Sunday, September 30, 2007

House passes 5194

Bill passes. House at ease.

Wow. Looks like Andy did it.

From the Freep-

The Michigan House tonight voted 57-52 to raise the state income tax from 3.9% to 4.35%, a keystone to an overall budget agreement that would avert a state government shutdown on Monday.

The tax increase passed the House on 57-52 vote with only two Republican voting for it - Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, and Rep. Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe. Gaffney was lobbied in person on the House floor by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Three Democrats voted no: Lisa Wojno of Warren, Mike Simpson of Liberty Township near Jackson and Mike Griffin of Jackson.

The vote kicked the bill to the Senate, with little more than an hour before a government shutdown would take effect.

One hour to go....

Continuation sent to Governor- provided revenue passes

Cannot stress the words "tie-barred" enough here.

From MIRS-

The Michigan Senate just moments ago advanced to the desk of Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM two bills that would allow state government to continue to move forward for the next 30-days thereby avoiding a shutdown. 

SB 772 and SB 773 are all tie-barred to key components of a deal winding its way at this late hour through the legislature.  SB 772 funds the state's principle agencies for 30-days and allows for debt payments to be made.  SB 773 is a 30-day funding bill for the state's K-12 education system.

The Senate is flying. Passing all kinds of stuff. Look at 'em go. Will sort it out soon.

Cropsey calls for short recess.

Next up: income tax

update 9:28pm: (by Z, WK sorry to jack your diary, thought this was the best place)  From MIRS

"The conference report on HB 5195, legislation that would raise the state's income tax rate to 4.35 percent as part of a three-legged deal that is slowly limping through the Legislature, was reported moments ago in the House Appropriations Committee room."


Remaining components of the so-called deal reached to resolve the budget impasse include:

- Final passage of MESSA pooling reform legislation

- Final chamber action on the Income Tax conference report

- Senate action on HB 5198 sales tax on services component

From MIRS-

The next step toward possibly averting a shutdown of state government beginning Monday will apparently be a votes on an income tax hike (HB 5195). A version is expected to move out of confrerence committee any minute. Apparently the Senate has figured out how it will pass the bill, but it's less clear in the House.

Earlier this evening the House passed the continuation budget (SB 772 and SB 773), tie-barred to a pick-your-poison array of either a sales tax extension on higher end services (HB 5198), so-called loophole closings, or an income tax hike. It would appear the move toward the continuation budget was the result of the House's failure to move the MESSA reforms.

The plan now appears to be to get the continuation budget to the desk of Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM with at least some of the revenues she demanded and then work out something on an overall budget package as the week plays out.

The Senate has figured it out? Good deal.

Anyone notice the MIRS bias up above? Points if you do!

The continuation is tied to everything else, so I'm not sure how she could possibly sign "some" of it. From the News-

The continuation budget, if approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, would allow the state to spend money into October while budget talks continue. But the bill is linked to 17 other pieces of legislation, so avoidance of a closure was not yet assured late today. A linchpin in the overall agreement for Republicans -- reform of teacher health insurance -- had not passed the House.

The state Senate was to take up the emergency budget and service tax bills later in the evening.

"The votes have to be there. The House has stepped up to the plate. It's our turn," said Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer of Battle Creek.

"Later in the evening". OK, you've got three hours and 11 minutes. Go to it.

(At 9:05- both bodies are "at ease". Probably a pretty uneasy ease at that)

The House will own this shutdown

... if this keeps up.

Dillon is blaming DeRoche and the Republicans for breaking a deal.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, said the agreement between the political parties is that majority Democrats will agree to pass changes in teacher health insurance as long as Republicans provide yes votes on the expansion of the sales tax to services.

Dillon fumed that House Republicans, after blasting tax increases all year and urging government reform first, had so many dissenters on the teacher health insurance bill.

But DeRoche said the Republicans never agreed to the sales taxes.

But House Republican Leader Craig DeRoche of Novi said he has delivered the votes on teacher health care that he promised. Still, he said he was trying to round up more.

"We simply in good faith are trying to deliver as many votes as we can," he said.

And he said Dillon is at fault on the service tax proposal because House Republicans have never supported it, and Democrats as the majority party have the votes to pass it if they get their members in line.

Andy, move the tax vote, and hang DeRoche on the reforms, if that is the way they want to play it.

House rejects 6% services tax

Um, Andy? Hello? What's going on here?

The proposed budget deal was facing serious trouble early this afternoon as the House failed to pass a proposed extension of the 6% sales tax to several services on its first try.

Immediately after that vote, the House put up for a vote the proposed overhaul of teacher health insurance, which was far short of the 56 votes needed for passage. The voting board remains open on that bill.

Six Dems were "no" on the service taxes according to MIRS.

They are Reps. Kate EBLI (D-Frenchtown Twp.), Terry BROWN (D-Pigeon), Marc CORRIVEAU (D-Northville), Marty GRIFFIN (D-Jackson), Mike SIMPSON and Robert DEAN (D- Grand Rapids).

We now have around 10 hours to go. If the major pieces can't get through the House, I believe that the House will, indeed, own this shutdown.

Get your troops in line, Dillon. Enough screwing around.

Tax on services passes out of committee

UPDATE: The House is voting now. Six Dems are up as "no". Where have I heard this story before?

From the Detroit News-

Nearly two dozen services -- including ski lifts, tanning booths and dating, consulting, landscaping and janitorial services -- would be taxed at 6 cents on the dollar under a measure passed out this morning by a special joint House-Senate committee.

The expansion of the sales tax to 23 services would raise $605 million from Dec. 1 through the end of the fiscal year next September and $725 million for a full year, according to state Treasurer Robert Kleine. A conference committee passed the bill 5-1.

Golf fees, cable TV, sports and movie tickets and dry-cleaning services, all which were part of the discussion, will not be taxed under the plan.

"We tried to identify services that people did not have to purchase, they are discretionary," Kleine said.

More from the Freep-

A vote in the full state House could come as early as midday, but the legislation's fate was very much in doubt.

In addition to the service tax, the tentative deal to avoid shutting down many state services at midnight included hiking the income tax to 4.35% from 3.9%, raising another $750 million, along with a roster of what has been termed "government reforms" sought by Republicans in return for grudging support of the tax hikes.

Almost every element of the proposed deal was under attack in some fashion, and progress excruciatingly slow, as the time left to avert a shutdown began to be counted in hours instead of days.

With the debate on taxes far from settled.

Business interests, especially lobbyists for the cable and satellite TV industry, worked furiously overnight to sidetrack the expansion of the sales tax to services, arguing it would put a damper on economic growth.

Stand up to this, lawmakers. Don't let special interests derail this deal, or we will hold YOU responsible.

Here's a choice quote-

Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said lawmakers were deluded if they thought they could escape the wrath of anti-tax voters by pushing significant increases in two major taxes instead of one.

"I don't understand why (a legislator) would want to take two tax votes," Owens said, "We hope it falls apart."

The headlines will read, "Business interests derail budget deal".

Should be good publicity for the Republicans, yes?

NFL Week 4

(OPEN DATES: Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tennessee, Washington)

Houston at Atlanta

NY Jets at Buffalo

Baltimore at Cleveland

St. Louis at Dallas

Chicago at Detroit

Oakland at Miami

Green Bay at Minnesota

Tampa Bay at Carolina

Seattle at San Francisco

Pittsburgh at Arizona

Denver at Indianapolis

Kansas City at San Diego

Philadelphia at NY Giants

New England at Cincinnati

September 30, 2007

Months ago, when talking to my father about what was going on in Lansing with the '08 budget, how the Republicans were stalling and obstructing and the Democrats were playing right along, he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "They will sign a deal at midnight on September 30th".

I had hoped he was wrong, trying to have optimism that they couldn't possibly be that irresponsible, but deep down I had a feeling he was right.

They took the first major votes towards completing this budget at 2am, September 30th. I'm sure glad I didn't place any bets.

The state Legislature took its first significant steps toward passing a long-anticipated budget deal early this morning when a committee approved a bill that supporters say would lead to savings in the cost of teacher health insurance.

The health care vote came about 2 a.m. About an hour later, lawmakers took another big step with the Democratic-led House approving a Republican bill that would give persons on Medicaid cheaper co-pays for leading healthier lifestyles.

