Michigan Legislature, Gov. Whitmer head for showdown on roads, redistricting

Thursday’s committee votes in the GOP-led Michigan Legislature included a number of budget votes that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is likely to oppose. The deadline for consensus is Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.  (Bridge file photo)

LANSING — Michigan’s Republican-dominated House and Senate kicked off the final stage of the state budget process on Thursday, including votes on multiple funding decisions likely to irk Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic state officeholders. 

The committee-level votes included cuts to Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office and the redistricting commission her office is creating. It also included onetime funding for road and bridge repairs far below the $2.5 billion annually experts say is needed for Michigan’s battered infrastructure. Attorney General Dana Nessel, another Democrat, escaped budget cuts, but Republicans attached a proposal to track her lawsuits against the federal government.

Early Thursday, the Legislature, with a surprise boost from House Democrats, also passed an education budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which added an additional $30 million for special education students.    

Thursday’s proposals -‒ which the legislature and governor must agree to by Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown ‒ also included plenty of items where the two sides seem to have reached consensus: Millions in funds to compensate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, for instance, money to monitor and respond to PFAS and other environmental contamination, and an increase in funding for child welfare programs. 

Whitmer has reportedly remained out of direct negotiations with Republican leaders since talks broke down last week over wide disagreement over road funding. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield said they will pass the committee-approved budgets on their chambers’ floors next week. 

Their fate after that is a bit of a mystery: Whitmer can veto specific items in each of the budgets, which would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override. That’s unlikely because Republicans don’t have the numbers to override her vetoes without help from Democrats. 

Here are four big takeaways from the Legislature’s Thursday budget bonanza:

$400 million in onetime road and bridge funding

Republicans proposed shifting $400 million in general funds to help fix the state’s roads and bridges. That would increase funding for fixing Michigan’s oft-complained about infrastructure. 

But that’s still a no-go for Whitmer, as it is far below the $2.5 billion she originally sought to fund necessary fixes and continues the practice of diverting general fund money from other expenses such as higher education and local governments.

“Today’s action just proves that the Republican-controlled legislature is totally unserious about passing a long-term solution to address Michigan’s infrastructure crisis,” Whitmer said in a statement Thursday evening. “Until Lansing Republicans put a real long-term solution on the table that doesn’t involve cutting teacher pensions to fill potholes, our roads will continue to get worse, putting drivers and our economy at risk.”

Republicans say it’s not their only proposal to fund roads and that they’re still willing to discuss long-term fixes after the budget is passed. 

Funding for Attorney General, but an explanation when she sues Trump

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel came out on top Thursday: House and Senate Republicans decided to reverse course on earlier plans to cut her budget by 10 or 15 percent. Her office ended up with a 1.3 percent general fund increase over last year. 

But Republicans included a House provision that requires her (“not a designee of the Attorney General”) to go before legislative committees to present why she decided to enter any lawsuit against the federal government and an estimate of how much it will cost the state ‒ a proposal they did not impose on her Republican predecessor. 

Nessel, as promised during her 2018 campaign, has entered multiple lawsuits against Republican President Donald Trump’s administration since taking office. The provision, if it becomes law, does not attempt to prevent Nessel from filing or joining suits. 

“I think what we’re really trying to do is continue to make sure we understand what it is and if there’s a cost,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “If there’s a cost to the people of Michigan, I think we want to make sure it’s a known cost.”

Cuts to Secretary of State and redistricting commission 

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wasn’t so lucky. GOP lawmakers proposed cutting her general fund budget by more than a quarter — the pool of money she can choose to use for whatever she likes. Thanks to added restricted funds (that have to be used for a required purpose), her overall budget came out fairly even. 

The language in the redistricting proposal passed by state voters last November, however, requires funding for the new commission to be tied to the Secretary of State’s general fund budget. By cutting Benson’s discretionary money, GOP lawmakers, who generally oppose the new commission, would be able to appropriate $1.2 million less than Whitmer and Voters Not Politicians (the group that organized the redistricting proposal) had called for. 

