Governor signs 2018-2019 state budget into law

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker joined fellow lawmakers in applauding Gov. Rick Snyder as he signed into law legislation that will fund the state of Michigan for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“My colleagues and I worked hard to reduce the state budget by 2 percent and use taxpayer dollars more efficiently than last year,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “I am happy to have been a part of this collaborative effort on behalf of Michigan taxpayers.”

The School Aid (K-12) budget invests $14.8 billion into Michigan schools, which is the largest investment in the state’s history. Schools will see a foundation allowance increase of between $120 and $240 per pupil. Skilled trades programs will also see $40.9 million to prepare workers for high-demand jobs.

The 2018-2019 budget also increases funding for the state’s aging roads and bridges.

“Our roads and bridges are suffering,” Schuitmaker said. “Poorly maintained roads are not specific to urban areas or rural areas. They are affecting our entire state, regardless of location. The additional appropriations in this budget put us in a position to start making much-needed upgrades to our state’s infrastructure. This budget increases the total new investment in our roads to $2.4 billion since 2017.”

The Legislature also included appropriations to improve public safety for Michiganders. The budget includes money to hire more state police troopers, more corrections workers and more conservation officers; funding to further improve sexual assault programs on our state’s campuses; and $58 million in school safety initiatives like OK2SAY that keep our students safe.

Also included is funding to increase revenue sharing for local governments to spend on their needs; a boost to the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the state’s savings to over $1 billion; and a more than $80 million investment to protect our Great Lakes and natural resources.

“One of my biggest priorities as a legislator has been using taxpayer dollars responsibly,” Schuitmaker said. “This budget funds vital state programs, begins fixing our pothole-ridden roads, increases public safety and focuses on our students. I am happy to have supported this budget and to protect Michigan’s hardworking families.”

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Senate approves auto insurance reforms

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Friday applauded Senate passage of several reforms to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system.

“Residents are tired of high premiums,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Michigan drivers pay the highest premiums in the country, and that is a direct result of the current system. While some promote the program’s success, it is clear that something needs to be done to address the exorbitant costs.”

Michigan is one of 12 states that currently operate under a no-fault system of automobile insurance. Under the current system, a driver’s own insurance company covers all accident-related medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who caused the accident. Because of this, all motorists in the state are legally required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which pays for an individual’s medical expenses resulting from injuries sustained in an auto accident.

“The legislation approved by the Senate includes a $400,000 cap for personal injury protection for people who have never paid into Michigan’s no-fault system,” Schuitmaker said. “This would reduce costs and bring Michigan more in line with neighboring states. There is no reason for Michiganders to be covering unlimited PIP claims for out-of-state residents.”

There are, however, many reasons for Michigan’s high rates. Michigan’s unique uncapped benefits, fraud and increasing health care costs are just a few examples.

Senate Bill 1014 would address the rampant fraudulent activity within the system by creating the Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority within the attorney general’s office. The authority’s primary operation would be investigating insurance fraud, which according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan is estimated to be about $400 million per year.

The bill would also make changes to attendant care, setting limits on the amount that could be paid to family and household members to help protect against inflated costs. Coverage for the first 56 hours of attendant care provided in a week would be limited to a reasonable and customary amount, and coverage of care in excess of 56 hours would be limited to $15 an hour.

Included in the package is legislation that would allow Michigan residents age 65 or older the option to choose a capped auto-insurance policy. SB 787 would set the cap at $50,000 and personal insurance or Medicare would cover remaining medical expenses from an automobile accident after the $50,000 limit is reached. Seniors who opted for the limited coverage would see their catastrophic claims assessment drastically reduced.

Seniors would also have the option to remain in the current no-fault system.

“Michigan has the highest average annual premium in the nation at $2,394, while the national average is $1,318,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to work to close that gap and do better for hardworking Michigan taxpayers.”

SBs 787 and 1014 have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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