Shortly after that, the House passed a bill that would require schools within their immediate school district -- a governing entity that generally covers a county -- to use a common school calendar. The idea is supposed to make it easier for districts to consolidate services like busing.

And then the House passed a bill that would prohibit state employees from receiving their pensions while also receiving a state salary. There are some employees who retired from the government, but then come back to work on a contract basis while still receiving a pension.

The momentum was stymied temporarily when the Senate refused to approve the committee report on the teachers' health-care issue. But lawmakers huddled again and, on the fourth attempt, the bill passed 21-17. The measure now heads to the Democrat-led House.

These are your "reforms". And it appears that this is all tie-barred to the tax increase.

The teacher benefit reforms are tied to an agreement that is to result in an increase in the state's 3.9 percent income tax and an expansion of the 6 percent sales tax to include some services such as haircuts and dry cleaning.

Lawmakers are bracing for a rugged early-Sunday debate over this issue, followed by two tax increases likely to be equally as controversial.

So, we aren't quite there yet, but it's starting to look like soup.

If the deal materializes, it likely will be seen as a victory for Granholm, who has said there was little room for substantial program cuts without endangering vulnerable people, education and Michigan's eventual economic comeback.

All true.

During the governor's meeting with Democrats, applause was heard several times, but the meeting ended without Granholm making a statement to reporters.

Speculation in the state Capitol was that a budget agreement would increase taxes by about $1.3 billion. It would include a boost in the state's 3.9 percent income tax to 4.35 percent -- which would raise about $765 million. And the state's 6 percent sales tax would be added on a number of services currently not taxed to raise an estimated $600 million.

As of this writing, the big red clock running at the Freep shows 18 hours to go. Maybe I should have bet on the exact hour that they would have it finished.

Hope that the lawmakers come out of this showing a little humility. While it's good that they got through the process without killing each other, I really don't want to see any speeches telling me how wonderful they are for dragging the state to this point because of political cowardice. They frightened and angered a lot of people out here-  they should keep that in mind if and when they pat themselves on the back for simply doing their job.

More at BFM on this ongoing saga. Haven't had the time to cross post everything.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Garcia: "I think we're there"

Our hero, Valde Garcia. Christine is probably laughing about that one right now.

Asked whether a budget agreement is in the works today, Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, said: "Barring any last-minute glitches, I think we're there."

Looks like they are going for a tax on discretionary services, and they are printing the bill as I type.

A sales tax on services, which is being considered as part of a package to erase the state's budget deficit, would extend to discretionary services only, according to state Treasurer Robert Kleine.

Discussions are focusing on expanding the 6 percent sales tax to services such as landscaping, dry cleaning, golf fees and possibly sports tickets, said Kleine, who has been involved in talks on the service levy.

"It's discretionary only," Kleine said, adding that services deemed unavoidable, such as plumbing and car repair, are not included. He said entertainment tickets for movies and sporting events "have been on and off the list."

Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, said: "Everything you could arguably say is a rich-guy service is on there."

A joint House-Senate conference committee on the service tax met briefly Saturday and then recessed. Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, chair of the committee, said members were waiting for the bill to be printed.

You know, I think if we just do a 2% deal across the board, we wouldn't have to raise the income tax! Doesn't that sound better?

Maybe someday they will understand.

The AP admits it's political

Thought this was interesting. The media has mentioned before many times that the Democrats were trying to protect vulnerable members on the issue of a tax increase, but yesterday, the AP, through veteran reporter Kathy Barks Hoffman, presented a more balanced view of the situation and admitted that the problem is mostly political- on both sides.

The holdup in negotiations seemed less related to fights over the size of possible tax increases or spending cuts than over upcoming elections. Democratic leaders have tried in recent weeks to protect vulnerable lawmakers who could be hurt in the 2008 or 2010 elections by voting for a tax increase, while Republican leaders have worried that GOP legislators who support a tax increase could face recall threats.

It's not all about the money, as the pols would like you to believe, it's the politics. They are trying to cover themselves. But we figured that out long ago anyway, didn't we?

Still, it was refreshing to see it brought out in the traditional media like that.

Later in the article-

So far, the House has been unable to pass a tax increase even though Democrats hold a 58-52 majority in the chamber, while Senate Republicans -- who hold the edge in that chamber -- haven't yet put up the votes for all of the government reforms they say they support.

It's both of them. Of course it is. In one sentence, she describes the reality of the problem. Both sides are afraid to do what they know must be done.

Saul and the "drown government" crowd that control the Michigan Republican Party are making it that much harder for their own members. Yes, we like that, but still, their adamant refusal to support any kind of taxes makes closing the deal difficult to complete, and they keep turning up the heat on the pressure cooker.

We all know a tax increase is coming. The MRP continues to back their own people into a corner.

The fight over what the budget deal should look like took to the airwaves Friday afternoon, as the Michigan Republican Party began running a 60-second radio ad saying the party doesn't agree with raising taxes and urging the governor to sign a budget extension.

It was a bit stronger than that. They are calling this "Granholm's shutdown" and they repeatedly mentioned they don't support a tax increase. Bishop just challenged the Governor to "put politics aside", but as usual, the people that run the MRP continue to make it worse.

Their own members in the House wouldn't vote for the cuts that would be required without the revenue. And these miracle "reforms" never seem to materialize into viable savings; they are all about breaking the back of Democratic supporters. A budget extension will cause us to keep going into deeper debt to the tune of $125 million a month, adding to the deficit, which is causing the need for the tax increase in the first place. Do Michigan Republicans support that?

There is going to be some Republican support on this- there has to be. Or we shut it down. It's that simple. Saul and the MRP know this- and they don't care.

Keep your fingers crossed that moderate, sensible Republicans will reject this extremism, step up to the plate, and do the right thing for our state. We have less than 36 hours to go at this point. Time to send Saul packing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Granholm releases details of shutdown

UPDATE: now has a Q & A page up of frequently asked questions on the shutdown. Check it out here.

UPDATE 2: WOOD is now running highlights of this list as a crawl. Now, who was it that wanted tomorrow off?

Just landed in the mailbox- here it is-

AGRICULTURE:  All Department of Agriculture activities will stop during a government shutdown, except livestock vehicle inspections at the Mackinac Bridge, which are required to maintain the Upper Peninsula's Tuberculosis-free designation for cattle.  During the shutdown, food safety inspections, recall effectiveness checks, gas pump inspections, animal disease monitoring, and migrant labor camp inspections will stop; agriculture export and cattle movement permits will not be issued; and horse racing will shutdown.  Exports from Michigan to foreign countries would essentially cease should state government shut down.  Commodities affected include dry beans, logs and lumber, nursery stock, grain, fruits, and vegetables.

THE COURTS:  The Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals will continue to operate with a limited staff to handle emergency matters.

CIVIL RIGHTS:  All Department of Civil Rights activities will stop during a government shutdown.  Residents wishing to file a discrimination complaint will be able to leave a message at 1-800-482-3604 with the details of their complaint.  For purposes of meeting the 180-day legal requirement, the message will constitute an official notice of the intention to file a complaint.  Residents calling Civil Right's Crisis Response Hotline to report a hate crime or bias incident may also leave a message, although they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement for immediate assistance.

COMMUNITY HEALTH:  A number of operations within the Department of Community Health will be maintained to ensure that the health of our citizens is protected.  State mental health facilities will remain open with reduced staffing, though voluntary, non-court admissions will be suspended.  Critical laboratory services will operate to ensure newborn screenings are completed in a timely manner, and threats of immediate harm can be addressed.  Limited Medicaid support will be available to approve emergency medical prior-authorizations and review exception requests for medications and medical procedures.  The DCH also will maintain the toll-free number to register nursing home complaints of a serious nature.

CORRECTIONS:  Department of Corrections functions will continue as needed to protect the safety of Michigan citizens.  The state's prisons, prison camps, and parole/probation monitoring will continue to operate, though at a reduced staffing level.  Administrative operations outside of the prisons will shut down.

EDUCATION:  All Department of Education operations will shut down, except for the Michigan School for the Deaf.  If Department of Education employees have not returned to work by mid-October, the state school aid payment due on October 22 will not be made.

ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY:  The Department of Environmental Quality will maintain only limited staff during the shutdown period to meet U.S. Department of Homeland Security air- monitoring requirements and process critical drinking water samples to address the most immediate public health concerns.  All other department functions will shut down.  This means no permits (air quality, surface water discharge, wetlands, dredging, etc.) will be processed and no environmental complaints will be received or investigated.  The Pollution Emergency Alerting System will be operational, but the department will have extremely limited ability to respond to emergencies reported through that system.

HISTORY, ARTS & LIBRARIES:  All Department of History, Arts and Libraries operations will shut down except security and emergency monitoring services at the Mackinac Island Airport and public areas.  The Library of Michigan, the Michigan Historical Museum, and historic sites around Michigan will be closed.  Mackinac Island paid admission sites will close and garbage and manure pick-up and road maintenance will cease.

HUMAN SERVICES:  Critical Department of Human Services' operations will be maintained to protect the safety of children, families, and vulnerable adults.  Most local offices will remain open with a small percentage of field staff on the job to respond to child protective services and adult protective services emergencies; make emergency foster care placements; and process emergency payments for evictions, lack of utilities, lack of food, etc.  Cash assistance, food assistance, child day care, adoption subsidies, and foster care payments will continue, but no new applications will be processed (except for emergencies as described above).  Child support payments received from non-custodial parents will be sent to families; and the state's juvenile justice facilities will operate and will be staffed to protect the safety of residents.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY:  A limited number of Department of Information Technology personnel will be needed to maintain state operating systems and to provide technical support for those services that will continue.

LABOR & ECONOMIC GROWTH:  The majority of Department of Labor & Economic Growth operations will be shut down.  Most of the Unemployment Insurance Agency will be closed, however, unemployment checks will continue to be processed and new applications can be made over the phone or via the Internet.  In addition, the Michigan Career & Technical Institute in Plainwell and the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center in Kalamazoo will continue to provide education and training for disabled individuals.

LOTTERY & GAMING:  Lottery sales will end at the close of business on September 30, 2007. Players will not be able to purchase or redeem winning tickets.  Minimal staff will maintain drawings due to the advance sale of tickets.  State gaming inspectors will be idled as well, forcing the state-licensed casinos in Detroit to close.

MANAGEMENT & BUDGET:  A limited number of Department of Management and Budget personnel will maintain state-owned buildings.

MICHIGAN STATE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY:  The Michigan State Housing Development Authority will be closed during shutdown and all operations will stop.

MILITARY & VETERANS AFFAIRS:  The MVA State Finance and State Human Resource offices will be closed.  The state's two veterans' homes in Grand Rapids and Marquette will continue operating with reduced staffing but will maintain the minimum staffing as required by law.  The Youth Challenge Program will also remain operational but with minimum staff.  Feeding and education will be provided by the Battle Creek Public Schools, an established partner of the Challenge Program.  The state's 44 National Guard armories, six National Guard training sites, and National Guard administrative offices are federally funded and will remain open.

NATURAL RESOURCES:  All DNR operations will be shut down, except a minimal crew to maintain the state's six fish hatcheries and a small contingent of forest firefighters needed to continue containment operations at the Sleeper Lakes fire in the Upper Peninsula and to respond to other fire emergencies.  Shutdown will require that all state parks, recreation areas, DNR visitor centers and state forest campgrounds be closed, including day use areas.  Citizens with camping reservations at a state park or recreation area during the duration of the shutdown will be eligible for a refund.  The sale of hunting and fishing licenses may be delayed if technical problems with the state server prevent processing, and gated boat access sites will not be accessible.  In addition, timber will not be marked for sale or sold.  The archery deer season set to open on October 1 will proceed, however, deer check stations will not be operating.

SECRETARY OF STATE:  Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has indicated that branch offices will be closed during the shutdown.  License plate renewal will be available via the Web, self-service stations, and touch-tone phone in the event of a shutdown.

STATE POLICE:  The Michigan State Police will continue to protect Michigan citizens during shutdown.  Though all MSP posts will be closed to the public, a limited number of troopers will be maintained to provide critical law enforcement services across the state.  Administrative and specialized operations will be curtailed, resulting in the cessation of crime lab services, commercial vehicle enforcement, drug and criminal investigations, detective services, disaster assistance, and casino gaming oversight.

TRANSPORTATION:  All road construction, routine maintenance, and administrative operations will stop.  The state's rest areas will be closed.  In addition, six of the state's lift bridges, in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard regulations, will be locked in the up position, allowing only water traffic to pass.  Those bridges are located in Manistee, Bay City, St Joseph, Port Huron and Detroit.  The Mackinac Bridge, the International Bridge, and Blue Water Bridge will remain operational.

TREASURY:  Department of Treasury operations will cease during a shutdown, including the Michigan Lottery, Casino Gaming Control Board, Michigan Education Trust, and the Michigan Education Savings Plan programs.  A prolonged shutdown would delay revenue sharing payments to local units of government, school aid and higher education payments, and financial aid payments.  A limited number of staff would be maintained to process incoming receipts and outgoing critical payments (including cash assistance, unemployment benefits, and debt service on bonds).


MESSA and tax hike size final hurdles in deal

Another breaking MIRS story-

Two of the remaining factors standing in the way of lawmakers and the Governor sealing a deal on next year's budget and avoiding government shutdown deal with the size of an ultimate tax increase and the circumstances under which school employee health data can be used by superintendents to shop around for better rates, according to the most recent information collected by MIRS.

Known under the dome as the "MESSA issue," the debate revolves around the health care spin-off of the Michigan Education Association (MEA), which is the third-party administrator for roughly half of the school districts in Michigan.


A second hurdle facing lawmakers and the Governor concerning the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget is the size of the tax increase involved. While there's a common understanding that there will be an income tax increase and a sales tax expansion, the size is still in flux with estimates on the amount of new revenue shifting by the hour between $1.2 and $1.6 billion.

Also, I have just received word from a reputable source that the House and Senate are considering NOT MEETING tomorrow ?!?

Are you kidding me? If so, what a complete outrage, so outrageous that I'm having a hard time believing it. The state would go ballistic on them.

Will update when I have more confirmation/information.

State workers notified of Monday layoff

Breaking from MIRS (again)- Bob Kleine has told them not to come in.

At 2:35 p.m. State Treasurer Robert KLEINE notified state workers that they were being "placed on temporary layoff consistent" with collective bargaining agreements and Civil Service rules.

"Do not report to work beginning on Monday, Oct. 1, 2007, unless otherwise notified," wrote Kleine. "For additional information, go to

"While the first steps to a government shutdown are now being taken, the governor continues to work around the clock to reach an agreement on a comprehensive solution that will prevent massive cuts to public safety, health care, and education," wrote Kleine. "When an agreement is reached, the Executive Office will notify news organizations, post a notice on, and update a special hotline for state employees."

Regardless of what the board said this morning, the state must believe it has the legal right to do this.

Not a good sign, but had to be done today.

UPDATE: From the Detroit News comes this word-

Just 17,000 state employees would remain on the job, according to the notice. Among those who would continue to work would be 12,000 corrections officers and just 200, or one-fifth, of the 1,000 Michigan State Police troopers. State psychiatric hospitals would continue to be staffed.

Congratulations, Mike. You too, Andy. Maybe you want to take some votes now?

Must see MDP ad - Bishop joins the peas in the pod

Yeah, yeah, just when I want to start ragging on the MDP a little more, they go and do something beautiful like this.

You. must. watch. this. one. "Three Peas" is the title.

Hat tip to ML for pointing this out- going to run and put it in the BFM video favorites category so we can watch it again and again.

Thank you MDP, glad to see you get in the game!

Noon update on budget talks

House and Senate coming back in as I type this. Senate is voting. Don't think it has anything to do with anything, but we should probably watch these guys so they don't try to sneak stuff in. ;-) Now they are recessed until 3.

Rumors flying of a deal- WOOD reported at noon that "all the key pieces" were in place and now it was a matter of the details, but one source said those details could take all weekend.

Here's the latest from the Detroit News- you may not like 'em, but they are usually one of the first in the state to have updated info.

LANSING -- With a cautious sense of optimism that a budget agreement can be reached to avert a threatened stoppage in state government operations Monday, a special House-Senate committee charged with coming up with a compromise over an income tax increase convened this morning only to promptly recess without taking action.

