Gretchen Whitmer uses line-item veto – 147 times – on GOP’s Michigan budget

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cut $375 million in one-time spending for roads and $128 million in spending for K-12 schools, though $444 million of cuts were not accounted for as of Monday evening. 

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday used her line-item veto power to cut nearly $1 billion from the Republican-led Legislature’s $59.9 billion budget, including spending for schools and roads.

The first-term Democrat signed all 16 budget bills at 7 p.m., five hours before the start of the state’s new fiscal year Oct. 1. That prevented a government shutdown, but upped the ante in a months-long standoff with Republicans over the budget.

Among her vetoes: Plans to spend $375 million for state roads, which Whitmer has long contended need at least $1.9 billion in repairs. She has proposed a 45 cent per gallon gas tax, and has said she wants to resume negotiations toward a long-term funding solution.

“I had to use the line-item veto to try to clean up budgets that were a complete mess, built on phony numbers, using funds in the wrong way, usurping executive power,” Whitmer said in a statement. “These are important things that I had to eliminate from these budgets.”

 

Whitmer’s office did not immediately provide a full list of her line-item vetoes and completed budgets were not yet available through the Michigan Legislature. 

The governor instead only issued a statement explaining some of the cuts, which included a veto of $128 million for what the governor called “pork barrel spending” in the budget that goes to K-12 schools. As of late Monday, the administration had not documented $444 million in spending provisions she had rejected. 

Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield responded to the governor’s announcement Monday, calling the budget stalemate “silly and completely avoidable.”

“Now that her shutdown threat has been shown to be nothing more than empty words, the cameras will stop rolling and the headlines will move on,” Chatfield, a Levering Republican, said in a statement. “Hopefully that means she will finally accept our invitation to come back to the negotiating table and get back to work.”

Whitmer’s veto action came three weeks after negotiations with GOP leaders broke down and the Legislature took the rare step of approving budgets developed without her administration’s input.

The governor appears poised to use a rare maneuver of her own: The State Administrative Board, which the governor controls, has the authority to transfer funds within departmental budgets and is set to meet Tuesday morning for a special session. 

Whitmer’s aggressive use of vetoes contrasts with her predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (who worked with a Legislature dominated by his own party for the entirety of his time in office). He occasionally used his line-item veto power to modify GOP budgets, most recently in 2017 when he axed $6.4 million in proposed spending. He also deemed various provisions unenforceable, including a 2018 plan to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

Here’s a rundown of what Whitmer vetoed:

Roads

Whitmer line-item vetoed $375 million of the $400 million in one-time road and bridge funding Republicans had added to the budget after the two sides postponed negotiations over a long-term road funding plan.

The majority of that — $243 million — would have been restricted for use on four crumbling bridges in Dearborn, Ferrysburg, Harrison Township and Lansing that Whitmer visited earlier this year while promoting her gas tax proposal.

The GOP spending plan included $132 million in extra one-time money for state and local roads, along with an additional $25 million for a local bridge program that municipalities can apply for. It's not immediately clear which portion of the funding Whitmer left intact. In March, she proposed a $2.5 billion plan to raise gas taxes by 45 cents per gallon.

The governor "remains ready to roll up her sleeves to achieve a real, long-term funding solution that will actually fix the damn roads," her office said in a release.

“The governor campaigned on a promise to fix Michigan roads – yet she just rejected $375 million to boost repairs without tax increases or cuts to essential services,” House Appropriations Chair Shane Hernandez said in a statement Monday night. “The governor is trying to go around the legislators elected to be the voice of the people in state government and change how we invest taxpayer dollars.”

Schools

Whitmer vetoed $128 million of spending she said “steals precious classroom dollars and instead hands it out to commercial vendors.” 

While details weren’t available Monday evening, the move follows pleas from a group of lawmakers who wrote a letter to Whitmer last week asking her to veto state spending on private vendors including $7.3 million for a “virtual learning think tank,” $3.8 million for an emergency reporting app, or $9 million for an online testing system. 

The School Aid budget the GOP-led House and Senate passed earlier this month raised spending for schools by $136 million less than what she’d proposed. It included a 1.4 percent to 3 percent increase in per-pupil funding and a small raise in special education money; her original budget proposed a larger 4 percent increase in special education funding. 

Bridge reporter Ron French contributed to this story.

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Comments

GP For Life
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 8:49am

Why is there such ridiculous opposition to using general fund revenue to fix our roads? Roads are one of the most basic functions of government, so why shouldn't basic tax revenue go to them? Most states do this, why does Whitmer hate this idea so much?

