Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget presentation Thursday is expected to touch off another heated debate over the $2 billion Michigan spends on corrections, nearly one fourth of the state’s general fund and $600 million more than it invests in higher education, says the Detroit News. Lawmakers are pressuring Corrections director Dan Heyns to hold the line at the current mark of $2.011 billion, $1.94 billion of which comes from the general fund. The rest comes from fees and federal grants.
“That $2-billion threshold is the outstanding concern,” said state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on corrections appropriations. A steady rise in corrections costs for most of the past decade has taken funding from roads and schools, Proos said. Lawmakers chopped Snyder’s proposed spending on corrections for this year by only about $3 million, but his two-year spending plan calls for the general fund portion to jump to more than $2 billion in the 2013-14 budget year starting Oct. 1. Last spring, corrections spending sparked some of the sharpest crossfire of the annual state budget negotiations, with opponents charging majority Republican lawmakers were intent on privatizing prison functions to weaken corrections officers unions — at the risk of reducing security inside the walls. In 20 months on the job, Heyns has come up with $258 million in reductions to the sprawling department, which employs 16,000 and oversees 118,092 offenders behind bars, on probation or on parole.