No deal: Senate GOP rejects possible budget compromise

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on Thursday rejected a potential budget deal negotiated between Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

Update: Michigan budget breakthrough in works as Gretchen Whitmer, GOP near deal

LANSING — County sheriffs, small schools, local governments and other groups grappling with state funding cuts will have to wait several more days — or possibly weeks — for Michigan leaders to try and resolve an ongoing budget dispute.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on Thursday rejected a potential budget deal negotiated between Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

The House did not act on any supplemental spending bills but announced plans to meet again on Wednesday, delaying the start of a fall break that coincides with firearm deer hunting season and Thanksgiving. Without a breakthrough next week, Lansing’s process fight will likely continue through the end of the month.

The proposed deal would have reversed many of the $947 million in line-item vetoes Whitmer issued last month in an attempt to force continued talks with the Republican-led Legislature.

New budget language would have limited the governor’s power to transfer funds within departments using the Administrative Board, a rare maneuver Whitmer utilized to redirect $625 million from the $59.9 billion spending plan Republicans approved in September. 

Shirkey, who has called the transfers a concerning separation of powers issue, continues to insist that limits on the governor’s power be codified in state law via separate legislation. 

“Senator Shirkey and the Republican caucus agree with all components of the deal that was put forward but for the fact that it didn’t include the weight of law,” spokeswoman Amber McCann told reporters after the Senate adjourned without action.

Hopes for a budget deal appeared high Thursday morning, when Whitmer told reporters she thought the administration and Legislature were “close” to finalizing an agreement she had discussed Wednesday with Chatfield. 

“We have really made great ground on a supplemental, and if the Legislature wants to get that done and to my desk, it can be just a matter of hours at this point,” the governor said. “So the question is, are there going to be some political games still being played? I hope not.”

The budget feud began in September roughly three weeks before the constitutional deadline to complete a state spending plan for the new fiscal year in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. 

The Republican-led Legislature ended up finalizing a budget without the administration’s input, itself a rare move. Whitmer responded with an unprecedented volume of line-item vetoes and transfers, some of which she has made clear she would reverse as part of a broader deal. 

Whitmer effectively controls the Administrative Board and has refused to sign away any long-term powers for herself or future governors. 

She has, however, publicly vowed she will not transfer any funds included in a negotiated budget. In a Monday letter, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist told lawmakers the governor would also be willing to sign — and honor — “boilerplate” budget language affirming that promise. 

Those assurances weren’t enough for Shirkey earlier in the week, and without Whitmer agreeing to change state law, “we’re no closer” now, McCann said Thursday.

“There’s a list of people who are relying on the governor’s promises for this budget that are now sitting empty-handed,” MCann said, referencing the governor’s vetoes for programs she had publicly supported, including $1 million for an Autism Navigator program that connects parents with relevant resources. “The majority leader cannot rely upon the governor making a promise.”

As Bridge Magazine reported this week, the prolonged budget fight and Whitmer’s vetoes are forcing tough decisions for local governments, nonprofits and service entities that have already lost state funding — or will soon if state leaders do not resolve the dispute.

Chatfield, in a statement issued after the Senate adjourned, said “productive conversations” with the governor this week “laid the foundation for future discussions” but cited lingering concerns by multiple parties.

“Everyone wants to see funding restored for these important programs, and we all want to see a permanent resolution to this issue that maintains a constitutional balance of powers and provides real assurances that this situation won’t come around again,” he said. “We will continue to work together until we reach that point.”

The latest stalemate casts doubt on whether state leaders will resolve the budget dispute this year. The Senate is expected to meet Tuesday and Wednesday before beginning its own fall break. Beyond next week, each chamber is only expected to meet nine more times in December. 

Thursday was “the best opportunity to fix the fundamental problems in the budget and protect public health and safety, which is why the governor and Speaker worked so hard to negotiate a bipartisan agreement on a supplemental and transfer power,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in a statement. 

“With so many people’s lives impacted by this budget, it’s disappointing that the Senate Republicans are unwilling to compromise and chose to adjourn without finishing their work.”

