(The Center Square) – After 14 months of fighting over COVID-19 policy, GOP leaders and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reached an agreement Thursday to negotiate the state budget and stimulus money in return for setting a date to end COVID-19 restrictions.
In return, Whitmer has agreed to withdraw the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) proposed permanent rules and discuss legislative input on epidemic orders.
“Throughout the pandemic, we saw Michiganders all over the state step up and come together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Whitmer said in s statement. “Now, Michigan’s task is to unleash the potential of our people, to drive innovation and investment, and create tens of thousands of jobs and economic prosperity for all. Together, we can stay laser-focused on growing the economy and getting Michiganders back to work. Let’s hit the gas.”
The leaders saw more than $2 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), nearly $20 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan, and additional state revenue as an opportunity to make lasting investments.
“I am excited to get to work and partner with my colleagues in the Legislature. I am confident we can work together to make sure we make the right investments and put a budget plan together that will enable Michigan to thrive in the future,” State Budget Director Dave Massaron said in s statement.
MIOSHA will remove the requirement that employers create a “policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely” and will update emergency rules to reflect guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“MIOSHA has a duty to protect Michigan workers and the agency’s emergency rules have provided employers and employees with the guidance and certainty they needed to stay safe,” Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a statement. “The agency has the flexibility it needs to ensure consistency with public health guidelines to protect working people.”
Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said: “This is a huge day for small business owners everywhere. We now have a date certain when capacity restrictions will be lifted, the prospect of permanent workplace rules is being pulled off the table, and all parties are committed to working together on potential future epidemic emergency orders. This will give entrepreneurs a much more clear and certain pathway to recovery. We applaud the Governor and the Legislature for working hard to come together and putting aside their differences in this comprehensive agreement.”
House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, celebrated the agreement.
“I’ve consistently said I believe the budget process is better with the governor involved, and the state’s pandemic management is better with the Legislature involved,” Wentworth said in a statement. “The critical issues facing our state are simply too big and are hurting too many people for us to waste any more time. The people we represent are tired of disagreement and just want results. This agreement is a good first step in getting us to that point.”
The agreement follows Whitmer announcing outdoor capacity limits will disappear after June 1, when indoor capacity limits will increase to 50% under updated public health restrictions.
The state will lift the broad mask and gathering orders July 1.