Last Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats met and received a general questionnaire about what they would be willing to cut, what they wouldn't be willing to cut, what revenues they would vote for, etc. and so on. Basically, the fact they were just now being asked to give their input was a pretty telling indication that they haven't discussed this at all over the summer, and that the House leadership hasn't kept them in the loop about negotiations with the Senate and the governor.
Almost exactly 24 hours later, Dillon supposedly handed Bishop a counter-proposal on the budget. Given the complexity of the issues involved, and the myriad of questions asked of the House Dems, how is it possible that he came up with an overall plan that fast? And, since his proposal was mostly "reforms", which presumably take more than a day to prepare, it appears this proposal may be something he has been working on for awhile, without telling his caucus about it.
Dillon declined to discuss details of the plan with MIRS this evening other than to say the focus of his latest proposal was on reforms, not on new revenue. Asked if he felt like the newest proposal represented progress, Dillon responded, "We'll see what the Senate says."
Speaker Dillon wants the Senate to "go first", something they wouldn't do back in 2007, something they certainly won't do now. Does Dillon seriously think that the Republicans are going vote first on raising taxes?
But Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester) said unless the House can pass its plan out of its own chamber first, it makes little difference what he thinks about it. Bishop told MIRS that the Senate stuck its neck out in June when it passed a cuts-based budget that eliminated college scholarships and slashed K-12 and public health spending.
Dillon continues to insinuate that he wants the Senate to give him cover on the revenue increase the Dems are proposing and Bishop said he's not willing to do it.
"I don't see any substantial forward progress until the Governor and the House roll out their proposal publicly and pass it," Bishop said. "They have to stick their neck out on a proposal and pass it, and they haven't done it, yet."
And exactly what revenues have the "Democrats" proposed here, when they were just asked about them the day before? Something isn't adding up. Was Dillon trying to cut a deal with Bishop in the hopes of shoving his personal plans through the House? Hard to tell without more facts.
The Freep came out today and praised the governor's plan as acceptable in the face of what the Senate has proposed - and they put the ball in Dillon's court to get moving.
It's not exactly a pretty picture, but on balance it offers more stability for the state than what the state Senate has passed. That plan, which until Tuesday was the only proposal for public consumption, would have cut too deeply in core state services such as Medicaid and early childhood learning.
Now it falls to Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon either to embrace Granholm's plan (and get bills introduced to codify it) or to come up with a budget of his own. It's his responsibility to negotiate a final budget deal with the Republican-led Senate.
MIRS reported that the House would start moving budgets today - but Gongwer tells us the George Cushingberry is only now putting together a proposal under Dillon's direction, and at a glance it looks a whole lot like the governor's proposal that Dillon said "wouldn't pass". Not only do tax credits get cut around the same percentage, new revenues are raised - and less cuts are made.
Meanwhile, House Appropriations chair Rep. George Cushingberry Jr. (D-Detroit) told Gongwer News Service he is putting together a proposal that would slash some tax credits by 12.5 percent - and immediately eliminate the entire Michigan Business Tax surcharge.
In his own proposals to help raise state revenues, Mr. Cushingberry also is calling for a 50-cent hike on cell phone bills and a 5-cent tax on water bottles.
Overall, the changes would amount to $400-$500 million in new tax revenue, he said.
"I want to make less cuts in health care," he said, adding he thinks some of the Senate's proposed reductions would compromise the state's maintenance of effort in the areas of public health and higher education.
Mr. Cushingberry said he would call for annualizing the cuts in the May executive order, which totaled $300 million, except for those affecting public health.
He said the remainder of the deficit would be eliminated by using federal stimulus dollars.
Using that proposal, which he is putting together for Mr. Dillon, Mr. Cushingberry said the committee would set budget targets at its meeting Thursday.
Just now setting targets. It's September 9th.
The House needs to put at least the basics of a plan out to the public, or watch the drumbeat in the press grow louder. They are the ones operating in "secret" at this point, maybe even amongst themselves, and that is a recipe for disaster at this late of a date. Speaker Dillon should present this proposal he gave to Bishop to the rest of us - perhaps even to his own caucus as well.