Michigan Gov. Whitmer: ‘Bat-sh*t crazy’ jab doesn’t help resolve budget

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters Monday that Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s comments that she and other state Democrats are “bat-sh*t crazy” hamper their ability to find common ground. A spokesman for Shirkey said he apologized in person Monday afternoon. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

LANSING —  As school districts, sheriff departments, hospitals and other groups make tough choices following state budget cuts, there’s still no end in sight to an ongoing funding dispute between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The Democratic governor told reporters Monday that she spoke with Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield over the Legislature’s Thanksgiving break, but they’re no closer to resolving an impasse over $947 million in spending she vetoed from the state budget in September. 

The standoff has been status quo for weeks, after Whitmer made massive cuts and transfers to a budget the Legislature passed without her input. They were reportedly close to a deal in early November, but it fell through when Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey rejected Whitmer’s promises not to repeat a rare maneuver she used to move $625 million within state departments. Instead, he said a limitation on her power should be written into state law

Whitmer, Shirkey and Chatfield also met Monday with Democratic leaders Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills and Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint, but the budget wasn’t the focus of the conversation, said Shirkey’s spokeswoman Amber McCann. 

“We had a pretty good deal that we had come to terms on,” Whitmer said. “If they want to get serious and send it to me, we can get this done in a matter of hours.”

One thing that may hamper the discussions, Whitmer suggested: Shirkey telling a group of Hillsdale College Republicans that she and other state Democrats are “on the bat-sh*t crazy spectrum.”

“I’m sad to see the kind of rhetoric that’s been used. I think that does a disservice to our ability to find some common ground,” she said Monday. “It mirrors the ugly rhetoric that we’re seeing in Washington, D.C., I ran against that and I’m not going to return in kind.”

Whitmer said she and Shirkey hadn’t spoken about his comments, but that he sent her “an apologetic text message totally out of context” that she “didn’t quite understand until all the [media] stories [about the incident] started rolling in.” 

Shirkey publicly said late last month that he regretted his comments, and McCann told Bridge that Shirkey apologized to the governor in person Monday afternoon after Whitmer spoke with reporters. 

“He agrees that that kind of rhetoric is not helpful to any negotiation and he recognizes that,” she said. Nonetheless, Shirkey hasn’t changed his stance that Whitmer should rescind her budget transfers and sign off on a legislative agreement about how she can use her powers to transfer in the future. 

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for Chatfield, told Bridge on Monday that while Chatfield did speak with the governor over break, Shirkey’s still in the conversation. 

McCann said Shirkey reached out to Whitmer over break via text, but she was out of the country on a state trip to Israel. All three are continuing to negotiate “to reach a middle ground that makes sense and that helps the people who’ve been affected by these cuts,” D’Assandro said. 

Chatfield agrees that “the people of Michigan deserve some real assurances that next time funding is passed for these critical programs that she’s not going to simply cut it again in a political maneuver,” D’Assandro said. “It’s happened once and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

They’re referring to Whitmer’s use of the Administrative Board, which she effectively controls, to shuffle around money to better reflect her priorities. That included around $15 million to publicize and implement changes to Medicaid work requirements, $20 million to upgrade state IT systems, $315 million more for education funding and more. 

Among her more controversial vetoes were funding for county jails for housing felons otherwise held in state prisons; rural hospitals; the Pure Michigan tourism campaign; rural police patrols; charter schools; private college tuition grants; and autism programming. Many of the vetoes have been seen as having a disproportionate effect on rural communities and GOP-preferred programs

The Legislature returns from break Tuesday and McCann said they’re hoping to resolve the issue within the next two weeks. The Legislature may meet until Dec. 19, though McCann said they’re currently planning to conclude for the year on Dec. 12.

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Steve H.
Mon, 12/02/2019 - 10:17pm

Shirkey thinks that "Whitmer should rescind her budget transfers and sign off on a legislative agreement about how she can use her powers to transfer in the future".

Hmmm. Sounds to me like the Repubs are simply having a hard time dealing with an executive branch that for once doesn't just rubber stamp everything they do. The idea here (and I support it completely) is to compromise. The Repubs can't grasp that concept. The best they can do is tell Whitmer that she needs to surrender some of her authority.

I wonder if Shirkey should be asked to give up some of the powers that he and the legislature currently have. He would probably have a meltdown on the spot. I can only hope that the Repubs will one day realize that they no longer have total control and that they have to actually work with someone who is not in their party. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but one can hope.

Disgruntled taxpayer
Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:10am

This message is a microcosm of the problem. Anyone who feels that the fault is on one side, and only one side, is part of the problem - not part of the solution.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/03/2019 - 5:01am

So, let me get this straight.

Gretchen Whitmer runs on the campaign slogan of "Fix the damn roads", get elected, doesn't bother taking part in budget negotiations (throws a hissy fit and storms out of the room would be a more accurate description), subsequently vetoes $375-million in increased road funding and we're now supposed to care that her feelings got hurt over comments made after that stunt she pulled after the budget was submitted?


That same budget which also contained many other items she purportedly supported on the campaign trail as well (i.e whistle-blower protection, literacy programs & public safety)?




Am I reading this right?

Disgruntled taxpayer
Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:06am


Tue, 12/03/2019 - 1:20pm

As dishonest a ghoul as ever, Kevin

Kevin Grand
Thu, 12/05/2019 - 6:42am

Oh really, Bones?

Care to tell everyone which statements above are incorrect?

abe bubush
Wed, 12/11/2019 - 5:51pm

The cowardly lazy repugs waited until the end of summer to submit their last minute budget. It was a typical sleazy trick , and whitmer was right to reject it wholly. There was no "hissy fit" unless you count the repug response to her vetoes.

That's where you lied.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:19am

Again you fail to indicate why Governor Whitmer had no input to the Budget passed by the House and Senate, she walked away from the negotiations. Also the Governors close supporter, Rep. Christine Greig, was fully involved with the Budget the House and Senate approved. Clean up your biased reporting or I may drop Bridge from my on line reading.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 1:21pm

Bye Felicia

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:43am

Hopefully our elected officials can learn how to make divided government work better in Michigan than they have in Washinton.

Paul Jordan
Tue, 12/03/2019 - 12:41pm

The Republicans seem to be outraged that an elected Democrat governor has the temerity to act like the governor. Shirkey & Co prefer to pretend that she isn't a legitimate player in Lansing. If ignoring her fails, they then attempt to bully her into falling in line with them.
She's the governor. Deal with it--and with her.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 2:07pm

Just calling it as it is for this joke of a governor. Thank goodness she's going to be a one termer.

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 11:13am

I don't think she will be. Once we get back the government from the illegal overtake by the republicans through gerrymandering, things may get better.

Wed, 12/04/2019 - 2:06pm

You can have it. It's clear to me that the "state" governor is on a mission to destroy rural Michigan. Here's an idea, offer Republican voters a voucher to leave the state. Why not? Democrats clearly want no opposition. I, for one, would take the money and run away as fast as I can. This state is going to become North Venezuela by the time the governor is done with it.

Tom L.
Wed, 12/04/2019 - 1:01pm

Far right tea party type Republicans calling other people crazy sure seems like s case of them projecting their own properties onto others.

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 8:07pm

But she is!! ( bat sh%t crazy that is)