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Posted on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

$41M in state funding for University of Michigan at risk under house bill

By Kellie Woodhouse


University of Michigan's state funding is at risk.

Melanie Maxwell I

A sizable chunk of University of Michigan's state funding is at risk under a proposed funding model passed this morning in a 4-3 party-line vote by a state House higher education subcommittee.

The proposed budget —which includes an 2.2 percent increase in higher education funding— punishes universities that enter into labor contracts "under certain circumstances" prior to right-to-work legislation taking effect on March, 28, 2013, and don't achieve a 10 percent cost savings.

It could cost U-M, which has entered into tentative agreements with the the institution's lecturers and nurses, $41 million.

"There are elements of this proposal that are very disappointing,” Cynthia Wilbanks, U-M vice president for governmental relations, offered in a statement.

The right-to-work stipulation was in part sparked by a controversy over Wayne State University entering into an eight-year labor agreement with faculty in an effort to avoid the effects of right-to-work legislation.

"As far as I can see it's bullying from the legislature," said Bonnie Halloran, president of U-M's lecturers union, the Lecturers' Employee Organization. "Nothing illegal is being done."

Halloran said she is unsure if the bill's right-to-work stipulation applies to LEO, as the organization entered into a tentative agreement in March but began negotiating in November, prior to the legislation's passage. Halloran says her union is set to ratify its contract, which includes no raises the first year, health care cuts and retirement cuts, by Thursday evening.

U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said university officials have already signed off on agreements with the nurses and lecturers, although the two unions are in the process of ratifying those contracts.

Kyle Jen, deputy director of the House Fiscal Agency, said the proposed budget is the first time he can recall higher education funding being tied to a labor issue.

The provision reads:

Provides that funds appropriated for fiduciary responsibility in employee contracting be paid to a university only if it does not extend, renew, or enter into a labor contract under certain circumstances between December 10, 2012 and March 28, 2013 without achieving 10% or greater savings and does not enter into a contract between the same dates that contains only terms that constitute a union security agreement that requires any of several specified employee actions as a condition of employment.

Right-to-work legislation was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in December, and under it union members have the freedom to choose whether to pay union dues. Several Washtenaw County unions are trying to establish new contract agreements before the law goes into effect in order to avoid a drop in fee revenue.

It remains to be seen whether the subcommittee's proposed budget, and it's right-to-work stipulation, will survive future votes in the House and Senate as the budget process continues.

"This is not the end of the process," Wilbanks stated. "We have more hard work to do in the weeks and months ahead."

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville and chair of the subcommittee, said the House bill would reward universities that take steps to be financially responsible. Meanwhile, Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said the legislation puts “politics ahead of good policy."

The bill also includes language asking U-M to disclose information about its stem cell research, but does not tie the disclosure to funding, as the committee tried to do last year.

Without the penalty, U-M is set to receive $278.9 million in state appropriations, a 1.7 percent increase over this year.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 8 p.m.

"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant." ? Maximilien de Robespierre


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

All I ask is that you please let RTW stand so we all have a choice. You can argue until the cows come home about the righties and the lefties. I simply want to be allowed to choose to give my money or not to give my money. I can't even imagine what kind of law might supersede RTW. It would have to be some kind of law that says please remove my right to choose. I don't think that would be an improvement. Please let RTW stand and let each person decide how they want to invest their paycheck.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

And the idiocy in Lansing continues. Most legislation has a future effective date. To the extent that any legislation adversely affects any person or entity, those people and entities are going to act to minimize the impact. So what if UM (or anyone else) is getting its labor contracts in order before RTW legislation takes effect. It's not only legal, but also logical. Lansing Republicans saw an opportunity to target a large chunk of change all at once in going after state universities. They should be ashamed.

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

If savings are not enjoyed with a long term contract what then is it's purpose?

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.


Nick Danger

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Thank you Rick Snyder.Right to work and jerrymandering have made it possible to twart democracy again. This is a real lack of class


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

You've gotta love the way the ultra-right wing legislature put an unnecessary appropriation in this hit on labor and the middle class just to prevent another initiative from going on the ballot and NOW they are complaining because organizations are working to re-negotiate before their "law" goes into effect. The pot is calling the kettle black. No coercion is going on in these labor negotiations, they are being conducted publicly, and not in some lame duck session without hearings, etc... just real people negotiating. But R's are off whining about it. typical

Superior Twp voter

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

U of M is just like our federal government. It can NEVER do with less.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

Another way that it is like our federal government is that it keeps our local economy alive. How many people are they going to have to fire or lay off if Lansing gets to cash in on it's strongarm tactic? If Umich broke the law, then yes, then punish them in some way. But they didn't break any law of any kind and taking away their funding just hurts all of us.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

RTW was shoved through in lame suck session with no public input, at a closed meeting. It isn't the will of the people. It is the will of the Mackinac Center, the Koch Bros and the Republican Party. Stop acting like it is your money, Republican legislature! You cannot use our tax money as a personal weapon of the Republican Party.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

If universities thought that they could game the system by signing contract extensions prior to the law going into effect without consequences, they are naive. I hope the state legislature includes similar reductions to funding for other units of government that also took part in this scheme (yes, that's you, Washtenaw County). I hope that their fealty to their union masters is worth the price.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

What about your fealty to the Republican party? That's gonna cost you big-time.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

Sounds like the legislators in Lansing sure like to dish it out, but then it's sour grapes when the tables get turned


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

awww, feel free to take some of the athletic dept. money. Good forbid we need to change uniform colors or a new paint job....


