Whitmer pitches regional budget boons in re-election bid

·2 min read

Aug. 13—TRAVERSE CITY — Mental health, affordable housing and education equity in rural areas in northern Michigan will get a boost in next year's $76 billion state budget.

That's according to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who spoke to the Record-Eagle on Friday about funding for educational equity across the state, mental heath resources and affordable housing.

Whitmer, a Democrat, is running for re-election in November against Republican Tudor Dixon, and is in the thick of campaign season.

She spoke to the Record-Eagle by phone while in isolation following a positive COVID-19 test.

She pitched her 2023 budget as one responsive to the Mitten's northern region.

"We know that there's been a discrepancy in school districts in Michigan," she said. "It's been there for a long, long time."

She said this budget will pour resources into school for English-language learners, kids with special needs and at-risk youth.

According to the budget report, $421,000 of the education budget will be pointed at rural and isolated school districts, such as ones in northwest Lower Michigan.

The report also mentioned $75 million worth of regional innovation grants.

Whitmer also emphasized that, even though affordable housing is a top priority across the state, it is a No. 1 issue for many people in the region.

The budget includes $6 million for the Traverse City Flats housing project.

"The dollars that we're putting into affordable housing, I think will be incredibly important, especially for places like Traverse City," she said.

She admitted that the state has not done a very good job in responding to the mental health crisis.

Whitmer's Chief Deputy Press Secretary Stacey LaRouche said $3 million will be allocated to Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority, in partnership with Munson Healthcare, to build and staff a crisis stabilization unit, and two crisis residential units for the area.

In addition to building new facilities, $10 million of the budget will be spent for behavioral health provider repayment of medical school loans in exchange for service in health professional shortage areas.

Whitmer said a goal of hers following the pandemic is to draw more people into the mental health profession.

They also have created the office of rural development based on feedback from businesses and economic developers in northern Michigan, she said.