Sunday, October 21, 2007

Perhaps another 30 days will do the trick...

We have been having all this fun with Joe Knollenberg's bad choice in staff members and wringing our hands over the "Hillary problem", but in the back of my mind there was this bit of nagging unfinished business, kind of like the feeling you get when you leave the house and can't remember if you turned off the coffee maker.

I bet you've been wondering- hey, just what is going on with the budget issue in Lansing? You know, the one they promised to have done if they could just, please, pretty please, have another 30 days to work on it?

What's that? You wanted to forget all about Lansing for awhile? Yeah, me too. I was pretty burned out on all things legislature, but this week the Senate Republicans fired up the press releases and hopped on the blame train one more time, and the word "shutdown" has been uttered more than once in the traditional media.

Deja vu all over again?

Phil Power, president of the nonprofit Center for Michigan, said there's growing concern that lawmakers are headed toward another crisis.

"You betcha I'm worried," said ex-newspaperman Power, whose Ann Arbor-based think tank seeks "comprehensive, long-range and, in some cases, radical policy solutions to transform Michigan's business, economic, political and cultural climate."

"In order to get a sensible resolution," he said, "things need to be very different in the Legislature than they were during the first round."

Uh oh. Given the press release by Mike Bishop on Thursday, it appears that things haven't changed all that much, really.

But, there is a new twist- a shift in the rhetoric. Bishop has stopped trying to drive the perceived wedge between Granholm and the House Democrats. Jump over the flip to see...
All this year Bishop has tried to claim that he and Andy were working things out and that the Governor was irrelevant to the process; now he has changed that tactic and decides to blame the House as well.

Looks like the honeymoon is over, Andy.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, fired off a statement late Thursday afternoon saying Gov. Jennifer Granholm and House Democrats appear to be reneging on an agreement to cut spending in Human Services, Community Health and other areas.

"While some cuts to departmental budgets have been completed, there remains an unwillingness by Democrats to make the necessary cuts to the remaining departments," Bishop said. "Senate Republicans are more than ready to finish this process. The question is, will Democrats keep their word?

Ha ha ha. This coming from the guy who flat-out lied to the media about the previous agreement. If his behavior this year is any indication of the reason for the release of this statement, it usually means that something happened that he didn't like and the Democrats have the upper hand. In other words, when Mike throws a fit, things are probably going well.

Another new twist, one I have been waiting for all year, this time all three Democratic leaders got together to smack him down. Love it!

Granholm, House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer of Battle Creek sent a joint response.

"Unlike the Senate Republicans, who walked away from a budget agreement earlier this year, we stand united on the comprehensive solution reached to resolve the 2008 budget crisis in a way that prevented massive cuts to public safety, health care and education," it said. "Citizens would be better served if the Senate Republicans refrained from firing off disingenuous press releases and instead, continued negotiating the specific details of the agreement, which includes $433 million in cuts."

From the sounds of things, they are back to the basic argument that they have always had- the Republicans want to cut the sick and the poor people first, slash DHS down another 500 or so employees, and give juicy private contracts to their buddies. Sound familiar? It's the Republican way. Granholm and the Democrats have other ideas on savings, ones that don't hurt vulnerable people.

Here are the main points of contention, boiled down to a few sentences-

School aid: A planned 2.5 percent increase to public schools will be cut to 1 percent. Savings: $173 million.

Higher education: A 2.5 percent spending boost for community colleges and universities also will be pared to 1 percent. Savings: $26 million.

Community Health: This department's budget will be reduced by $52 million. Cuts in Medicaid eligibility, increases in co-pays and reductions in reimbursement to doctors and hospitals are among the cutbacks being discussed.

Human Services: This department budget will be trimmed by $80 million. Day care programs, public assistance, adult services and other programs are on the table.

Corrections: Prison system spending will be cut by $56 million. Much of this will be achieved by prison closings already under way.

Other departments: The budget agreement calls for 2.5 percent reductions across other state departments. Savings: $53 million

One week to go- the details of all of that will be revealed as we go on and the clock starts to run down again.

I, for one, don't want to give up watching scary movies on Halloween night for watching scary Lansing go through yet another last minute, panic-filled drama. Let's hope they get this settled so we can move on to other issues.

Or, they might just ask for another 30 days, but they do have another two week vacation coming up in November. For some reason, I can't see them giving that up just to get their job done.