‘It’s upsetting’: Calhoun Co. sheriff on budget cuts that affect public safety

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made 147 line-item vetoes to the state's 2020 budget that totaled close to a record $1 billion.

Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton said the programs she nixed directly affected his department and ultimately the county.

“It is upsetting to me as a resident of the state of Michigan that our legislators and our governor are playing kindergarten games,” Sheriff Saxton said during an interview with FOX 17 at his Battle Creek office. “They need to get together and get the budget fixed and moved down the road to fund the public safety of our community.”

One of the programs that was cut in the current budget was the Secondary Road Patrol Program. Right now, there’s two deputies paid primarily through the program who patrol all the secondary roads in the county, which include the small roads and gravel ones. 

Nixing the program meant Calhoun County will lose $160,000, he said.

“When they talk about fixing the damn roads, they’re talking about state roads (and) state in-roads, 'I' roads,” Saxton said. “They’re not talking about fixing secondary roads. And that’s where these officers (and) deputies would patrol are the secondary roads.”

The other program nixed, he said, was the County Jail Reimbursement Program, which allows prison inmates to be kept in jails. Getting rid of the program meant the department loses $440,000. 

“That program is the state reimbursing the county for doing their job,” he said. “We are housing inmates that should be in state prisons.”

Whitmer’s office released the following statement in regards to the vetoes: 

“The executive budget Governor Whitmer presented reflected the right priorities to protect families and public health. The budgets from the Republican legislature were fatally flawed. Governor Whitmer had to make tough decisions to make sure families have access to the critical services that they rely on every day.

While the budgets have been signed, there is still more work to do. It's important that differences are put aside and all parties get serious about mending some of the glaring holes that are in the budget that impact areas like public safety.

Line item vetoes can only fix so much - it will take Republicans and Democrats working together to get it done. The Governor announced that she is working with Senator Curtis Hertel on a supplemental package that will fund key priorities to protect education, public safety, and public health. If Republicans want to come back to the table to negotiate changes to the budget she signed, she is ready to talk.”

Saxton said he does not blame anyone or either party. He simply hopes both programs are considered for reinstatement so the public is protected and his staff is kept intact.

“Bottom line, if the state doesn’t get their act together and get the State of Michigan’s budget where it needs to be, I will have to lay staff off,” he said.

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