The panel could be called back into session in a moment's notice.

The House and Senate ended session at 1 a.m. this morning with members saying progress was being made on a deal to combine tax increases and budget cuts to resolve a $1.7 billion deficit for the fiscal hear that starts Monday. Both chambers were expected back at 1 p.m.


The Granholm administration was to brief reporters later this afternoon on the full details of what a shutdown would mean to the state's 10 million residents. Already, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said that Detroit's casinos, state parks, Secretary of State branch offices and the Lottery would be closed and liquor distribution ceased.

And apparently there has been a rush on lottery and booze, and the SOS offices are reporting high traffic.

Nothing up yet at as to plans- my guess is that they will put them up when she briefs reporters.

Will update when I can- in the meantime, contact your voice in all of this and tell them just how you feel about what is going on.

Find your House Rep here.

Find your Senator here.

Be nice to the staff- they just work there, and they are probably freaking out at this point just as much as you.

Civil Service Commission rejects layoff rule change

Breaking on MIRS- we can't lay off the state employees.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission this morning on a two-to-two vote rejected a proposed rule change that would have allowed the state to layoff workers for 20 days during a five week period and short-circuit traditional layoff notice requirements.

Recall that State Personnel Director James FARRELL had prepared a memo dated Sept. 14 outlining the rule change that was designed to give the state more flexibility in dealing with a possible fiscal crisis should Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, come around without a budget resolution.  It was that proposed change that failed this morning before the Commission.

What does that mean? I have no idea. Maybe an appeal by the government. More lawsuits probably. Detroit News has the story now here.

In another development, the Michigan State Police command officers have voted to stay on the job, without pay if necessary.

Meanwhile, the Michigan State Police Command Officer's Association, which represents those holding the rank of lieutenant and higher, said its membership has voted to stay on the job --without pay -- if a partial closure of government services is ordered.

"Our mission and purpose is simple," Diane Garrison, the group's executive director said in a statement. "We are here to serve and protect the citizens of Michigan. We feel the laying off of trained and dedicated officers is not in the best interest of the safety of the citizens of this state and it runs contrary to the solemn oath these officers took when they became troopers."

Good people. Much applause and gratitude to you.

Casinos to sue to stay open

UPDATE: 5:03PM- A judge has ruled that the casinos can stay open during a shutdown.

The first of many threatened lawsuits, courtesy of the legislature that wouldn't do its job.

Detroit's three casinos are joining together today to sue the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the state over the threat to close them down temporarily if Lansing lawmakers can't reach an agreement on a new budget by Monday.

Both the Gaming Board and casinos confirmed they expect Richard Kalm, executive director of the board, to be served with a lawsuit at about 11 a.m. today, a move aimed at preventing the closure of the casinos if Gov. Jennifer Granholm orders a shutdown of state government at midnight Sunday.

Operations at the three Detroit casinos are monitored 24/7 by on-site state employees; theoretically a state shutdown would make it impossible for the gaming halls to continue doing business without the legally-required oversight.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed this morning in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Attorneys for the casinos will ask the court for an expedited hearing -- perhaps even later today -- to hear arguments from both sides. The casinos hope they can get injunctive relief to prevent any shutdown.

Expect more of this.

How much will these guys cost us with their inaction by the time this is all over?

Talks continue today, deal close?

Believe it or not, signs are pointing to a deal being done by Sunday.

Putting together the clues from the Detroit News, the Freep, the AP, and MIRS, you can get a picture of where they stand, and all four are reporting about the same thing-

First the AP. They don't get into the numbers like the others.

Granholm mingled with members of the Democrat-led House early Friday. Then she disappeared down a hallway with Dillon, leaving some lawmakers to believe that a deal was getting closer. Negotiations have been centered on proposals to raise the state's income tax, possibly expanding the sales tax to include some services and a host of cost-cutting moves, including public employee benefits.

Next, the Detroit News-

Speculation in the halls of the Capitol ran wild during the day in which proposals went back and forth between House Democrats and Senate Republicans. The two sides were about $200 million apart on the $1.75 billion deficit, and the remaining outstanding issue was reform of public employee health care.

MIRS reports this as a rumor, but it does fit with other reports (and one starts to wonder if they all just feed off of each other). More details-

The Senate had supposedly agreed to accommodate a 4.3 percent tax increase, and was willing to accommodate a sales tax on higher end services (marinas golf courses, etc.) if the Democrats could put up enough votes. These two revenue-producers would add up to $1.5 billion annually. It wasn't clear whether there would be a phase out, or, if there is a phase out, what the timing or trigger would be.

Also unclear was how many "yes" votes the Democrats would have to put up on the tax increases. Earlier in the night the magic number was supposedly 56 in the House for the income tax side - but that may have been part of an earlier "almost a deal."

By the time the House broke up and members were headed home, the story for more than three hours had been that deal involved the Senate version of reforms to the Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA).

And finally the Freep-

Legislative leaders continued what were described as earnest discussions to raise the state income tax, expand the sales tax to some services and come up with perhaps $400 million in spending cuts.

The sales tax on services was a closely held secret, as negotiators feared that disclosure of services that might be taxed would launch intense lobbying by affected businesses to kill an agreement.

And that might explain why they are coming back after 1 PM today- the Friday news dump. Do this on a Friday afternoon, people leave for the weekend, can't call and complain and/or pressure members who might be otherwise influenced by special interests. Just a guess.

WOOD just reported that the conference committee will meet this morning around 9:30. Another good sign; maybe they have something to do.

Bottom line- three are reporting around $1.5 billion as a final number. Very, very good sign.

However, today motions will continue to prepare the state for a shutdown in case this all falls apart. Check back at later for a complete list of closed services and plans and other preparations, which in itself may be an interesting study of how you bring a huge machine such as a state government to a (partial) halt.

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Michigan League for Human Services on a shutdown

The MLHS reminds us of what is at stake here. In a memo released today, they outline who the Legislature is hurting when they refuse to do their job.

A government shutdown raises grave concerns about the widespread impact on Michigan citizens who need state-administered programs to keep their families fed, housed, healthy and their children in school.

Among the concerns:

  · Statewide, 600,000 children depend on the prompt processing of child support payments.

  · There are 97,000 families that need cash assistance or state disability assistance to make October rent payments.

  · Monthly adoption subsidies help families of 25,000 children pay the household bills.

  · More than 1.5 million residents, from newborns to seniors in nursing homes, receive medical services through Medicaid. That's one in every seven residents.

  · Food assistance is used by 1.2 million Michigan citizens.

  · Day care for 100,000 low-income children is paid by the state so their parents can keep their jobs.

  · Foster families provide care for more than 10,000 children and receive stipends to help pay the household expenses.

  · Protective services workers each year investigate families where roughly 160,000 children reside to assess reports of abuse or neglect. About one in every five cases has been confirmed in recent years.

And with the DHS out, a few more complications arise-

The potential of skeleton staffing of Department of Human Services offices also raises concerns that unanticipated emergency needs may not be met. For example, last October, 12,831 families received emergency help to keep their homes heated and lights on.  Also, in October 2006, state emergency funds paid for the burials of 357 indigent citizens who had no money, family or friends to pay for the services.

This is just for starters. The total ramifications are yet to be seen.

We will find out just how much state government really does do for us by the time this is all over. Maybe we will come to appreciate it more.

Visit the Michigan League for Human Services here.

How much time does Bishop need?

Some reporter needs to sit Mike Bishop down and ask that question.

Pick a date Mike. Just let us know when you think you might be ready, because we have been waiting all year.

To hear things like this...

"I'm negotiating for cuts and reforms," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. "And the reforms I'm asking for are very substantial. It's going to take a long time to make sure we pick the right ones."

... and this...

She needs to sign a continuation budget in good faith so that both sides have more time to respond," Bishop said, noting another 30-day extension could be needed if a permanent solution is not found during October.

... at this point in the game is true "dereliction of duty", which is exactly what you are accusing the Governor of doing.

Michigan can't wait any longer for Mike Bishop.

Granholm to address the state tonight at 6:05PM

Breaking on the noon news- Governor Granholm will address the state tonight at 6:05PM, available to all TV stations- so check your local news.