State funding cuts have already prompted the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office to pull road patrol officers off the streets and forced small school districts to deny teacher supply requests. Upcoming payment deadlines the state is poised to miss threaten to impact public safety, health and local government programs across Michigan. 

McCann, Shirkey’s spokeswoman, pinned blame on Whitmer: “The only person who cut their funding was the governor.”

But Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich told reporters Democrats had been on board with the framework agreement Whitmer and Chatfield had discussed, leaving Senate Republicans as the lone hold out. 

“I guess permanent changes to the Ad Board are more important that finding an equitable solution to the supplemental, so hopefully we will continue to negotiate,” he said.  “I don’t know if we’re going to get there. I mean, maybe the budget is done, but it’s frustrating, and I feel like we should all put our egos aside and get to the business of solving problems.”

Chatfield first broached compromise Administrative Board language in a Wednesday meeting with the governor. 

Shirkey leader “was aware” that Chatfield and Whitmer were going to meet, but he “was given the notice of the meeting relatively late, and he wasn’t able to participate,” McCann said. “He was not aware of the details” of Chatfield’s offer to the governor, she told reporters. 

“The majority leader is always open to having a conversation with the governor, and I think his position is very clear to her,” McCann added. “I don’t think she’s confused about where he’s at, and it’s not going to change.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Thu, 11/07/2019 - 6:39pm

Our 'do nothing' Republicans in action. Can't even agree amongst themselves over a decade (when they controlled both houses and the governor's office) to fix our roads.

They don't even want our citizens to be able to vote.

Northern Mi guy
Thu, 11/07/2019 - 7:15pm

Wow!! Talk about a couple of stupid people. This just goes to show how dumb they are. You would think that they would touch base with each other. Embarrassed to say that Chatfield is my state rep.

No. MI guy again
Thu, 11/07/2019 - 7:55pm

So one condescending jerk controls the whole process. Mr. "My governor". What an ahold.

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 8:25am

So it seems you blame the Governor. The only jerk is SML Mike Shirkey who should walk to the nearest cliff edge and jump off. I am sure he was okay when Gov. John Engler pulled this little power grab but not now when Gov. Whitmer does it. The other Republican in the housesigned off and had a deal.

Kathi Geukes
Mon, 11/11/2019 - 9:10am

No...I believe he was talking about the "Mr. "my governor" guy who is the Senate leader although he seems to want to lead us down the road to ruin with his Republican ways....just like Snydley did!!!!

Steven Martin
Fri, 11/08/2019 - 8:43am

Anyone who can’t see that this Republican obstruction hasn’t been paying attention. It has been a political tool used for years by republicans all over the country to try and discredit Dem leadership. This has been done on both the stare and federal levels whenever they have been in control of the legislative branch and the Dems in the executive branch. Mitch McConnell is a prime example of this obstruction the private interests have dominated the public interest and this is what’s at play now here in Michigan. Obstruction, voter suppression, extreme financial contributions by a select private interest groups, and gerrymandering is the Republican Party play book.

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 11:35am

The Republicans funded the Autism programs, law enforcement secondary road patrol, jail funding, and funding to local governments. The Governor de-funded those programs. The cause of this problem is clear.

abe bubush
Fri, 11/08/2019 - 2:47pm

You are absolutely right. The Republicans did not negotiate the budget before submitting it. They are clearly at total fault.

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 12:27pm

It's really hard to negotiate with someone who has a very public temper tantrum over the traditional legislative schedule, then compounds the problem by walking away from the table at 3 weeks until the deadline.

middle of the mit
Sun, 11/10/2019 - 8:42pm

I would like you to look at at any of my "discussions or attempts to negotiate" with republicans on this board as an example of what it is like for the Governor to deal with Republicans.

When I confront them with facts, statistics, what is in the court section of their own local newspaper, they still LOVE the feeling of cognitive dissonance and the ability to just deny facts and what they perceive against what they "perceive as fact" that they gain joy from it.

Even when they have to wave the white flag in front of me.

Pay particular attention to the conversation between me and Duane.

