Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Update: Crisis? What crisis? Back to business as usual in Lansing

(Originally published this morning, keep that in mind when reading the first half of this post- see updates below)

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Last week, the state Capitol was buzzing with talk about an impending budget resolution. This week looks more like the week before Spring Break.

The environment was much more relaxed as the House met for a brief period and then adjourned. But there are many meetings taking place on the budget.

Sak had this ominous quote- and given the tone of some of the news reports along with Michael's statement, it appears that "some" of the Senate cuts might be acceptable to the House.

"The proposed reduction at the Senate level was not acceptable, or at least some of them," said Rep. Michael Sak (D-Grand Rapids), "so what we're doing here in the House side, we're going to meet at the appropriations level. We have three meetings today to look at the Executive Order. We're also going to look at budget appropriations for 2007-08."

Which begs the question, which ones were acceptable? Meetings and more meetings to figure that out. It does take time to read over the items that were rushed through last Thursday night- but a proactive approach might have been preferable to simply reacting to the Senate's hissy fit.

Back to the time crunch- why isn't the House plan ready? The headlines on MIRS that are accessible to the public tell us that Dillon will reveal "his" plan this week- yet another stealth move from the Legislature. Guess that makes the Governor the only one who is willing to be open and honest with people about future plans.

Maybe the only way to get anything done in Lansing is to keep it all a secret from the public and then spring it on us in the last minute.

Another blip from MIRS indicates rumors of a shutdown. The Corzine joke wasn't too far off the mark.

"The Department of Treasury has informed Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM that the state is facing a $400 million cash-flow problem as early as May, spurring unconfirmed reports that the front office has asked her department heads to formulate a government shutdown contingency plan by May 1."

This has been uttered a couple of times by the Governor, once at the end of a press conference in February (that no one picked up on), and most recently Monday night at the Traverse City town hall meeting.

One citizen implored that everyone should "sit at the table like adults" and fix the problem, which led to this statement by Treasurer Bob Kleine.

One of the big problems we have is that we are running out of cash in the state. We have a certain amount of manageable common cash we use to pay all our bills with, and in May of this year we are going to be as much as $400 million in the hole, in terms of our common cash, and that's never happened before, this early in the year.

We've had days in August, because we have a big school aid payment, where we've had small negative figures, but this is very unusual. And it's going to continue until we come up with a solution to this problem.

As far as replacing the Single Business Tax, it takes time to implement a new tax. Business needs time to adjust to it, the Department of Treasury needs time to implement a new program, we're already past the date, the ideal date, for replacing the Single Business Tax. So, we are reaching a critical stage, and we need to do something quickly.

The Governor went on to talk about the June 1st deadline from Standard & Poor's, and the fact that the agreement reached last week only solves 10% of the problem.

We have to achieve an agreement on all of this before Standard & Poor's acts, before we have to close down portions of government, because we don't have enough money to be able to move.

But... but... but... it's Spring Break!

Some legislators will be in town and a couple session days are scheduled. But the Legislature is set to go on break next week. Will anyone be around to talk?

"There's going to be a few that will be gone," Hansen said. "I think there are a lot that have canceled their plans and will be here."

Names. Get the names of the "few" that will be gone- and let's see just how much work gets done during this time. If it comes to a shutdown of any sort- remember this and those who chose to take a vacation while the state is in crisis. Might make for a good ad someday.

UPDATE: 2:46PM- This has hit the AP wire.

No fair! I had it first! OK. MIRS had it first. But still...

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has asked state directors to tell her by next week what programs might be affected and what steps should be taken if the state runs out of money in May and has to shut down.

"The money issue is real. This is not a fabricated crisis," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Wednesday. "The governor has made it clear for months the emergency we're facing."

You have got to be kidding me with this next item. From the terribly small mind of Craig DeRoche-

House Republicans on Wednesday announced legislation that would form a bipartisan commission to evaluate every function and service provide by state agencies and departments.

It would examine services such as human resources, payroll, mail, janitorial duties, purchasing and printing, as well as other state spending. House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Nov, said the governor's husband, Dan Mulhern, has three staffers while Granholm has proposed laying off state police troopers.

Now? You are doing this now? You have known about this problem for three months, and you are now going to look at small potatoes like printing? Did you think there was $1 billion dollars sitting there in the janitor's closet?

My God. What an idiot.

Boyd said Republicans are simply not opening their eyes to the impending crisis.

"The Republicans have not taken steps to resolve the problem responsibly. The governor has said to force cuts that would hurt people is not acceptable," Boyd said. "We have said that every day we don't resolve it, the situation becomes more dire."

Well, Liz, better get those reports ready. If the Republicans are going to continue to look at the small picture and focus on their personal vendetta against the Governor, this will never get solved.

UPDATE 2: 3:49PM- This is breaking in a big way- and Rick Albin thought he would be bored hanging around Lansing.

Detroit News story here.

Detroit Free Press story here.

Both have different angles, check 'em out along with that AP story.