Um, that doesn't sound good as far as reaching an agreement goes. If she isn't announcing that a deal has been reached, she is going to tell us what happens in a state shutdown.

Wow. Looks like they really are going to do this.

Other than that- not much coming through the media. The Scapegoat Panel met and adjourned this morning, awaiting orders.

A special House-Senate conference committee charged with coming up with an income tax compromise to help bail the state out of a fiscal crisis recessed within minutes this morning without taking action to avoid a partial government shutdown threatened for Monday.

"There is a lot going on," said Rep. Steve Tobocman, the Detroit Democrat who chairs the six-member panel. "I think everyone will do what they have to today to move Michigan forward."

The committee was in recess "at the call of the chair," meaning it could be quickly reassembled at anytime during the day.

Check in at 6:05 tonight and see what comes next.

UPDATE: Just as I published this (that always happens, I swear), word comes that Bishop goes to the media to try to blame Granholm because HE didn't get his job done. The guy, who passed a Senate rule to stay on vacation in July, is now crying about the consequences of taking all that time off.

If Bishop wants this continuation so bad, why doesn't he pass the revenue to support it?

"She's got the sign the continuation budget," the Rochester Republican told reporters at the Capitol.

"She has that tool in her toolbox right now. I've pleaded with her publicly and in private. She's got to sign it, there's too much danger to the state."

"Talk to the hand", says Liz.

"The governor is not going to let lawmakers force the state to spend money we don't have," said Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Granholm.

Good. Hang tough Governor. This is yet another diversion by the legislature to avoid doing their job. Why give them 30 more days? So we can go through this all over again? No thanks.

Get the job done, lawmakers.

Added well after the fact-

They are us

The blame game has started. Actually, it has been going on for quite some time, but it should reach a fever pitch here in the coming days.

One thing to remember in all of this- they are us.

We elected these people. Like it or not, they are a reflection of the public that put them there.

Some are blaming the Governor for not being tough enough to "marshal the troops", according to the Freep. Some are blaming the Republicans for being unreasonable, fanatical extremists. That would be me, but they are only doing what they have done for the past few years, and I didn't really expect anything different.

Today I hold Dillon and the House Democrats at fault for repeatedly saying they would do the job and then backing down. We needed to come out swinging after '06, and at both the national and the state level, the Democrats went back to playing it safe, testing the wind, and running from the 25% lunatic fringe that still thinks the war was a good idea and that we should destroy the government.

Say what you will about the Governor and the Republicans (and you KNOW I will be saying it about the Republicans)- at least they both put their money where their mouth is.

Granholm presented a plan months ago and has repeatedly urged these guys to get off the stick and counter it ever since. It is the legislature's job to present a budget. They haven't done it.

Bishop did put up his vote for cuts (although DeRoche chickened out on that end).

Dillon told us he would put up the votes and fight the battle, and he never did. If some in the Democratic Party want to excuse that, be my guest, but I cannot. Hey, if Dillon somehow pulls something off here, I will be the first to applaud, but as it stands now I feel betrayed in my faith that they would fight for this state.

So, that's me. All of that comes from where I am sitting, and yes I am playing the blame game too. We all are. Others will see it differently, as you know.

But ultimately, we, the people, are responsible for what is going on in Lansing. There is no getting around that. I'm going to continue to call it like I see it, and so will all the others I hope, but deep down I know the truth-

They are us.

Let's hope WE get it together today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Republicans: Let's add $125 million to state debt

They didn't really say that, of course, but tonight they are still clamoring for a continuation budget instead of doing their job.

Not sure where that number is coming from, but both Mark Schauer and Liz Boyd have used it.

"We don't have a continuation problem. We have a procrastination problem," said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek.

He said the budget hole will deepen $125 million for every 30 days a continuation budget is in effect. He said there are Senate Republicans ready to compromise and called on Bishop to "let your people go."

Bishop did let his people go - home for the night.

DeRoche went back to running his mouth and emphasizing the divide among the Republicans. Everyone knows an increase is coming, but DeRoche apparently still receives his talking points from Saul through that little chip in his head.

"The only thing worse for Michigan's economy than a tax increase would be a government shutdown. ... It's irresponsible."

And adding more to our debt is responsible... how? Craig didn't say. He just wants 30 more days to annoy the hell out of everybody.

In another ironic twist, DeRoche is demanding that Granholm release her shutdown plan now! right now! at the same time he insists lawmakers get another month to complete their task.

House Republicans demanded that Democrats approve a 30-day continuation budget. They blasted Granholm for being "reckless" in not providing details of what a shutdown would mean.

Doesn't the hypocrisy make your head hurt after awhile?

Starting to think this committee is not all it's cracked up to be. What Dillon was "hoping for for weeks" sat on the sidelines today.

A bipartisan House-Senate conference committee convened briefly Wednesday to consider an income tax increase, but took a break immediately awaiting the results of negotiations between Granholm, Bishop and Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon. The panel planned to reconvene Thursday morning.

Well, that was a helpful move, wasn't it Speaker Dillon. Are they just cover for whatever both you and Bishop finally decide? Going to pass the buck to this panel so they can take the heat? We will find out.

Tomorrow is the day. Either they get some sort of agreement, or Friday they start to move to bring this train to halt. Hey, takes some time to stop something this big, especially if a weekend is involved, and nobody is really sure how to do it anyway.

Thursday is shaping up as a crucial day in the negotiations between Granholm, Republicans who run the Senate and Democrats who hold the majority in the House.

Some lawmakers say it's the deadline to adopt a temporary budget extension so some state payments aren't missed early next week. Others say they might have until Sunday to craft a temporary deal. A continuation budget hasn't been passed in Michigan since 1980, so there's no clear roadmap on how to do it.

24 hours to go... give or take. Go stock up on your liquor and license plate tabs. Whichever you need the most.

There is more on this from me today over at BFM- not going to cross post it all.

NFL Week 3 Results

Baltimore 26, Arizona 23

Green Bay 31, San Diego 24

Indianapolis 30, Houston 24

Kansas City 13, Minnesota 10

New England 38, Buffalo 7

N.Y. Jets 31, Miami 28

Philadelphia 56, Detroit 21 (oops)

Pittsburgh 37, San Francisco 16

Tampa Bay 24, St. Louis 3

Jacksonville 23, Denver 14

Oakland 26, Cleveland 24

Seattle 24, Cincinnati 21

Carolina 27, Atlanta 20

N.Y. Giants 24, Washington 17

Dallas 34, Chicago 10

Tennessee 31, New Orleans 14


Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Great live performance in honor of tonight's harvest moon.

Granholm announces essential services to continue in shutdown

Time to soothe the public's nerves. From the Governor's office-

LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that in the event of a partial shutdown of state government next Monday, essential services will be maintained to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents.  Granholm made the announcement as she continues to negotiate with state lawmakers who have yet to approve a comprehensive solution to the state's budget crisis. 

"The Legislature's failure to agree to a comprehensive solution that will prevent massive cuts to public safety, health care, and education for Michigan citizens will not keep us from doing what is necessary to protect the families of this state," Granholm said.  "In the event the Legislature forces us into a partial government shutdown, it is our intention to continue the most vital services until a budget resolution is reached."

Good framing, Governor. You ought to give *ahem* certain people a few lessons in that.

The cops will still be around, but as we mentioned before, other things will stop.

Granholm said that while essential services will continue regardless of whether a budget is in place, citizens can expect a variety of services to cease operation, among them:  state-licensed casino gaming in Detroit, sale of lottery tickets, distribution of packaged liquor, state parks, and welcome centers. The governor noted that the Secretary of State has already signaled that branch offices around the state will be closed, preventing citizens from renewing driver licenses, vehicle registrations, and processing vehicle titles.

And from the House Dems, State Representative Aldo Vagnozzi announced a plan to make the budget due earlier in the year. Something to look at when the dust settles.

Vagnozzi's proposal calls for the Legislature to present all general appropriation bills for the succeeding fiscal period to the Governor on or before July 1 of each fiscal year. Vagnozzi's legislation would be in line with local governments, school boards and colleges, whose fiscal year begins July 1. At the present time, they have to wait three months before they know how much state funding they will be getting.

That is a good idea- get in line with the schools. But we might need to see some penalties in place if they don't get it done... 

E-mail the Conference Committee Six

Might as well make that staff work until they get sent home. Send your thoughts on the budget along and help these guys out.

