Michigan Republicans jockeying to override Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget vetoes
Republican legislators in the House and Senate are introducing 24 supplemental spending bills that would reinstate millions in funding for some of the programs Gov. Gretchen Whitmer line-item vetoed:
- Dementia care and support program ($400,000)
- Grants for rural hospital pregnancy labor and delivery services ($8 million)
- Grants for hospitals serving low-income rural Michiganders ($16.6 million)
- Critical access hospital rate increase ($34.2 million)
- Pediatric psychiatric rate increase ($10.7 million)
- Neonatologist rate increase ($5.2 million)
- Autism Navigators website and call center ($1 million)
- A training program for autism training in schools ($100,000)
- Child Care fund ($4.2 million)
- Senior citizen program grants ($500,000)
- Opioid response grant for recovery high school ($600,000)
- Opioid response grant for community organization ($600,000)
- Project ECHO opioid intervention program ($40,000)
- Secondary road patrol for rural sheriffs ($13.1 million)
- Michigan tuition grants to private colleges ($38 million)
- County veterans services ($4 million)
- Charter school foundation increase ($35 million)
- Summer school reading program ($15 million)
- Career and technical education equipment grants ($16 million)
- Funding to help K-12 schools implement an emergency 911 call program ($5.2 million)
- Autism services ($350,000)
- Payment In Lieu of Taxes payments, state taxes paid to county governments that house public lands ($8.7 million)
- PFAS remediation at municipal airports ($15 million)
- Isolated school districts such as those in Upper Peninsula ($7 million)
Source: Michigan Senate and House GOP
LANSING — Michigan Republican lawmakers on Tuesday introduced more than 20 supplemental spending proposals to reverse line-item budget vetoes by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and set the stage for potential votes on veto overrides.
The maneuvers are political pressure ahead of a Thursday meeting between the first-term governor and legislative leaders, who are playing the blame game after Whitmer vetoed nearly $1 billion from their $59.9 billion budget in hopes of renegotiating that spending.
If GOP leaders are unable to strike a deal with Whitmer, they are not ruling out sending similar spending plans back to her desk and daring her to veto programs a second time.
“Give her a second bite of the apple to take money away from autistic therapy? Anything is possible,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.
Whitmer did not veto direct funding for autism therapy. Instead, she rejected $1 million that had been earmarked for an Autism Navigator program that provides online resources and a free call center for parents of autistic children, $350,00 for a pilot program to train providers on autism interventions and $100,000 in “train the trainer” grants.
The proposals introduced Tuesday do not include any of the spending priorities Whitmer outlined last week after she avoided a government shutdown by reluctantly signing budget bills she called “a mess.”
The new GOP spending bills do not seek to restore all funding vetoed by the governor, including $37.5 million for the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign or $37.3 million for the Going Pro campaign to encourage careers in the skilled trades.
McCann said the legislation is not an "exhaustive" list of GOP priorities but is a "starting point to begin a discussion about where the governor would be willing to correct some mistakes."
Instead, the legislation would reverse Whitmer vetoes that have caused backlash across the state, including funding for the autism programs. Other reversals would increase funding for rural hospitals; supplement secondary road patrols by county sheriffs; increase funding for charter schools, restore tuition grants for private colleges and more.
“It’s clear Republicans agree the budget isn’t done, and that’s a good thing,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Tuesday. “As the governor has said all along, she’s committed to working across the aisle to protect the health and safety of the people of Michigan.”
A separate House bill is expected to help small, isolated school districts stay open after Whitmer vetoes $7 million in planned spending. That bill may be introduced or cosponsored by Democratic Rep. Sara Cambensy, who represents several rural counties in the Upper Peninsula. She would be the only Democratic sponsor of the supplemental bills.
“This is something I’ve heard loud and clear that my residents want,” Cambensy told reporters Tuesday. “This is one cut that I think a vast majority of people want to see put back in.”
Veto overrides are also possible after budget bills Whitmer signed in part were sent back to the Legislature.
The Senate kept some measures on the floor to remain nimble for potential action. House Republicans are expected to refer other budgets to committee.
“This is simply us preparing for any possible action,” McCann told reporters. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out to express how detrimental the impact of the vetoes have been on their individual programs and operations across the state.”
Any veto override would require Democratic support, putting the minority party in the position of choosing to vote for program funding or standing with their governor.
“I can only speak for myself, but I won’t be supporting any veto overrides,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing, the top-ranking Democrat on the appropriations committee. “Veto overrides are just another attempt to not actually negotiate and solve the problem.”
Hertel is working with Whitmer to push her supplemental spending plans and called it a “good sign” that Republican leaders are laying out their own top priorities a week after declaring the budget “done.”
“In my opinion, this problem is not bigger than this Legislature,” he said. “And so I would suggest there is a proper way to solve these disagreements, and that’s to actually get in a room, work together and solve problems.”
Rep. Christine Greig, Democratic leader in the House, said the Democratic caucus has “no intention to support” veto overrides but they’re willing to negotiate on the supplemental bills.
“I’m glad to see that we’re getting back to the table and negotiating these different items,” Greig said Tuesday. “That’s what we’re here for is to actually get together, negotiate and get this budget done finally.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas, R-Midland, sponsored the 23 veto reversal bills introduced in the upper chamber. The upper chamber may introduce a 24th — to return funding for isolated school districts — later this week. House Republicans are expected to introduce twin versions later in the day.
"A lot of these issues have the people of Michigan very upset,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering. “The governor is using vulnerable populations as bargaining chips.”
D’Assandro said residents have been “reaching out to our offices and Republican members' offices complaining about what the governor has done and are asking for help."
The proposed bills would reverse a small portion of the 147 Whitmer struck from the 2020 budget, but they address "the things the people of Michigan have been speaking up about," D'Assandro said.
Whitmer on Monday defended her response to the budget, which included vetoes of $947 billion in spending and $625 million in departmental shifts executed using a rare State Administrative Board power.
“I did what I had to do,” the governor told reporters at an unrelated event. “The Legislature sent me a budget that was unbalanced, that misused dollars, that grossly overestimated amounts in restricted funds.”
Whitmer acknowledged the budget impasse is “not good for anyone” and expressed hope she and GOP leaders can “get back to the table and actually hash out some of the differences that we have.”
Budget negotiations between Whitmer and GOP leaders broke down last month because of a dispute over road funding, a top priority for the governor.
All sides had agreed to postpone long-term road funding talks to focus on completing the budget, but Republicans wanted to spend $400 million in one-time funding, which Whitmer opposed on the grounds it would strain other areas of the state budget.
Republicans ended up finalizing their $59.9 billion budget plan without the administration’s input, itself a rare maneuver. Whitmer vetoed $375 million of the road funding but said Monday she is not opposed to including a smaller amount.
Whitmer has outlined roughly $245 million in spending priorities she’d like to see in a supplemental spending bill, including $110 million for a Michigan Reconnect adult job retraining program, $48 million for the Department of Corrections, $33 million for the health department and additional funding for literacy coaches.
That spending would ensure the state can replace parolee electronic tethers that are set to become obsolete later this year and help the state prepare to defend against cyberattacks, according to the governor.
“My first and foremost job is public safety and public health,” she said Monday. “And that’s why I made the decisions that I made. It is my fervent hope we can get back to the table and actually hash out some of the differences that we have.”
We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please donate and help us reach our goal of 15,000 members in 2021?