Representatives Tom Kuhn and Donni Steele are leading the charge on implementing enhanced transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the budgeting and appropriations process. Their goal is to shine a light on the way these bills are considered.
“The days of lawmakers getting billions of dollars of budget bills thrust onto our desks with mere minutes to review should be over,” said Steele, R-Orion Township. “Our plan takes a good look into the way we do business and how we can make the appropriations process more transparent and accountable through advanced notice and documentation. We can do better with taxpayer dollars.”
HBs 5296 and 5297 would require that existing laws cannot be changed through an appropriations bill, keeping the focus on spending. Members also would be guaranteed access to any general appropriation bill at least 168 hours (one week) in advance during a regular session and 72 hours in advance during a special session.
The package would require that conference committee negotiations, where members of the House and Senate bring forward their chamber’s budget plan, are limited to the differences between bills. Budget items already agreed upon by both sides could not be altered during these meetings.
Those conference committees also could no longer add new items that weren’t in either chamber’s final version of the appropriations bill, preventing last minute horse trading for votes with taxpayer funds.
Finally, Senate and House appropriations committees would have to report general appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year within 90 days of the start of the legislative session, starting the budget process sooner.
“The way legislators currently do business is broken,” said Kuhn, R-Troy. “Each legislator should be given ample time to become deeply familiar with budget bills before voting. By setting specific rules, our bills will hold legislators accountable for their actions. We are creating clear rules and timelines to overhaul and improve the efficiency of the budgeting process.”
“Today, the state continued to embrace a broken budgeting process that leaves the public confused and left behind. We participate in these meetings where leaders glaze over huge issues that sound nice on paper but make little sense when you dig into the details. Our budgeting process needs a complete overhaul so we can start focusing more on the details and less on fancy buzzwords.”
“The most important focus for our community colleges should be student success,” Kuhn said. “Unfortunately, too many students graduate from our high schools with insufficient skills to successfully complete two years of community college. We want to assure that all students who have access to community college, also have access to be successful at the community college level. I don’t see any commitment in the Governor’s State of the State that addresses the need for student success.”
“All of our state government needs to be subject to FOIA requests, plain and simple,” said Kuhn, R-Troy. “There are two states in our country that exempt their Legislature and governor from FOIA requests, and we’re one of them. This lack of transparency and accountability is completely unacceptable. Our plan allows for added public oversight of all government and increases penalties for non-compliant public bodies.”
“Families entrust these state-run facilities with the care of their vulnerable loved ones, and they deserve complete transparency if there has been any negligence on the part of the state,” said Kuhn, R-Troy. “The OAG audit will unseal any bad practices and allow the Legislature to have a wholistic view of how these facilities operate. Elected officials have a duty to step in and take corrective action if the facility is giving families in our community substandard care. This audit is the first step in that process.”