The House Three-

Andy Meisner -

Steve Tobocman -

Chris Ward -

The Senate Three-

Mike Prusi -

Tom George -

Ron Jelinek -

I imagine the signal-to-noise ratio is very, very high right now, but every little bit helps.

A tax on health care benefits?

Holy last minute ideas, Batman! Check this out from the Freep-

LANSING - In a possible first, individuals would pay state income tax on health benefits from their employers under one scenario lawmakers are considering to resolve the state's budget crisis.

Rep. George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, said extending the income tax to benefits, as well as wages, would allow for a lower income tax rate increase as part of a final budget agreement.

Currently, benefits are not taxed as income.

Cushingberry said raising the income tax from 3.9% to 4.3%, and expanding it to include benefits, would generate about as much revenue as a 4.6% tax on income alone - roughly $1.2 billion in additional revenue. The state faces a $1.75 billion deficit for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Republican leaders have been the main proponents of the idea of levying a tax on benefits as a possible solution to the budget crunch, according to Cushingberry, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Interesting. Anyone with health care want to weigh in?

Budget update : No news is no news

The six-member panel convened. And then they took a break.

(Or something. Another story has them meeting behind closed doors.)

But the six-member panel of House and Senate members took a break immediately after convening Wednesday because there still is no deal on how high Michigan's income tax rate should be.

It's a key part of the negotiations toward erasing a projected $1.75 billion deficit in the state budget for the fiscal year that starts Monday. Lawmakers need to get a deal in place soon to avoid a government shutdown Monday.

Stories filtering out now about what will happen in the event of a shutdown. Ottawa County announced they will lay off employees.

If no agreement is reached, though, the county will lay off 48 of its 1,100 employees beginning Wednesday, with more layoffs following soon.

The county receives $17 million in direct funding from the state.

Expect that to happen all over the state - and one wonders how they file for unemployment.

And even if they do pull a rabbit out of their hat at this late date? Don't expect miracles.

Sharon Parks of the Michigan League for Human Services, a Lansing-based advocacy group for children and low-income residents, says she worries the voices of those most affected by budget cuts or changes won't be heard.

"There's just been a real lack of opportunity to air choices, to discuss impact," she said. "It's been a very closed process. I don't think it's in the public interest."


Parks said the prospect of the budget being slapped together is even more worrisome because so many lawmakers have never dealt with a state budget before. Thirty of the House's 110 members are new this year, so one out of five of the state's 148 senators and representatives don't have state budget experience.

"They don't know what really is in the budget," she said. "Often things are singled out that we can cut this, or we can cut that, without knowing it's federally funded. There's tremendous lack of knowledge within the budget itself."

Just getting something done before everything shuts down is the best we can hope for at this point. For a comprehensive, but certainly not complete, list of services that might cease, check WZZM's list here.

The Detroit News now has a clock running on their Politics page that shows four days, but word has it that this actually has to be done by Thursday evening for the checks to clear on Monday.

Keep your fingers crossed they find a way to solve this in time. We have less than 36 hours to go if Dillon is correct.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bishop: 30 days on top of the 30 days

Keep talking Mike. Having fun with you tonight. At least Andy is off the hook for a bit.

"She needs to sign a continuation budget in good faith so that both sides have more time to respond," Bishop said, noting another 30-day extension could be needed if a permanent solution is not found during October.

You have got to be kidding.

Wait, isn't that pushing it close to the two-week break they take for Thanksgiving? We wouldn't want to miss that. And after that is done, as it stands now they are out December 6th, with only tentative sessions scheduled the rest of the year.

Might have to push it into next year. Oh, wait, that's an election year, and we can't do anything then, either. At least that was the excuse they used when they blew up the SBT. Different set of lawmakers though. This group is a lot more responsible, right?

We are in big trouble here.

Bishop obstructs progress on budget once again

Truly amazing. Bishop is holding the budget talks up because Granholm won't give them more time to finish the job- keep in mind this was after they took a good portion of the summer off, with promises that this would be done.

Here is Mike's latest demand in the hostage negotiations.

All sides agree that a temporary, continuation budget has to be approved because there is not enough time to complete a budget over the next few days. But Bishop has refused to name his three picks for the six-member conference committee on a possible income tax increase that is a key to getting a state budget resolution by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Bishop says Granholm needs to agree to a 30-day continuation budget before legislators sign off on a tax increase. Granholm says a budget resolution must be in place before she'll sign a continuation budget, which would maintain spending at current levels into the new budget year that begins Monday.

Back to you, Liz.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd countered: "They want another 30 days to do what they've failed to do in seven months? Lawmakers need to know delaying the decision has a cost to citizens.

"The governor has said she can only agree to a continuation budget if there is a solution."

And Mark Schauer chimes in.

"The Legislature deserves to have the weight of this situation on our shoulders until we come to a comprehensive solution. Why should we expect an extension when we haven't finished the job we were sent here to do? Everyone wants to avoid a shutdown and that can be possible if we stay focused on finding a bipartisan agreement."

This afternoon, Mike Bishop is the person holding up that agreement from being found.

By the way, we can't do an extention without the revenue. What Mike fails to mention is that, as it stands now, we are running a deficit.

Granholm fears that agreement on a continuation budget without an overall resolution will only delay the tough decisions for a month. Also, the state doesn't have the tax revenue to support spending at this year's levels, she says.

Going to pass that increase for an extension, Mike? No? Didn't think so.

Had a feeling it might come to something like this.

By the way, Terri Lynn Land urges you to get your business with the SOS taken care of before Monday. She may have a point.

Monday, September 24, 2007

From the "I Told You So" Department

"Years later, it dawned on the citizens of Michigan that she had the right idea after all."

Now that the Lansing budget battle has degenerated into bitterness and brinksmanship, it’s too late for lawmakers to pull back and retrace their steps.

But somebody has to say it: The 2-cent tax on services that was proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

The prospect of an income tax increase has taxpayers up in arms and legislators cowering in fear. Yet, I think we all realize that we’re going to see an income tax boost to 4.6 percent when this melodrama ends.

Compared to the finger pointing and gnashing of teeth in Lansing over the past 10 days, I think the 2-cent tax would have been an easier sell to the constituency — and easier for lawmakers to swallow.

Quite frankly, I don't have any sympathy for the "lawmakers" right now. I don't care what they have to swallow. Hope it hurts going down, you bastards.

Not only would it have protected the poor amongst us, it made a helluva lotta sense.

It was a broad-based tax on about 120 services, meaning it would have brought in a lot of money paid by tourists and visitors to Michigan. It would have better reflected the new economy, with service industries emerging as a large and growing sector. It probably would have had minimal impact on Michigan’s national reputation in the business community, since most states already tax a wide array of services.

Most importantly, it would have levied taxes on “discretionary” spending rather than hitting workers’ paychecks. Those who choose to pay for a health club membership or prime seats to a Red Wings game would know that a 2 percent levy was attached.

Anti-tax activists say that people in Michigan are hurting and can’t afford a tax increase. Well, those who are hurting don’t spend money on pedicures and tanning salons and expensive concert tickets. In fact, I suspect low-income families would barely feel the pinch of a tax on services.

No. Instead they are going to hurt low income families the most by not only hitting the paycheck but cutting the programs and people that help them get a leg up in this world.

I never begrudged these people their salary and benefits- until now. Now I think we should make the legislature officially part time and knock their pay in half. Maybe we can attract a more dedicated group of people that way, those that really have a desire to serve their fellow citizens, instead of the ones that use their jobs as simply a launching post to a more lucrative career or higher political office.

Guided by Voices- Game of Pricks

Dillon : "This is what we've been hoping for for weeks"

Somebody needs to tell me this statement was taken out of context.

Andy Dillon was hoping the state government would shut down? Andy Dillon was hoping he wouldn't have to make the hard decisions, therefore turning over control to the Republicans? Andy Dillon was hoping to paint the Democrats as weak, spineless, ineffectual cowards who stood by the side of the road while our state was destroyed?

Is that what Andy Dillon was hoping for? Is that what the Speaker calls success?

In the end, Andy deferred to the Republicans.

Michigan's budget pressure intensified even as the House late Sunday night sent an income tax increase bill to a House-Senate committee to work out a deal.