Curbing jail funding in “sanctuary” communities

Republican majorities kept a Senate-proposed plan to withhold certain funding from communities that have policies prohibiting “communicating or cooperating” with federal immigration authorities. As part of the Department of Corrections’ budget for the new fiscal year, the proposal would stop reimbursement to jails that house convicted felons who would otherwise be serving time in state prisons under a 2011 program in areas with “sanctuary” policies. 

MDOC opposes the proposal because it says it would require the department to reopen closed housing units and spend more money on overtime staffing. A MDOC spokesman said it could cost counties such as Washtenaw and Kalamazoo that have enacted  “sanctuary” policies hundreds of thousands of dollars; the biggest impact would be on Kent County, which receives $1.1 million through the program. 

“I think it’s an important standard that we uphold that we want all facets of law enforcement to work collaboratively and cooperate together with one another, and this is a good motivator for them to do that,” Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, told Bridge Magazine earlier this year.

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Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 7:36am

Considering Gov. Whitmer's road figure was an integral part of an elaborate shell game she wanted to play with the state budget, a detail Ms. Beggin "neglected" to mention above, Gov. Whitmer should take solace in the fact that there is now a budget for her to sign and move on.

Michigan Residents won't take too kindly to the fact she is the one responsible for a government shutdown, if she refuses to sign it.

TJH
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 9:20am

I wonder how kindly MI voters will take to the GOP legislators trying to restrict the SOS as she attempts to implement the redistributing that voters approved almost 2-1. Voters chose Whitmer knowing her platform included massive investment in infrastructure and major reform of the way school aid funds are allocated and support for the recommendations of the School Finance Research Collaborative.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 12:25pm

I highly doubt that they'll be so forgiving with 40 percent of her proposed "road funds" getting skimmed right off of the top.

Nice try.

WRTolkas
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 2:22pm

When she was asked during the debate, wasn't the amout she wanted twenty-cents and anymore was a lie? What gets worse, Kevin, the new funds are controlled by a special board directing where to spend - Southeast Michigan. West and Northern might not see a dime, but they will take our money anyway. I'm proud the Republicans are holding the line and most citizens here in Western Michigan (everyone I know) will blame her if there is a government shutdown.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 6:29pm

Hmmmmm, why not let Gov. Whitmer speak for herself on this one?

https://youtu.be/Jvjp6LN63ZQ?t=49

Sounds pretty much cut and dry to me.

It's a shame that no one at The Bridge has ever bothered referencing this clip.

I've only posted it on this site multiple times already!

Bill H
Mon, 09/23/2019 - 8:52pm

Kevin:

No problem, we will take the $1.2 billion Schuette offered up for now. It is still a good offer, right? Repubs can still do this without cutting anything else?

You cited this and no one picked up on the $1.2 billion offered?

middle of the mit
Mon, 09/23/2019 - 9:00pm

https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/09/23/mike-shir...

{Whitmer called for a 45-cent gas tax increase to allow Michigan to spend about $1.9 billion more annually to fix roads while returning about $600 million in general fund money targeted for roads to other purposes.

Legislative Republicans said that was a non-starter}

I'm not a mathematician but isn't that closer to 25-27% ? And is that the sales tax on a gallon of gas that should go to the general fund? Someone should answer that question too.

Take a look at the article. Shirkey says the suburbs and rural without saying it, should go gravel or cut back their roads!
{Would he actually favor closing some roads?

“I wouldn’t be afraid of it," said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. "But it’s not an easy conversation."

Shirkey said roads would not necessarily have to be closed, but "maybe some roads need to be allowed to go back to gravel, for instance."}

Winning!

Is that how trickle down works?

Bill H
Mon, 09/23/2019 - 9:32pm

Yep, that is the way it works in Republican eyes.

Matt
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 1:43pm

TJH, That's why when Schutte accused her of wanting a massive tax increase she denied it?

Paul Jordan
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 11:41am

For decades, the Republicans have chained themselves to pledges to never raise taxes. Happily for them, this also coincides with their most important priority to promote the interests of the wealthy and corporations, and minimizing taxes has served as a primary vehicle to do this.