What is it? I need to know! Why and how are you willing to be willfully ignorant? Or is it just an act, and you DO know that it is all crap? In which case, it is malevolent.

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 11:40am

The loss of funding for these important programs falls completely on the Governor. There were funded, she took the money away.

middle of the mit
Sat, 11/09/2019 - 3:48am

Governor, until Mike Shirkey is willing to negotiate in good faith (good luck) STAND YOUR GROUND!

MAKE IT HURT! Otherwise they won't understand.

They don't need STATE HELP anyway! Duane, Matt and Kevin will tell you, we up here can fend for ourselves!!


middle of the mit
Sat, 11/09/2019 - 4:45am

For those blaming the Governor for this stalemate, I would implore you to look at how the GOP in MI has acted over the last 8 years or more. They literally despise the will of the voter and they have shown it by adding spending addendum's on to bills to make them referendum proof to voter referendum. They don't like democracy. Or the Will of the People.

Look no further than what Kentucky has been trying to do in the last week since Republicans lost the election, the same thing Mississippi was going to do, go to laws that are over 100 years old to win/steal elections. What has happened in the last 100 years that changed the South to Republican? What laws would these people be using?

Jim Crow ring a bell?

Ding! Dong!

Al Churchill
Tue, 11/12/2019 - 7:05am


President Johnson knew that when the Civil Rights bill passed the Democrats were ceding the South to the Republicans. Indeed, he said so. While not wishing to belittle the many sincere Republicans who supported that bill, the Republicans were only too willing to accept the racial attitudes in the South as the price to be paid for their votes.

It is also noteworthy that the gerrymandering, voter suppression and legal maneuvering , done to limit selective voters from excerising the franchise, is deliberate. As the demographics of the nation change, the Republican base is shrinking, Virginia, turning blue after being dependably red, being example number one. Again, as they have done in Michigan, when they can't win, they cheat.

middle of the mit
Tue, 11/12/2019 - 8:53pm

Than you for expanding on my comment.

I was simply tying to extrapolate that republicans are expanding their exclusion of voters rights to everyone that don't agree with them, though I have a feeling that most Republican voters don't care or agree with that philosophy. Doesn't really matter though, does it? What it really means is that they don't agree with a Republic being run by democracy. There are only a few other ways a Republic can be run. Oligarchy, Autocracy or a STRONG MAN. The latter seems to be their favorite choice. And a nation run by a strong man is almost a Monarchy. Or that is how it will end up.

Good luck to us all!

Marie L
Sat, 11/09/2019 - 5:50am

The headline here is “Shirkey and His Republican Lapdogs Hold On To Their Never-Trust-a-Democrat Ideologue”. Get over it and sign the supplemental budget.

Al Churchill
Mon, 11/11/2019 - 1:46am

Louis Gomert, a US congressman from Texas, is undoubtedly the most unintelligent and partisan politician that I have seen in a long lifetime. Shirkey is not far behind. As I understand this article, his concern for the budget is secondary to cutting back the Governors power, a power that was given to the the Governor by his Republican party when it was advantageous for them to do so.

What a hypocritical dunderhead.

Kathi Geukes
Mon, 11/11/2019 - 9:13am


middle of the mit
Wed, 11/13/2019 - 3:08am

Hey Mike!

Why not tell Rural Northern Michigan you want them to go back to gravel roads so you can save billionaires like the DeVoss family tax money on their personal and business expenditures.

Also, since most of the auto manufacturing in this State that is unionized has a two tier system, costs are down for production, and we all know "thanks to the President of the United States" that the manufacturing jobs have gone over seas for the last 30 years......WHY HASN'T THE PRICE OF MY NEW CAR GONE DOWN?

You do know that Mary Barra and Bill Ford don't vacation in my area? The workers those companies used to employ, used to. They can't afford to anymore. That means less vacationers up here where Republicans live.

Wake up dude.

Almighty Dollar
Fri, 11/22/2019 - 2:51pm

Disgusting. This is why Michigan, led by Tea Party Republicans, has had zero per capita income growth for the last 20 years. Wake up. You can't tax cut your way to prosperity. It simply doesn't work. Now fix the damn roads!