An $80.9 billion budget approved by Michigan House Democrats on Wednesday diverts $632 million from the state’s pension system for teachers to other priorities like electric vehicle chargers, drones and growing government jobs.

“House Democrats are grasping for any money they can find to pay for their massive budget,” said Richland Township House Republican Leader Matt Hall. “They hiked the income tax and robbed Michiganders of the permanent relief they were promised. They’re raiding the retirement funds of our hard-working school teachers.”

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

“But with all the extra funding, Democrats are refusing to invest resources where they count,” he said. “Instead of streamlining government to get out of the way of economic growth, investing in road repairs and school safety, or improving accountability to ensure taxpayers get value for their dollars, House Democrats prefer to waste money to hire hundreds of new bureaucrats and dole out subsidies for electric vehicle chargers.”

The massive $80.9 billion fiscal year 2025 budget approved by the House on Wednesday – $200 million more than Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed – draws on a $418 million surplus and diverts $632 million in scheduled payments for the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System.

Whitmer has argued that because the health care part of the retirement system is now funded, the state can afford to skip its scheduled pension payments to spend the money elsewhere. The Detroit News notes that’s only possible because the Michigan Legislature, under Republican control, began pre-funding retiree health care in 2013, carefully growing the fund with investment returns and contributions.

An analysis from the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency shows MPSERS currently has nearly $25 billion in liability and an expected payoff date of 2038. MPSERS last year netted a 5.2% return, falling short of its 7% policy benchmark. In 2022, the return on investments was 1.3%, according to Pensions & Investments.

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

“People across Bay County and the state are tired of being used to foot the bill for out-of-control state government spending,” Republican Bay City Rep. Tim Beson said. “The governor blew through a $9 billion surplus last year that was built through careful spending and respect for taxpayers. She raised state income taxes so workers and small business owners keep less of what they earn. Now she’s turning her attention to retirement obligations for teachers in places like Bay County who help our future generations learn and grow.

“This is a short-sighted decision that works to manipulate our debt payment laws while ultimately taking advantage of benefits our teachers were promised and are owed.”

While House Democrats raid teacher pensions, they’re spending big in other areas.

The House budget devotes $110 million to the “Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund,” $15 million for community and neighborhood groups, $12 million for museum grants, and $6 million for symphony orchestras. House Democrats plan to spend $15 million on aerial drones, nearly $3 million on electric bike incentives, and $5 million for a pilot study to track Michigan drivers as the first step toward a road use tax, The Center Square reports.

“We are serious about putting people first, so our budget is centered around ensuring families are stable and local public services are well-funded,” said House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit. “As we continue to move through the budget process, these values are at the forefront of every decision made by House Democrats.”

Republicans offered hundreds of budget amendments, and all were rejected. They included performance-based funding for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, increased accountability measures over state-funded projects, auditing grants, evaluating the results of workforce development programs, and $400 million additional funding for local roads, among others.

Many of the proposed amendments were aimed at increasing accountability for lawmakers’ pet projects and multimillion state grants that currently lack any significant oversight.

“The Republicans have zero say so on what they final budgets are,” Orion Township Republican Rep. Donni Steele told CBS News. “Everything is done offsite, backrooms, closed doors, no transparency, no accountability and no bipartisanship.”

“The quality of our roads ranks near dead last nationally, yet Lansing Democrats are more focused on buying drones and E-bikes than filling potholes,” he said in a statement. “Wasteful spending like this is what got us into this problem in the first place. We have to stop investing in unnecessary projects that have no return on investment for taxpayers.”

Despite the House budget spending about $200 million more than Whitmer proposed, it cuts many of the governor’s top spending priorities, including “free” universal preschool, $25 million in electric vehicle rebates, increased fees for landfills, and a $30 million “Michigan Guarantee” to offer “free” community college to all.

The House budget also includes about $10 million more in funding for the Office of Auditor General than Whitmer proposed. Whitmer’s proposed to cut the office’s funding followed years of critical audits that outlined serious issues with her unemployment insurance agency, state civil rights agency, child service programs and system of criminal background checks for school employees, The Detroit News reports.

Senate Democrats are expected to take up budget bills on Thursday.

Michigan’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is next set to meet on May 17 to forecast revenues for the coming three fiscal years, which could impact budget deliberations.

Democrats who control the House and Senate will sort differences between proposed budgets in conference committees in the coming weeks. The budget deadline is July 1, with no obligation to meet it. The 2025 fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.