Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Must See TV: Dillon on "Off The Record"

One of the most amazing things about this whole episode was that Speaker Dillon knew what he was going to do when he taped "Off The Record" last Thursday - but refused to share it with the press. While he was busy claiming that House Democrats were "fighting to fund early education, scholarships for college students, Medicaid and funding police and fire", obviously the idea of accepting Bishop's cuts was already cooking on the back burner. During this exchange about the tiff with Governor Granhom's statement about the House moving budgets last week, watch Dillon tip his hand.

Jack Spencer (MIRS): Do you think that she just came out with that because she felt pressured to do something?

Dillon: She has always wanted to get the budgets done sooner rather than later, and I think she wanted to shake things loose, and I think that the media was looking for “what’s your plan, governor”, so I think she was responding to a) the desire of the media to get more details and b) to try and shake it loose.

Spencer: Is there is a structure here where she can’t… she uses a cell phone, you use a cell phone, and I know you both text message… she couldn’t just give you a quick heads up?

Dillon: That she was releasing her plan? Yeah, the fact she did that, I have no beef with. It’s when she’s telling the House when they are going to start acting on budgets is where my beef is.

Kathy Barks Hoffman: But my understanding was that you had actually told a group of 25 people that the previous week. Was she completely out of line thinking that something had been said?

Dillon: I put an offer onto the table last Thursday that said I think we’re close on 11 of 15 budgets. If we can get going on those, I’m ready to get going right away, but the Senate didn’t accept that offer, so, the budgets weren’t moving. I’ve spent a lot of time this week working with my approach people and I think we have a solution that will shake loose and you’ll see budgets moving next week.

Tim Skubick: Will you tell us what the plan is?

Dillon: No, but it will become obvious soon.

Skubick: Why can’t you tell us?

Dillon: I met with Senator Bishop yesterday, shared the concept with him, and I think he needs to talk to his caucus, I need to talk to mine, but I do expect to see that you’ll see budgets move next week.

Throughout the show, Dillon reiterates the (supposed) House Democrat priorities - but notice how he always gives deference to Mike Bishop. It's kind of stunning when even Jack Spencer and Tim Skubick said at the beginning of the show that the Senate Republicans knew when they passed it that their "all cuts" plan would not be adopted. Here's another exchange with Kathy Barks Hoffman about the timing of the budgets where Dillon adds the Bishop caveat again, just as he did above:

KBH: What did you say to school districts who are sitting there saying, "Well, we think we know what our budget's going to be", what do you say to those tens of thousands of students who had to pay their fees for tuition, and had counted on that $500 and had to scramble at the last minute because they didn't get it, what do you tell people when it's like, "oh yeah, your budget year started on July 1, and we hope to kind of tell you what we're doing, but we really… we're not there yet".

Dillon: Well, we're fighting for them. If we just wanted a budget done, it would be done and we would have cut all those things. I think the House Democrats and the governor are standing up for all those values. And I can't force the Senate to stand up and say, "We're willing to fund all these things".

No, but you certainly can make it clear just who wanted to cut these things and who (supposedly) wants to protect them, but instead, Dillon has handed the whole ballgame right to Mike Bishop. Why is it that the House has to accept what Bishop will or will not do? Why can't they pass their own plan that protects all the things that Democrats say they want to protect, and make the Republicans respond to that? Good question.

The Senate Republicans are in the catbird seat with this "plan". The House will not only own these "bipartisan" cuts if they vote for them, but according to Matt Marsden, the "Democrats" will be blamed for a shutdown if the Senate Dem caucus refuses to vote for immediate effect - although this "deal" was made between Dillon and Bishop alone.

Will the House Democrats accept this plan? According to MIRS, yes. According to Gongwer, it's not that certain, meaning that Dillon would probably have to pass it with Republican votes. The AP story added an interesting quote last night from one House Dem:

House Appropriations Committee member Fred Durhal Jr., D-Detroit, said he can't vote for some of the cuts.

He said if the budget is put "on the backs of the poor and those who cannot tend for themselves-the babies and senior citizens-I as a state representative have to look myself in the mirror and say, 'I supported that?' I don't think so."

And as far as this "supplemental" plan goes, it was brought up that getting an agreement from Mike Bishop about adding revenues later can't be done now simply because the Republican Leadership Conference is being held on Mackinac Island the last weekend of this month - just a few days before the budget is due. So, for all the complaining about Governor Granholm going to Japan to try and recruit jobs for Michigan (along with Republican darling and our immediate competition Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, mind you), all the Republicans will be attending a big party on Mackinac the weekend before the budget needs to be done - and Mike Bishop certainly can't go up there and say he voted to raise revenue in front of the likes of national wingnuts like Mitt Romney and Eric Cantor, can he?

Of course not. His BFF Andy Dillon will make sure that Bishop looks good for the Republican crowd. They can crow about how they totally bullied the Democrats in Michigan into accepting deep cuts to children and seniors, and got nothing in exchange.

It's up to the House Democrats to decide things now, or the Senate Democrats to withhold immediate effect if the House does pass this. Governor Granholm does have a line-item veto, but using that would throw the budget out-of-whack... stay tuned to see what happens next, but in the meantime be sure and go back and watch Dillon totally snow the press on "Off The Record". How he sat there and said "we're fighting for them" when he was cooking up the "all cuts" plan is totally beyond me.