Each chamber will name three lawmakers to forge agreement on the size of the tax hike as soon as today. House Democrats favor an increase from 3.9 percent to 4.6 percent, while Senate Republicans have said they prefer a 4.3 percent rate.

"This is what we've been hoping for for weeks," said House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township.

If that is true, then why didn't you do this weeks ago? What was stopping you?

It appears the Dillon wants to take this to a crisis so he and the House Democrats don't have to take any responsibility. Better to run and hide in Andy's book, let the state close down, and let the Republicans take control. That is your Democratic House leadership. When the Republicans put a gun to the figurative head of this state, Andy waved the white flag and surrendered.

Dillon is looking for bipartisan cover from people who would do this- vote for utter destruction and death, yes death, according to Sen. Liz Brater. Andy chose to negotiate people's lives on rather than stand up and do the right thing.

Hey, what's a few people lost, right Mr. Dillon? Who cares about public safety, the poor, the elderly, the kids, and the people who take care of them? Which on this list are you willing to sacrifice in your cowardice?

Keep in mind, this is just the short list. If you saw the details, it would turn your stomach.

Closing three prison buildings, the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility and Charles Egeler Reception Center in Jacksonville, and the Riverside Correctional Facility in Ionia.

Shuttering 25 Secretary of State branch offices.

Forgoing Granholm-recommended increases of 2.5 percent each for public schools and funding of Michigan's 15 public universities.

Slashing $207 million from the Department of Human Services budget, including savings of $11.8 million from closure of the Maxey boys training center at Wetmore Lake.

Savings of $7.6 million from 19-perecent worth of cuts in the Attorney General office, resulting in 107 layoffs.

Cuts of $117 million in Community Health Department spending, knocking 35,000 people off Medicaid programs.

This is what Andy was hoping for, going deep into the hole so he could avoid the responsibility of raising the revenue to save people's lives.

Governor Granholm might as well just play this as having an opposition legislature from here on out. There is no point in having a worthless majority that surrenders in the face of the hard decisions, that would sacrifice others in some convoluted game to save their own jobs. If that is the case, they will never, ever, get anything done, because they will always be afraid of the pink pig.

Progressives in Michigan, we need to vote these guys out. Let's start with Speaker Dillon, shall we?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

NFL Week 3- Just under the wire.

Sorry, got busy. Here you go

Arizona at Baltimore

San Diego at Green Bay

Indianapolis at Houston

Minnesota at Kansas City

Buffalo at New England

Miami at NY Jets

Detroit at Philadelphia

San Francisco at Pittsburgh

St. Louis at Tampa Bay

Jacksonville at Denver

Cleveland at Oakland

Cincinnati at Seattle

Carolina at Atlanta

NY Giants at Washington

Dallas at Chicago

Tennessee at New Orleans

"The House will not own a shutdown"

The words of Andy Dillon, the words that at one time gave us such great hope and confidence, now seem to mock us for having faith that the House Democrats would rise to this occasion and stand up for the people of this state. The feeling of betrayal is running deep out here amongst the base, amongst the people that worked so hard to get those Democrats there in the first place, and ultimately, the responsibility of those words rests in the hands of Speaker Dillon.

This is it. Tonight is the ultimate test.

Lansing can play all the inside games it wants. The pundits, the advisors, the posturing, the maneuvering, the endless guessing as to who would ultimately receive the blame when this all goes bad (quick answer: mostly the Legislature), all of that means nothing out here to us on the ground.

You see, out here, public perception is shaped by the mass media. You would think that the Democrats would get a clue about that one of these days, but judging by the actions of the past week, it seems they are wrapped in their own little world down there and are oblivious as to how this is playing to the folks who only have a few moments to spend watching or reading the latest news- and that picture is pretty dismal indeed. With the Democrats controlling 2/3 of the branches of government, they look like they are being owned by the minority Republicans.

Sorry, that is the truth, and there is no denying it.

Here is a little sample of what is being said about Andy Dillon and the House Democrats. Let's start with today's Freep- they do a good job at showing the overall picture, but a lot of this is directed right at the House.

Spare the good people of this state the defensive rhetoric about how hard everyone's working, how tough this is, how much somebody else is to blame. If you spend endless hours trying to balance a relatively simple equation and can't do it, you've failed. If you can't make the case -- or close the deal -- to get the votes you need, you've failed. If you've let the demagogues and fearmongers and bullies prevail over responsible government -- and basic math -- you've failed.

Failure is a word that comes up frequently throughout most news stories, and Dillon and Granholm are taking the blame for the 10 Democrats that, for whatever reason, seem more intent on keeping their jobs rather than back their colleagues and do what everyone knows is the logical and moral, yes moral, choice here.

With a new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the most basic job of the governor and Legislature, adopting a balanced budget, is not done because too many legislators are too afraid of not being elected again or too stubborn or too conniving to act in Michigan's best interest. And Granholm and the legislative leadership are unable to convince them to move. House Speaker Andy Dillon has struggled to even muster a vote on critical issues.

There it is, Granholm and Dillon taking the heat. Why? Because of what has happened in the House this past week, the leadership now looks suspect in the eyes of the public. The CW becomes "they can't deliver", and that spreads to the entire Democratic Party.

Need more? Apparently you do.

We could dig up all the news stories from this week and paint this picture, but let's just stick with these two. It's pretty representative of what is going on. From Friday, a comment that should have been two diaries, the Freep again.

House Democrats today again failed to rally enough votes for an income tax increase to help resolve the state's budget crisis and a looming $1.75- billion deficit.


For three days last weekend, House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pass a 4.6% income tax rate, which would generate almost $1.2 billion in additional revenue.

Failed. Unsuccessful.

The News-

Exhausted and frustrated House Democrats cleared the voting board at 7:30 a.m. today after trying in vain to pass an income tax hike for 8 1/2 hours Thursday night and this morning.

This latest failure to resolve the state's $1.75 billion deficit edges the state ever closer to a partial shutdown and leaves the House with an uncertain role in the budget-balancing process. The House adjourned shortly after 8 a.m., and it was unclear what the next move would be.

Trying in vain. Failure. Uncertain role.

Not going to bother to cite all the articles where it points out those Democrats are just trying to save their jobs. There are too many.

Where are the House Democrats looking good here? Do they think they are actually protecting any seats when this is what is being said?

No. They look weak. They look like they are playing politics. They look like they would sacrifice this state in some convoluted effort to save their own hides.

All week we have had the rug pulled out from under us out here. Last Sunday, Paul Condino told us the Democrats were prepared to act alone. They did not. Thursday, about the same thing. "We have a deal". We wake up to the words "failure".

Speaker Dillon also said this at one time-

I still may have to move the solution on a party line vote but at least it will happen after we gave ourselves every chance to reach a compromise and the public a chance to learn of the severity of the financial crisis.

Well, Andy, that time is now. Time to put the money where your mouth is. Or the public never believes you again. The talk on the street is "the Democrats have failed".

We have learned the consequences of a shutdown. We have learned what the term "draconian cuts" would mean to this state. Anyone with one lick of sense in his or her head knows that we need this revenue. Even the Detroit News says so.

Truth is, you have a majority. Truth is, you are calling the shots here. You can't pin this on DeRoche again. The Republicans, according to you, have gone back on every deal that you claim they have made. At this point, you look like a fool for trusting them. Mike Bishop is going to take control of the whole thing. The guy who lied about a deal will win the ultimate battle, and you will be tagged with the word "failure".

The Democrats are going to be perceived weak, conniving cowards who let us all down again if this doesn't make it out of the House tonight.

The Democrats, at this point, are making Republican obstruction an easy task.

Now, the efforts to solve the problem are being tied up in the 2008 election, when Republicans seem to think they can regain control of the state House by refusing to raise taxes, even if the ship of state runs aground as a result.

And the Democrats also will own any consequences of the cuts that the Republicans will force on the vulnerable people of this state. You see, last year, after endless cuts to the DHS that they insisted upon, they took the victims of those cuts and put them on posters and tried to tag Granholm with their deaths. Yes, they are just. that. evil.

They will do the same to you, and all the Democrats who vote against this, unless you make it impossible for them to do so.

You can stop this tonight, and it has to be done immediately. Get those votes up on the board first thing. You can't go to another all night marathon. Action must be swift, firm and decisive.