Rather than risk a clear public discussion of the functions of government which they think deserve tax funding, they have claimed that 'the market' should decide.

The voters of Michigan constitute 'the market' in this instance, but because Republicans' real priority is to minimize taxes for and redirect public funding to the well-to-do and corporations, they have simultaneously done their best through skewed redistricting to rig 'the market' in their favor.

Now that our K-12 education system, our roads, and municipal services are clearly among the poorest funded and worst in the nation, push has come to shove. Experience has shown us (as if we had any reason to doubt) that the state that embodies Republicans' ideal is Mississippi. Do Michiganders really want to live in a state like Mississippi, though? The time has come for Democrats and the governor to force the Republicans to defend the shamefully inadequate road and scandalously poor school systems that they have created.

Ask the people of Michigan, 'What services are important enough for you to pay more taxes?' My guess is that the people of Michigan would gladly pay more in taxes to adequately fund schools and colleges, create a 21st century transportation system, and adequately fund municipal governments so they could actually provide adequate public safety, health protection, and waste management services!

Kevin Grand
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 7:12pm

This actually might be a good idea to explore, Mr. Jordan; exactly why type of government could Michigan have under the control of democrats?

We can look at the stellar example the democrats have shown us would occur, should they ever take hold here in Michigan.

I'm not even going to bring up the obvious Detroit bankruptcy example. Let's see what they have done on an even larger scale elsewhere.

We can begin by seeing what democrat fiscal responsibility looks like on a statewide scale?

Illinois is about to file for bankruptcy. California isn't too far behind (one TRILLION in very generous pension debt alone and counting).

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/could-illinois-be-the-first-state-to-file-f...

https://www.pensiontracker.org/

How about the outstanding job the democrats have done promoting public health?

Addicts littering the streets with their needles (all courtesy of the public dime, of course).

https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Those-needles-li...

The democrats hands off approach to the homeless problem has led to a public health disaster that should never have even been possible in the first place.

https://www.businessinsider.com/san-francisco-human-poop-problem-2019-4

https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/sacramento-tipping-point/article234440...

Speaking of disasters that should never have been possible...why are we seeing epidemics that were once eradicated reappearing here in America of all places?

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/officials-investigate-leprosy-case-califor...

So, by all means, please tell us what the democrats will do for Michigan any differently than they have in those places where they already hold the reins of political power?

Bill H
Mon, 09/23/2019 - 9:30pm

Kevin:
Why not answer the question posed by Mr. Jordan instead of going to non sequiturs such as California, Illinois and other places and topics?

I do not believe Dems really have had a chance at running the State of Michigan. Repubs have controlled one legislative branch in Michigan since 1990(? ). There is another place Dems have not been able to get past also. Two - thirds of the time Repubs have had control of the other legislative branch in Michigan. Since 1990 and until recently, there has been one Dem Governor and now Whitmer. 60% of the time Repubs have had control of the Legislatures.

Dems have never had a chance in the last 28 years to really show what they can do in Michigan. As I pointed out to the Livingston County Repub Commissioners, 50% of the roads in our county are in poor condition. Another 25% are in fair condition. Similar road conditions exists in other counties as brought to the citizens by Republican control of the state legislatures and the governorships. Repubs are more concerned about restricting abortion.

Employment in Michigan looks great according to U3 unless one starts to look at Participation Rate. PR has not returned to what existed when Granholm was in office (the same exists in the rest of the US {[BLS]. We still have a mass of people in NILF who can not find work no matter how much money we toss at automotive. Lower taxes as brought to you by Republicans is an abysmal failure for job creation. IT DOES NOT WORK.

Healthcare in Michigan? Have you read the Drake Report done under Snyder and seen what it recommended to do with the funds received from the Fed Gov.? Probably not because you and Repubs do not care about providing adequate healthcare for all citizens unless you have arcane restrictions attached to getting it.

