Michigan’s House Republicans voted last week to approve an amendment to an education budget bill that would fine colleges five percent of their state alloted budget if they offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex or unmarried couples.
The education bill passed 57-53 without a single Democratic vote in favor.
Dems argue the bill cuts too deep and goes too far. In light of the amendment, LGBT rights advocates are likely to agree.
More from the Detroit Free Press (emphasis added):
Added to the education bill was a provision that would penalize universities an additional 5% of their state aid if they allow health benefits for employees and a domestic partner or other adult who is not a spouse in the household.
The penalty was proposed by Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, who said universities that currently allow benefits for same sex partners or unmarried opposite sex partners go against the state constitution and promote immoral behavior. Agema said the penalty on universities could add $60 million for K-12 schools. It’s not known how either Snyder or the Senate would react to the provision.
The bill was the final piece of the House’s version of next year’s budget, and goes to the Senate, where it’s virtually assured to wind up in a conference committee for compromise.
According to The Advocate, Rep. Agema took to Facebook to congratulate himself on his victory, reportedly writing, “I had an amendment put into the education budget that takes 5% away from colleges that give same-sex/unmarried benefits and places up to $60 million of that into the MPSRS K-12 budget if colleges do not stop skirting the law and the will of the people. Colleges can’t say they are short of money when they skirt the law and give such benefits. The Dems didn’t like this — it passed.”
Universities have argued that in order to remain competitive with states that give full marriage rights to same-sex and unmarried cohabiting couples, they must be allowed the autonomy to offer partner benefits. As such, Agema’s amendment may be seen as broadly hostile and based more on a social agenda than a true economic concern.
The overall House version of the education bill would cut aid to Michigan public schools by 3.5% per student, while it is estimated that public universities would lose around 22%.
Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill say it could severely hamper education. They also point out that a conference on May 16 to recalibrate the state’s revenue forecast is set to show a greater amount of available funds than was projected, perhaps even as much as $500 million. Therefore, opponents charge, the bill is premature.
Republican lawmakers have defended the bill saying that there is no proven correlation between public school funding and academic achievement and therein that these changes will have little to no impact on education.
The Senate version of the bill has yet to be decided upon, but predictions suggest it will be the more forgiving of the two bills and may temper the lower chamber’s more stringent cuts when the two are reconciled.
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