Kevin Grand
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 9:40am

Because when she ran, she realized that she could use the road issue as a mechanism to backfill HER priorities in the state budget.

Shifting 40 percent of Gov. Whitmer's gas tax will make a lot of her base very happy.

Dr Kurt
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 10:40am

The Republican house and senate are going to have to get used to compromise now that there's not another Republican in the Governor's office... no more "one-party rule." They will have to come away from the far-right that they have enjoyed for the last 8 years.

Bob Dunn
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 1:59pm

Maybe if the Republicans would have stayed around and worked on the budget with Whitmer this summer maybe they might have found some common ground. Waiting until the last minute to submit a budget, which Governor Whitmer was not involved with, certainly indicates any lack of any cooperation. Hopefully, this will change.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 10/02/2019 - 11:21am

Two problems with your misconception.

1. There were legislators in Lansing (mine was among many of them doing work related to their office during the summer).

2. Gov. Whitmer threw a hissy fit and walked out of negotiations several weeks ago. Kind of hard to negotiate with an empty chair.

Margaret S
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 8:59am

Not everyone in Michigan can afford the $.45 gas tax this Governor wants to burden the people with. As a Senior Citizen that has to travel over 60 miles to receive Medical Treatments, this would restrict my access to Healthcare. I hope and pray that this Governor will be replaced in the next election as she definitely does not care about the people of Michigan. She acts like as long as she gets her way the people will just adjust to her wants, not what the people need.

Guzzlers
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 9:42am

They could easily afford that tax and even more, if they stopped voting for people who fight increasing CAFE standards. They could afford it or more, if they bought/leased a fuel efficient car, instead of opting for a pick up truck. I have senior friends who drive a Prius. There are many hybrids and electric cars that save tons of money. Why are so many people driving pick up trucks and driving so aggressively? Clearly the majority aren't using them for work or towing. Yet those same heavy vehicles are also harder on our roads and cause more wear and tear. Before everyone posts about taking away personal freedom to buy what one wants, that's not the issue. The issue is whether everyone else has to subsidize those spendthrift lifestyle choices because they want to appear macho or keep up with the Jones's.

Fred
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 11:34am

Maybe you should move.

Every Vote Counts
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:09pm

That's not a very democratic response.

Fred
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 1:08pm

I tell the same thing to people that live too far away from work

Gil
Wed, 10/02/2019 - 3:11pm

Maybe you should too!

Bones
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:14pm

Real shame that public transit across the state was gutted and unbounded suburban sprawl was encouraged. Now folks like you have to drive long distances over bad roads to access underfunded services

Guzzlers
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 9:58am

BTW my senior friends with the Prius, not only save a lot of money, but they use their free time, their fuel efficient car, and their generosity to help others offering to drive them places. They get great satisfaction giving back to their community and feel very smart knowing that they are doing good for the environment that they will leave to their grandchildren and that they are saving a lot of money that they can leave to their grandchildren. They also like that they are smarter than the average vain gas guzzler driving a status symbol that they can't afford. Sad that the Midwest has become filled with so many selfish showy spendthrifts. My friends are bucking that trend and staying true to our long held Michigan values.

Sue
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 10:59am

Be careful as you step down from your soapbox.
You shouldn't assume why people drive what they drive or what they can afford.

So true
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:38pm

Agreed, so let's not judge people on welfare assistance as lazy. We should stop shaming people who work at Walmart and can't make ends meet because they aren't paid a living wage. Meanwhile the auto companies today are promoting pickup trucks that consume a lot of gas to these people. Henry Ford was a genius for paying a decent wage so that his employees (and other working-class people) could afford to buy the cars they assembled. On the other hand, leave the increasing CAFE standards in place so trucks will become more fuel efficient. Lastly, people who drive heavier vehicles and trailers should pay more to fix the roads. After all, they cause more damage.

EB
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 10:13am

“The governor is trying to go around the legislators elected to be the voice of the people in state government and change how we invest taxpayer dollars,” says House Appropriations Chair Shane Hernandez.

This statement isn't accurate. A much more accurate statement would be, “The governor is trying to go around the legislators GERRYMANDERED to be the voice of the people in state government and change how we invest taxpayer dollars.”

Because of ubiquitous gerrymandering, no one in our legislature should be viewed as legitimate.

Play Ball!
Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:17pm

Guess the governor took the invitation to "play ball"! Freaks the heck out of the GOP that has been steamrolling the silenced majority for years because of gerrymandering. Government compromise is something new these days. It can only lead to something better than what we've had.