Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, Tuesday advanced proposals to improve dam safety in Michigan, save taxpayer money, and make state government more accountable by cracking down on “hush money” and employee severance deals.
Glenn chairs the Michigan House Appropriations subcommittee for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The committee Tuesday approved a budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1st, advancing it to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.
The plan includes $15 million for a dam safety emergency fund, with a reporting requirement so the public will know how the money is used. The House plan also reallocates $1 million to a new dam safety grant program, which would help address significant risks or imminent threats for public or private dams.
“Our communities are still coping with the devastation of last year’s dam failures, and we’re taking steps to help ensure it doesn’t happen again anywhere in Michigan,” Glenn said. “Supporting the Dam Safety Emergency Fund is just the latest example of this commitment.”
Previously, Glenn secured $6 million in disaster relief funding for Clare and Midland counties after the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams and personally lobbied former Vice President Mike Pence for a federal disaster declaration, which was made. She’s also fought to strengthen Michigan’s dam inspection program.
The new DEGLE budget plan also includes $25 million in additional one-time funding to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants, including grants to drinking water systems for PFAS remediation. The House plan also includes resources for cleanup of contaminants at gas stations and other locations.
Glenn’s subcommittee budget does not include any of the new fee increases proposed by the Whitmer administration.
“This budget proposal sends the message loud and clear that we can protect our environment and improve our state without raising fees or taxes,” Glenn said.
Glenn said the House proposal reduces DEGLE funding for office space by 10 percent, noting that the vast majority of state employees have been working remotely during the pandemic, which indicates the state does not need all of its existing office space moving forward. The House plan also reduces the number of unclassified DEGLE employees, who typically are political appointees.
Glenn’s budget proposal also follows through on her commitment last month to crack down on “hush money” severance packages for former state employees – an issue that surfaced most dramatically with a $150,500 deal for former Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and an $86,000 deal for former UIA Director Steve Gray.. The new DEGLE budget proposal includes language requiring the agency to report severance pay details to the Legislature as a matter of public record. Other House budgets are expected to have similar protections.
Glenn has also introduced separate legislation – House Bill 4588 – which would allow confidentiality agreements only in extremely rare cases such as solely to prohibit disclosure of trade secrets in information technology or other areas and would work in unison with related measures to limit use of “golden parachute” severance agreements in general.
“Hush money deals and big money severance payments waste taxpayer money and erode public trust in government,” Glenn said. “My proposals are a key step toward reining in such abuses and, in the process, restoring public faith in state government among the people of Michigan who pay for it and rely on its services.”