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Senate moves spending plans for state departments, education

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate approved $53.9 billion in spending for state departments and education Tuesday, with plans that mostly follow the recommendations of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

A bill setting $15.9 billion in spending for K-12, community colleges and universities was approved mainly along party lines.

Minority Democrats who voted against the bill failed to win several amendments. They said the plan unfairly shifts money from K-12 education to community colleges and universities.

Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a Democrat from Taylor, proposed an amendment that would redirect $205 million back to K-12 schools from the higher education budget. But Republican Sen. Goeff Hansen from Hart responded in his floor comments that while he agrees with the need to end the shifting of money, he didn't see where funds would come from to fill the gap in the higher education budget if that money was put back toward K-12.

The amendment failed to win approval.

Another bill setting $38 billion in spending for state departments was approved 23-15, with four Republicans joining Democrats in voting against the plan.

Democrats did win approval for one amendment setting aside $500,000 to fund campus sexual assault programs. The U.S. Education Department said last year that Michigan State and the University of Michigan were among dozens of schools nationwide that it was investigating for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations.

"We cannot continue to turn our backs on this epidemic on our college campuses," said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., a Democrat from East Lansing and sponsor of the amendment.

Democrats failed to win more than 20 other amendments to the budget bill for state departments. Most of the amendments were voted down along party lines. They would have made changes such as allocating $1 million for a study on the cost of education, setting aside $10 million in grants for body cameras to be worn by local police, and calling for a workgroup to oversee the selection of the health service department offices that face closure.

The Republican-led House approved its version of the plans for education and department spending last week, mostly along party lines.

Legislative leaders seek to complete next fiscal year's budget by early June. The budget could change drastically based on whether voters approve a sales tax hike for road improvements on Tuesday and once legislators receive revised revenue projections in mid-May.

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