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MAXEY Closure met with Democratic Opposition

The conference committee for SB 124 [*] approved the budget for DHS 4-2, with the committee's Democrats - Sen. Vincent Gregory of Southfield and Rep. Brian Banks of Detroit - voting in opposition.

The total human services budget approved by the panel is $5.51 billion ($942.2 million General Fund), a 3.6 percent decrease from the current year.

The closure of W.J. Maxey Training School in Whitmore Lake, first reported by Gongwer News Service, would save $7.5 million ($2.5 million General Fund) and eliminate 69 full-time employees. The budget also includes transitional cost for the 40 youths to transfer to comparable facilities.

There are two other state-run facilities and similar private facilities as well.

Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford) has pushed the idea for years while in the House, but the Snyder administration and the Senate had resisted closing Maxey. Now in the Senate, Mr. MacGregor again supported the move, and this time the House and governor have agreed.

Mr. Banks offered an amendment to keep Maxey open, but it failed after Mr. MacGregor told members the budget would be out of balance if the amendment passed.

Ray Holman of the United Auto Workers Local 6000, the largest state employee union, said in a tweet that the move was "not a good policy decision."

Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), chair of the House Appropriations Human Services Subcommittee, said he and Mr. MacGregor are "of the similar minds" concerning Maxey, which helped drive the decision.  "Frankly, Maxey costs about twice what those other schools cost. And there are other secure capacities in the state run by private agencies," Mr. Poleski said. "We think we can squeeze some costs out of the system. We think we can still serve those kids well in the remaining part of the system. It is just time to make that call."

Mr. Poleski said it certainly is not an easy decision, and it can't be known for sure if it's the right call until some time has passed.

The conference report also further reduces caseload projections following the May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. For public assistance caseloads, the reduction is $26.2 million ($10.8 million General Fund), and the Food Assistance Program is reduced by $141.9 million, with $50.1 million estimated as costs concerning a recent lawsuit (Barry, et al vs. Lyons).

Child welfare caseloads decreased by $16.5 million ($1.5 million General Fund) after the May consensus conference.  The conference committee did not include the $8.8 million in foster care rate reductions; eliminated the remaining $1 million for adoption re-determination of care program; and funded at current levels the county "hold harmless" provision requiring DHS to pay 100 percent of the foster administrative rate for all new cases referred to service providers.

The conference committee also increased funding for a drug testing pilot program of some welfare recipients from the $275,000 proposed by the Senate to $300,000.

The budget also would reduce funding by $3.2 million, instead of the governor's $5.3 million, for the closure and consolidation of DHS facilities.

The conference committee also reduces $1.6 million in General Funds from emergency services local office allocations and juvenile justice and maintenance.

The $100,000 for indigent burial proposed by the House is not included in the conference report. The conference report also reduces 3 unclassified full-time employees for $379,000 and does not include the $1.9 million in administrative savings legislators sought because of the human services and community health merger.

Finally, the conference committee requires in boilerplate language that DHS join the Department of State and Department of State Police in a work group designed to minimize fraud in the MiBridges benefits programs and a report to the Legislature.