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Typical. They act like it is THEIR money. It is TAXPAYER money. Stop using it for your party's agenda.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

What does UofM care about a paltry $41 million? Anytime it is suggested that t the U be more responsive to taxpayers, stop wasting tax money, etc., the answer is always the same..."state money is a teeny tiny fraction of our budget," and "taxpayers need to mind their own business, because tax dollars aren't funding much of anything around here..." Once again, the U wants to thumb its nose at the citizens of the state and then whine when they face consequences for it.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Republicans are shameful hypocrits! Ideology before good policy...the GOP way!


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

Bullying = Getting caught with hand in cookie jar "Nothing Illegal" - That door swings both ways. The legislature's "hand in the cookie jar" law isn't illegal either. So....enjoy.

Patricia Lesko

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

The headline is misleading: Michigan's 2012-2013 budget ( includes $6 BILLION in revenues of which $314M are from state appropriations. The $41M penalty leaves the U with 87 percent of its state funding untouched, and 99 percent of its total revenue intact. The problem is that U of M's projecting a budget deficit of $40M+, but that is certainly not due to cuts in state funding (which rose in 2012 by $6.4M), or from reduced tuition revenues, which rose $78M between 2011 and 2012. Rather U of M Hospitals, which spent big on an expansion based on rosy projections of increased revenues that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. If the University of Michigan takes this one-time hit for the sake of its contract with LEO, it will go a long way toward supporting the argument that U of M could have paid the 1,600 FT and PT lecturers represented by LEO an additional $41M dollars in pay, or about $25,000 per lecturer, total, over the course of the contract. Right now, unionized painters at U of M earn higher salaries than the lecturers with Ph.Ds, who teach in the classrooms those painters freshen up.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I love the potshot at painters. Many of those Ph.D lecturers teach courses that have offer little benefit to society. Our society was built and is sustained by manual labor. Ms. Lesko fails to understand this most elemental fact.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

But are the lecturers underpaid or are the painter OVERpaid? Could be that both statements are true. But if not, two wrongs don't make a right.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Another example of U of M thinking they are above the law... Only this time they got caught! It was a ridiculous tactic to try and open up agreements and renegotiate them before the Right to Work law went in to they cry foul? I hope Synder does not let them get away with it...


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

Ridiculous tactic? Oh, you mean like passing a brand-new emergency manager law immediately after the voters repealed the last one? You mean like swearing up and down that so-called "right to work" wasn't right for Michigan, but then turning around and signing it into law anyway? Your definition of "ridiculous tactic" is hilarious.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

not above the law - it is following the letter of it. And how about the legislature using the dodge of sticking a small unnecessary appropriation on this hugely divisive anti-labor bill just so that it can't be put up for a ballot initiative???


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

Get away with what? Giving the GOP a dose of their own medicine?!


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

U of M followed the law. How is their behavior any different from the lame-duck session used to pass RTW?


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

But they didn't do anything illegal. RTW has a start date and they negotiated before it. While it is true that their motives may not have been the most pure in the eyes of this new law, what they did was perfectly legal. And Lansing is going to take money away from them, which means money out of our local economy because they had the feelings hurt.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

Nothing illegal about it - so UM wasn't even trying to be above the law.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

So, let me get this straight. These wackos in Lansing want to try and nueter one of the most thriving businesses in the area for doing something that was not illegal? Whether you like U of M or not, whether you are pro or anti stem cell research, these nutters are messing with the biggest engine in one of the more thriving towns in this state. If they pass this funding cut, it will lead to lay offs or firings and a loss of money in our local economy. All because a couple people in Lansing on a committee they seem ill suited to be on got it's feelings hurt from U of M working around the recent RTW legislation that no one wanted.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Wackos...yes, spot on analogy of the dysfunction currently occupying Lansing


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

I'm flabbergasted at the gall of evening writing this piece of legislation. This same body waited until a lame-duck session to pass RTW but now they're saying "you can't do what we did" by putting this type of legislation together. The negotiations taking place violate no law, etc. There should be "window" against a contract ratification vote being held prior to RTW taking effect.

Usual Suspect

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

If we can't afford it, then perhaps it shouldn't have been spent in the first place. The cutting that is necessary to fix the debt problem is seen as taking something away that was deserved, but actually, just like working within a budget in one's own household, it's actually a matter of living at the level you can afford, rather than the higher level that you can't afford and got you into trouble.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

"Right to work" is a misnomer. Why does this "paper" use this doublespeak terminology over and over. It would be more helpful to call it what it is...a punishment for those who work.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

"Popularly known" to who? Leftists and union supporters maybe, maybe. But they are a minority of the people, as shown by the passing of Right To Work legislation.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

Right-to-Work is popularly known as No Rights and No Work.

Usual Suspect

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

That's what everybody is calling it. But you're right, it's not an apt name. A more accurate one would be, "Workplace freedom."


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

Yes it is inappropriately named. It should be called the right to freeload! Republicans...against "takers" before they were "for" them...


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

It's called "right to work" because that's what it is, the right to work at a job you are otherwise qualified for without being forced to pay money to an "organization" that, having failed to prove its worth by other means for the last 20 years, has resorted to legally sanctioned extortion and harassment to maintain membership. Let's call mandatory union membership and dues paying what is...a protection racket.


Tue, Mar 19, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

Yes, but it's called Right to Work legislation. It's not fault.