

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1:45 p.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is defending her decision to propose a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase after she once called her Republican gubernatorial opponent’s suggestion that she would raise the tax by 20 cents “ridiculous” and “nonsense.”

The Democrat is coming under criticism from some in the GOP who say she is breaking a campaign “promise.” She says it was not always her plan to propose so large of a tax hike, but once she took office she gained a “real appreciation” for how quickly the roads are deteriorating.

She says her campaign pledge was to “fix the damn roads, and this plan does that.”

Some influential groups such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce say they are willing to back some sort of gas tax increase to fix the roads

But the top Republican on the House budget committee, Rep. Shane Hernandez, says Whitmer has started the conversation “on the wrong foot” by coming out with a 45-cents-a-gallon increase.

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11:15 a.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan is at a “crossroads” and must make “bold investments” to turn around roads, schools and provide clean tap water.

The Democrat is proposing her first budget to the Republican-led Legislature Tuesday.

It includes a 45-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax increase and seeks to reverse some tax decisions made by her predecessor. She says people already are paying a “roads tax” because of vehicle repairs caused by potholes and if nothing is done, the roads will get worse.

To offset some of the additional tax burden, she wants to reverse a so-called pension taxed enacted in 2011 and give higher tax breaks to low-income earners.

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8:50 a.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is poised to propose a 45-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax increase to improve Michigan roads and bridges that she says will deteriorate further without a major influx of new spending.

The Democrat will propose her first budget Tuesday at a hearing with lawmakers. She is expected to propose offsetting a portion of the tax hike with targeted relief for certain residents.

If the Republican-led Legislature backs Whitmer’s plan — which will be a tough sell — Michigan would have by far the highest fuel taxes in the country.

Whitmer also will outline a $500 million boost in state K-12 spending , including extra funding to teach at-risk, special education, and career and technical students.