On a personal note, I had a long talk with one of Robert Dean's constituents yesterday. Dean has lost his vote. Says he will vote for the Republican next time around. So, if you think that you are doing any of those vulnerable Dems a favor, you are not. You might cost them their jobs.

He has had enough of the endless promises from the Democrats.

So have I.

I tried having faith in you and the Democrats. I've worked very, very hard all year long to stand up to Mike Bishop and the Republican bullies.

A lot of people out here have put great effort into this battle.

Do not make our work in vain. Do not take us for granted. Do not betray our trust. 

Do the right thing, here, now, tonight. Please. Or face the consequences of an enraged Democratic base and a media that is more than happy to lay this at your feet.

This is it, Speaker Dillon. No more excuses.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mike Bishop agrees we need the money

When talking about a government shutdown today from Mackinac, Mike Bishop makes our point for us.

Thank you, Mike, for telling it like it is. Glad to see you have come to your senses.

"There is just too much to loose," he said. "We cannot afford not to make payments to schools. We can't afford to take cops off the street. We cannot afford not to pay for the most vulnerable in health care. We would default on general obligation bonds which will send our credit rating lower than it is now.

Yes, how right you are! We have been saying this all along.

Now take a look at Bishop's list of cuts and tell me how he intends to pull this off without new revenue to fill the deficit we are running.

Truth is, he can't, and he knows it.

But, he's gonna fight, fight, fight for as long as he can on that one- seems that he is admitting that he is going to be an obstructionist. 

"It's not our position to raise taxes at this time and we're going to fight it as long as we possibly can and as hard as we possibly can."

He knows we need the revenue, or all of the above happens. He has backed himself into a corner because he wants it both ways. But hey- he's just being a Republican. What did you expect, responsibility?

For the good of the state, we need to save Mike from himself. Democrats need to take the decision out of his hands before his head explodes from the obvious contradictions he keeps making.

I know, I know, you want to pound him into the ground. Don't worry; we will get him next time around. He makes it so easy. ;-)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Introducing: Mark

I guess when the party as a whole lets you down, you have to keep supporting the ones you do like, right?

Mark will be up and running soon- take a look and set your bookmarks.

I wanted you to be the first to get an invitation to join the Schauer for Congress email update list. Throughout this campaign to take back Michigan's 7th district from Tim Walberg and his extreme friends in DC, we'll be utilizing every tool at our disposal to spread our message of change. Online organizing will be a big part of this effort.

Click Here to Visit Mark

But as you know, making the most of Internet communications has become more than just having a static website or sending out a blast email every once in a while. We're going to stay on top of new media and offer valuable resources to our supporters.

By signing up for this list and interacting with our website, you will be able to get sneak peeks at new web features, share your own ideas, and get the inside track on campaign developments.

Congressman Schauer. That has a nice ring to it.

Go send him some money or something. It will make you feel better.

Why the Democrats need the six

Hearing a lot of talk about bipartisan cover being important for this to have a chance in the Senate. Part of me agrees with that, but in the end I still believe we need all the Democrats to do the right thing here and not worry about protecting their seats- because that is the only way we will get this magical bipartisan support.

Earlier today, in my shock, I asked this question -Did they think that by having those "contested" Dems vote no, that would entice the Pubs to vote yes?

The answer came later from the AP. Chris Ward, who bravely put his seat on the line and voted with the Democrats, now might switch his vote. Other Pubs were upset the Dems could protect their own, while they had to sacrifice.

So, the answer was no, the Pubs backed away when they saw that there were vulnerable Dems moving to protect themselves.

Can you blame them?

Ward, one of the House's highest-ranking Republicans, was upset with how Democratic leadership abruptly ended the session and said he might even be a "no" vote on the income tax proposal when voting resumes. Some other Republicans who could be "yes" votes on the tax increase aren't happy that Democrats appear to be protecting their own vulnerable members by letting them vote against the tax increase. Ward said session should have been kept going until the deal was pushed all the way through.

"The level of trust is really small right now," he said.

Dillon said he could put up 58 "yes" votes. I wonder. Why were they up as "no" if that is the case?

In a cruel twist of irony, the "no" votes gave DeRoche the bipartisan support HE needed.

The six Democrats need to take a tip from Chris Ward. Here is what he said he would do concerning his constituents-

Ward could put his political future at risk by supporting a tax increase in relatively conservative Livingston County. But he said earlier Friday morning that several of the cost-cutting proposals that were supposed to be part of a House deal would be important for the state, especially measures designed to put more money into schools.

"While my constituents won't be very happy about it in the short term, I think by the time the dust settles and they understand what this deal is all about, it will be something they can appreciate and support," Ward said before the agreement fell through.

You want bipartisan support Democrats? You have to stop worrying about protecting your vulnerable members and get them up to the table.

You are losing the media war out here. You are being perceived as a failure. Does not bode well for keeping the House.

Do the right thing. Vote for our state. You might even win over a few Republicans along the way.

Here comes the fallout

I feel like I have been punched in the gut once again by the Democrats.

Sorry, I can't lie about this. I didn't get into blogging to sugar-coat the truth. But, I will pass on the release by the House Democrats as to their excuse as to why this didn't work. Here is the House release-

"With a government shutdown just days away, it is unconscionable that House Republicans are still playing political games with our state's future," said House Speaker Andy Dillon (D Redford Twp.). "This plan was a mix of cuts, reforms and revenues - everything Michigan needs to get back on the road to recovery. It would have protected our children, schools, seniors, police officers and firefighters from the devastating effects of a shutdown. This vote shows a true lack of political will on the Republicans' part."

This is true.

But what the Speaker fails to mention is that the Democrats are doing the same thing. There is a "lack of will" on the part of the Democrats also. So much so that I wonder how I can continue to support them.

Let the finger pointing begin. From Gongwer-

House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said he had reached deals with at

least five House Republicans in addition to those votes agreed between himself and House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) but that Mr. DeRoche had held his members back from voting.

Mr. DeRoche said Mr. Dillon had broken the deal, which also involved a series of reform measures, by not putting up the votes he had agreed to offer from contested districts.

"Contested districts". Kids, in the end, this is isn't about you, this isn't about the state, this is all about politics.

Did they think that by having those "contested" Dems vote no they would entice the Pubs to vote yes? Because I'm missing a big part of the strategy here if that is the case.

Both parties are rife with cowardice, and a lot of people are going to pay the price for that before this is all over.

For Mensch71- A Boy and His Dog, pt. 2

A Boy and His Dog Pt. 2

I overlooked this one first time around, and then time got away from me like it always does.

This one is better than the original, IMHO. Happy dog!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And the vote is on in the House...

Here is what they are voting on right now-

The proposal would raise the state's income tax from the current 3.9 percent to 4.6 percent.

The income tax proposal would raise about $1.1 billion for the state next fiscal year, leaving more than $600 million of a potential deficit to be eliminated by cuts. About $83 million of the increased revenue would go to the state's lowest-funded K-12 schools, and another $42 million would go to a state fund supporting fishing and wildlife. The income tax rate would drop back to 4.2 percent in 2011.

And perhaps more tonight too-

Other votes later Thursday could possibly include extending the sales tax to some services. Some spending cuts also may be voted on. House Democrats were trying to woo Republican votes for the income tax by tying it to several cost-cutting proposals, possibly including the elimination of lifetime health benefits for lawmakers, a reduction in the use of state vehicles and other changes to benefit levels for state employees.

And of course, Bishop said no already.

It appeared late Thursday that whatever bills the Democrat-controlled House might pass, the Republican-controlled Senate wasn't on board. Matt Marsden, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, said there had been no agreement reached between leaders of the two chambers several hours after House Speaker Andy Dillon announced the House would be voting.

You can watch the vote(s) here. I doubt I will be up for the third shift - but if I'm around, I'll update.

UPDATE 11:50PM: They cleared the board. I believe they try again after midnight.

In case you missed it...

This one's for you, Dave.

Riding in the Limo

Yes, that is Dick Cheney and daughter Elizabeth riding along Michigan St.

Lucky shot. They were flying, it was raining, and the fact that the camera happened to focus like that (and not on the car itself) was some sort of miracle.

Almost as cool as the bee.