And whata about the recent No Fault Insurance change? I saw it, read it, and saw what the Quicken Loans Owner backed. Such a deal! Insurance companies holding the No Fault program will be paying out 220% of Medicare prices to hospitals and other care establishments dealing with car accident people. Regular Healthcare Insurance companies pay 170 - 190% of Medicare prices. Not a surprising reason for insurance premiums to be increasing is the costs of inpatient rose 42% from 2007 - 2015 as taken from a Commonwealth funded Health Affairs study. Out Patient rose 25% .

By the way, Michigan is #4 on the list for corporate welfare.

We have already seen what Repubs have done since 1990. You are just not explaining it. Give us the $1.2 billion Kevin. I am sure Whitmer will agree to it.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 09/24/2019 - 8:23am

What you refer to as "non sequiturs", Bill, I refer to a path that Michigan has fortunately NOT traveled down (yet).

If you want to talk about healthcare, something that is not, nor ever was a function of our government on any level, then take a good long look at the effects of the NHS over in England and report back to everyone on its glowing successes.

That is, if you consider waiting in the back of an ambulance, lying on a gurney against the wall in an emergency room, or shunted to the bottom of a very LONG waiting list as an example of doing health care right.

And that's if the government will even bother to treat you because of your age and/or the severity of your condition or your health.

Michigan "No Fault"? That has been a shake down from the day in was jammed down Michigan Motorist throats.

For state government to require mandatory compliance, yet ignore any public oversight of how the monies collected are spent, and on top of all of that giving us the lame excuse of "Trust us" on how those monies are spent, sorry that dog won't hunt.

I will concede, though, that Michigan Roads have been the result of a bipartisan problem for decades now.

It has been far too profitable to certain entities (and politicians) to do shoddy road work, and then use the inevitable results of their shoddy work as a justification for even more money.

Michigan can (and has) built very durable and long-lasting roads which have worked well for decades. The Davidson Freeway in Highland Park immediately comes to mind when it was first built. However constructing freeways that last for half a century, instead of "modern" roads like I-75 or I-696 which immediately self-destruct after only one winter, sort of puts the kibosh on business model.

Have you ever wonder why neither party has addressed building a quality road, instead of just asking/looking for more money?

THAT is the question that should be asked.

OABTW, that $1.2-billion. I've addressed that above. All that's needed is for Gov. Whitmer to just sign the budget to prevent a state government shutdown.

Bones
Wed, 09/25/2019 - 1:23pm

You've shown time and time again that you have no grasp of government, economics, or international relations.

Most of England likes the NHS; they have issues with the degraded level of service that has come from four decades of the Tories undermining and underfunding the system (which you are either unfamiliar with, or intentionally ignoring). That you complain about a system with wait times in favor of a system where thousands die because they can't afford treatment belies your blind ideology. You peddle lies about death panels and not treating the elderly when that's already happening in the boardrooms of Aetna and Blue Cross.

You're an absolute ghoul, and a terrible liar.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 09/26/2019 - 6:49am

Ah, Bones...your ignorance on just about everything never ceases to amaze me.

You conveniently "forgot" to mention the other problem with the NHS: they don't like it when money ISN'T the problem when it comes to treating the people under their care.

Let me jog your obviously poor memory with the following names (on my very short list of examples); Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Tafida Raqeeb.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3248426/charlie-gard-death-legal-courts-tr...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/04/24/judge-ru...

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9668768/tafida-not-ready-to-die/

They were denied health care by their own government's program due to cost and chances for success. Their respective parents located alternative medical resources (outside of England) willing to treat their conditions and give them odds for success. They were able to secure funding to leave their country and pay for treatment, but guess what?

Their own government WOULDN'T allow them to leave.

Are you so naive to believe that other governments wouldn't stoop so low as to deny medical care to its own citizens when an unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat won't permit it?

Worse yet, tell them that they cannot leave and just accept dying?

I know, I know...rhetorical question.

Bones
Wed, 09/25/2019 - 1:28pm

Kevin doesn't understand economics or politics at a fundamental level. He doesn't understand de-industrialization and ignores compounding issues like White Flight. He's a soulless skin flint who'd just as soon see the homeless rounded up into camps as he would see education privatized wholesale.

