No Names in State Budget, But 36 Recipients Getting $38 Million

'A birthing barn at a county fairgrounds located in a county with a population of between 43,000 and 43,300’

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. Image from Facebook.

Taxpayers cannot tell from reading the state budget that just went into effect which 36 organizations and municipalities are sharing $38.6 million worth of state tax revenue under a special one-time line item.

That’s because legislators have a way of getting their pet projects paid for without naming names — or running afoul of the Michigan Constitution. Rather than name the cities or counties that get the state tax revenue, beneficiaries are described by census data.

One recipient, for example, is the Sanilac County Fairgrounds in Sandusky. It is getting $35,000 for a “Miracle of Life” birthing barn, but the name of the fairground is nowhere to be found.

Here’s how the payment is described in the Michigan Enhancement Grants section of this year’s budget bill:

“From the one-time fund appropriated in part 1 for Michigan enhancement grants, $35,000 shall be awarded for a birthing barn at a county fairgrounds located in a county with a population of between 43,000 and 43,300, according to the most recent federal decennial census.”

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That lengthy description does not name the county. If it did, it would be considered a “local act” under the state constitution — and local acts need a two-thirds vote to pass.

The same device is used to designate the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for a payment of $1 million.

That appropriation reads: “$1,000,000.00 shall be awarded to a civic theater in a county with a population between 600,000 and 610,000 and in a city with a population over 185,000 according to the most recent federal decennial census.”

Each of the other 34 grant recipients is described in a similar manner.

Senator Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who is majority leader of the Senate, and Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

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