Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Legislature Filling Holes With Stimulus Dollars

So much for this "signed agreement". "Adjustments" are being made to the big ticket controversial budgets, and as you probably could have guessed, the Bishop-Dillon Dance Troupe is taking the path of least resistance and using more stimulus money to avoid having to do any really heavy lifting when it comes to revenue, or "reform", or whatever else they said they would do and never quite got around to this year. From Gongwer, we learn that both the budgets for the Dept. of Community Health and the Dept. Of Human Services, like Corrections before them, are receiving higher targets courtesy of the stimulus dollars that lawmakers claimed they wanted to save to use on the FY 2010/11 budget.

The budget for the Department of Community Health has been given a $41 million reprieve by legislative leadership as the Legislature rolls into town Tuesday with the goal of completing the 2009-10 budget in two days.

An "adjustment" also seems likely for the proposed budget for the Department of Human Services.

A Senate Republican spokesperson said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) recognized there would have to be some adjustments to the largest budgets and that those increases could be made without affecting the intent of the agreement to balance the budget without new tax increases.


A spokesperson for House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said the revised target for DCH was not taken out of any other budget and that the hole in funding likely would be made up with federal stimulus dollars.

The Freep and the DNews confirm that this is part of the plan - we'll go with the Freep here.

Several sources told the Free Press on Monday that House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, had agreed to use additional federal stimulus money to fill some of the gaps that have delayed action since early summer.

Cropsey indicated to Peter Luke that Corrections would be receiving stimulus also, right after he got done saying that officials would have to find cuts in operations, so it's not quite clear what he meant when he took all those shots last week. It should be noted that Republicans, who were vehemently against the stimulus, are now counting on it to save their sorry hides though. Thank the nice President and the Congressional Democrats for the help, because we sure needed it.

The promised vote for revenue also seems to be up in the air at this point as well, so let's go back to Andy Dillon's words from last week. Just to have it handy.

Dillon said “we are going to move revenue in the House...to make certain that our priorities are taken care of, the Promise scholarship, police and fire, Medicaid, early education. You’ll see revenues we believe are necessary to make certain the cuts aren’t too deep.”

Dillon declined to say what taxes he had in mind, but said budget bills funded with them would be approved by Wednesday’s deadline. “We’ve identified what we think is most saleable and acceptable to the public.”

But remember that Mike Bishop is calling the shots here, and if he has any chance at receiving the nod for AG from the teabaggers, he can't have a vote for revenue. Back to the Freep:

On Monday, Bishop's spokesman Matt Marsden said "adjustments are being made," but insisted the final resolution would not include tax hikes.

Dillon was more opaque, suggesting in a statement that House Democrats were "preparing plans to protect ... programs that are essential to Michigan's economic turnaround."

Republicans don't want Michigan to have an "economic turnaround" until they are back in power, so don't look for anything in the way of solid reform to get resolved in the next year, either. Apparently Dillon will defer to Bishop on this as they grab for just enough stimulus to slide this budget through the Senate Democrats and the Governor, and they will kick this can down the road, and make even more false promises next year as they campaign for their next job.

The next 48 hours will tell, but one thing is for sure - this Legislature is going to steal from Michigan's future one way or the other. The responsible thing to do would be to adequately fund this government for the services that everyone wants, keep the quality of life that will attract business and people alike, but the political reality is that lawmakers probably won't choose the responsible path when there is an easier one to take instead.