Almighty Dollar
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 7:46pm

Cheap and dumb, a reflection of the state. 38th in wages, most 3rd graders can't read, high tech and educated people do not want to come here at any price, low number of college grads around - 30%. People who are too cheap to pay 100 dollars a year to fix the roads deserve what they get - Republicans who are sex obsessed (gays, abortion etc) and a lousy place to live, with young people and college grads leaving in droves.

Pathetic. And one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation to boot. But at least we have a few billionaires! Yay!

TJH
Fri, 09/20/2019 - 10:52pm

I guess we are lucky that our parents generation after WW II had the common sense to know that building a great nation with tremendous infrastructure cost money and required sacrifice and taxes. Also politicians knew that the wealthiest among us needed to pay a higher share of the bill. Fortunately not everything they built has failed. We still stand on their shoulders. Will our children and grandchildren be able to do the same?

Ann Farnell
Sat, 09/21/2019 - 8:42pm

Kevin Grand, Everything you attribute to Democrats is actually the results of Republican free unfettered no regulation market ideology which always, inevitably leads to inequality in wages and extremely top heavy capital in corporations and the wealthy. This is Nixon, Reaganism long range results. Take your GOP talking points and shove them. We have the most corrupt president in the history of the republic and people like you blow it out your butt taking no responsibility at all for GOP failure to revenue share to cities with Dem mayors or states with Dem. governors. The GOP has been corrupt longer than Trump but now it is plain to see! Make Lying Wrong Again!

Kevin Grand
Tue, 09/24/2019 - 7:50am

Ms. Farnell

I'm not sure how much you keep track of politics nationally (based upon your reply, very little, if at all), but with the notable exception of a certain Gov Schwarzenegger, the democrats have had free reign to do whatever they wanted in California for more than several years now.

Nice try.

And if you want to talk about money NOT going to states with democratic governors? Just who was sitting in the W.H. before Pres. Trump?

Make Lying Wrong Again...indeed!

Don
Sun, 09/22/2019 - 8:08am

Before ant new taxes there needs to be an investagation on how all the BILLIONS of road money wwas spent HOW gave kick backs for getting NO bid contracts!!!!

middle of the mit
Mon, 09/23/2019 - 9:50pm

What Gov Whitmer said is right, Republicans don't care about the roads, And their actions should show you they don't care about the funding of the education of our children.

They are systematically defunding everything they can. I know, shock right?

They want to take money from the public union fund and issue them bonds! Why not just issue the bonds yourselves? To then claim the public union funds are underfunded and now we have to shirk on them.

https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/09/23/mike-shir...

{"I’m insisting that we re-prioritize spending first, re-evaluate our cash flow second, and only if those two don’t produce enough do we even begin to talk about revenue," he said.

Under re-evaluating cash flow, Shirkey wanted to borrow against or free up cash by slowing payments to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. Whitmer opposed those ideas, saying they would be fixing potholes on the backs of Michigan students.}

Republicans want to defund the general fund and money that goes to cities and communities across the State, And to schools by taking a sales tax and putting it toward the roads.

Because Republicans refuse to do anything about it, and that is why Shirkey is shirking and telling us to go back to gravel.

Don't believe me.

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2019/09/1...

{But since "fixing the damn roads" was Whitmer's campaign calling card, almost everyone agrees that postponing any repair effort for at least another few months is a significant victory for the Republican legislative majority.

"The Republican caucuses in the House and Senate should be given a lot of credit, particularly [Senate Majority Leader] Mike Shirkey and [House Speaker] Lee Chatfield," former GOP legislator Bill Ballenger, the Republicans' most reliable cheerleader, asserted in a pundit roundtable convened by the Michigan Information and Research Service. "They were unified and consistent, and they strung the governor out over a long period of time until she blinked."

So hats off, everyone, and bottoms up! The next round of blown-out tires and shattered windshields is on Mike and Lee!

The GOP's success in postponing serious negotiations on a road-funding plan is the latest delay in an epic can-kicking saga that dates at least to former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's first term in office:}

There are far too many for the extent of this post but we all know them. We can listen as Republicans tell us that collages should quit whining about money, but we should give millionaires and billionaires a break.

Get used to gravel.