State budget bans mask and vaccine mandates but Governor Whitmer hints at a line-item veto

Posted at 6:15 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 18:15:43-04

(WXYZ) — The new state budget is headed to the desk of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Both sides are calling it a successful bipartisan plan.

Highlights include:

  • Record spending: $70 billion
  • It includes federal COVID relief funds and an increase in state revenue
  • 100 crumbling bridges will be repaired including the iconic Miller Road bridge near the Ford Plant in Dearborn.
  • $1.4 billion in new money for low-cost or no-cost daycare for 105,000 kids.
  • A $500 million deposit into the rainy-day fund.

But there’s much more beyond the numbers, raw politics tied to COVID.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter was the first to impose a mask mandate in metro Detroit with the return of K-12 schools. The budget passed would prevent that from being enforced.

“I wish the legislature would just get out of the business and public health, frankly, and let the public health people make these decisions like we have in Oakland County,” Coulter told 7 Action News.

The new budget also would prevent any state agency from imposing a vaccination requirement in the future. And if the Whitmer Administration imposed any COVID restrictions like limits on public gatherings, she must issue a full written report explaining why.

Governor Whitmer is hinting she can use the line-item veto saying, “We will do our task of going through line by line in the budget to see what is enforceable what might not be enforceable and then I will do my action and get it signed and make some changes if necessary.”

The budget passed the Michigan House 99 to 6.

Republican State Representative Tom Albert who led the negotiations told the House, “I fully admit this budget is not perfect, but we live in a time of divided government. This is a time to focus on what we can come together and accomplish, and not what keeps us apart.”

There’s still $10 billion in federal COVID relief money on the table to be negotiated and spent by the Legislature and the Governor.