Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30th, 2009. More Broken Promises on the Budget.

UPDATE: House has passed a continuation budget this morning, 88-18. Ready for another month of this?

Where we stand this morning. Mike Bishop says that House Democrats have to "pull the trigger", a very apt description considering that Fred Durhal claims "people will die" if they pass these cuts to revenue sharing. The Senate Republicans have no problem with that though. The gun in question is pointed right at the heads of children, students, seniors, the sick, the poor, any citizen who may need a cop or a fire crew to help them in an emergency, and the very economic future of this state.

Hard to believe that all those things are "debatable", but that is exactly what is going on.

It's September 30th, and we still haven't seen the budget plan from the House. The promises to have this done in plenty of time, the promises of a month ago that they were "very close" to an agreement, the promises that Democrats will protect their priorities (just as soon as they identify what those are), the promises uttered just last week about a vote for revenue... all those endless promises, well, they really amounted to nothing but a waste of oxygen up to now.

There is no plan for revenue, at least that anyone can see. Dillon claiming just last week that the budget bills would be funded "by Wednesday's deadline" now seems to have shifted to voting for revenue "later", even though "some lawmakers were moved nearly to tears by the cuts" and no one actually believes that the Republicans will be inclined to save the Democrats from themselves down the road. Republicans want these deadly cuts, and it appears they are going to get them.

Late Tuesday, House Speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township said his fellow Democrats who control the House will have to accept the bitter medicine of deep cuts with the hopes that the Republican-controlled Senate would muster votes for new taxes or fees to restore programs they say are critical to the state's values.

"Where lives could be in jeopardy, where the future of the state is put in jeopardy, we will do a supplemental budget and we will identify how we pay for it," he said. "That plan is still in motion."

Yes, "the plan". Bishop and Dillon have a plan, you see. It's still in motion. The plan apparently was to scare the hell out of everyone and put people's lives in jeopardy as they raided the stimulus funds to try and make all that death and destruction just a little bit more palatable to the people who have to pull the trigger. Take it all to the very last second, and lawmakers will have no choice, right?

That's the Bishop-Dillon "plan".

MIRS caught the inconsistency on revenue right away, kudos to them. It was only a matter of time until they threw Dillon under the bus. Looks like it's starting now.

Amid speculation that Dillon simply can't get enough votes in his 67-member caucus for even relative moderate tax hikes, the Speaker said the problem was the five-day rule, a Constitutional provision that states all bills that initially pass the House must sit in the Senate before they are acted upon.

"There is an issue with the five-day rule," Dillon said. "But we could still do a supplementary."

That is simply not true. The five-day rule is easily dismissed by attaching the revenue to another bill.
Using the five-day rule as a reason for not taking a vote tends to ignore the expediency of using already existing bills as vehicle bills. This, however, was not mentioned during either of the two news media scrums Dillon held on House floor.

Of course not. If "the media" started asking specific questions on all these broken promises, they would be there for weeks. Maybe they have just given up on getting a straight answer.

Here is a summary of where things stand at this moment, from the Freep:

• Revenue sharing: Conference committee approved 11% cut for cities, townships and villages; 16% for eligible counties. Senate has approved; House pending.
• Medicaid funding: Conference committee cut payments to doctors and hospitals $165 million or 8% (including 4% cut already enacted). Pending in House and Senate. No indication when move could come to impose 3% tax on physicians.
• K-12 school funding: Conference committee cut aid to schools by $218 per student and gave districts more discretion on spending. Pending in House and Senate. Discussion of using more federal stimulus money to reduce cuts.
• Promise scholarships: Conference committee eliminated and cut other scholarships and college grant programs. Pending in House and Senate.
• Mental health services: Conference committee approved $40-million cut to non-Medicaid state services. Pending in House and Senate.
• Transportation: Conference committee hasn't reached deal. Biggest disagreements over mass-transit funding and $8 million for preliminary work on a proposed publicly owned bridge over the Detroit River.

Corrections and DHS did pass the House, with 23 Democrats voting "no" on Corrections - an indication that these budgets are moving using minority Republican votes. Aren't you glad we worked so hard to give Democrats control of the House? Just consider it an "opposition Legislature" and it doesn't hurt as much. Waiting for the official House Journal to be published for names.

If you want more details on all of this, check these stories:

Detroit News: "Lansing inches toward budget deal".
Detroit Free Press: "Dillon: House Dems have to accept cuts" and "Senate, House resume talks today"
The AP: "Mich. Legislature down to last day for budget fix"
Booth/Mlive (Peter Luke): "School funding remains biggest stumbling block as Michigan Legislature runs up to state budget deadline".