Mich. Senate approves more of state budget plan

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Entertainment,Movies

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan would spend $50 million on tax incentives to lure moviemakers and not bank on savings from making more poor people eligible for government-backed health insurance under a budget bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

Those were among some key moves made by the Republican-led chamber in approving several more spending measures, leaving just one to be passed by senators before negotiations pick up with House members and Gov. Rick Snyder. The pending bill is a big one, though — the budget that includes funding for Medicaid, a program the Republican governor wants to expand under the federal health care law.

Snyder, one of seven GOP governors to push for expansion, says the state initially would save $206 million a year because more people receiving health care with state aid would instead be covered with federal money. Snyder proposes tucking away half the savings so Michigan would not owe anything for covering more Medicaid recipients until 2035.

In a reversal, the Senate on Tuesday decided against setting aside the $103 million into a state savings account, since no final decision has been reached on whether to approve or reject Medicaid expansion. But in a potentially hopeful sign for advocates of Medicaid expansion, the Senate Medicaid budget remains unresolved.

Though Republican legislators are skeptical of raising the income threshold so more people are eligible, some might be open to adding more recipients if changes are made to the Medicaid system — so needy participants pick up more of the cost their care and are incentivized to be healthier.

"Medicaid expansion is a bad term. We're not going to do that. But we are going to take a look at a 'Healthy Michigan' kind of program. We are going to look at something different and I think much better. ... It's not quite soup," Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, told reporters.

The Republican-controlled House did not agree to Medicaid expansion when it approved its budget plan last week.

Richardville, a big backer of having incentives for filmmakers to shoot in Michigan, said he was happy the Senate agreed to a Democratic amendment to allocate $50 million instead of the planned $25 million for the incentive program. That gives senators a negotiating point as the House put nothing into the program while Snyder recommended $25 million — a cut from the $50 million set aside in the current budget.

That is a far cry from just a few years ago, when the state doled out more than $100 million in tax incentives under a program considered one of the most generous in the nation. Snyder put an end to unlimited refundable tax credit upon taking office, instead focusing on lower taxes for all businesses.

All told, the Senate passed seven budget bills Tuesday, meaning is has done 16 of 17 for the fiscal year that starts in October. The budget that included the movie tax credits and no Medicaid expansion savings account was approved 21-16, with Democrats and some Republicans in opposition.

Democrats unsuccessfully pushed to boost tax revenue-sharing payments to local governments, which is down about one-third from a dozen years ago.

"We continue to underfund our local governments but still expect them to provide clean streets and safe neighborhoods," said Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park.

As expected, the Senate decided against allocating an additional $1.2 billion for the worsening transportation system because legislators have not agreed to Snyder's proposed tax and fee increases to pay for it.

Snyder told reporters Tuesday he hopes Democrats — considered crucial to any road-funding deal — come out publicly with proposals to fix roads. A spokesman for Senate Democrats said Snyder has "trust issues" to address after how he conducted business late last year, a reference to his signing of a right-to-work law when he had said it was not on his agenda.

"Until he's ready to do that and honestly work together on this issue, he shouldn't expect us to fix the mess he's created for himself," Robert McCann said.

Of Medicaid expansion, Snyder said it is receiving a thorough examination.

"I think it's a very solid, good proposal. The question is how can it be looked at, reviewed ... potentially modified and become better," he said.

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Online:

Senate Bill 194: http://1.usa.gov/10T5j8h

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Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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