Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 14: Michigan Budget Held Hostage: It Never Was a Matter of Trust

Two weeks ago today, late afternoon, Matt Marsden promised that if the legislature could not finish its job by midnight, a continuation budget would be sent to the governor before the deadline. As you know now, they did not do that. Upset that they couldn't ram the all-cuts budget through both chambers, the Senate adjourned for 15 minutes to cause a technical government shut down out of pure spite alone. When they came back, they held that shut down to the head of the Senate Democrats before they would pass a continuation, demanding immediate effect that had been denied earlier on a few key budgets. The understanding was that if immediate effect was given, they would send the budgets on to the governor. As you know now, they did not do that either.

Today, Mike Bishop is going to meet with Governor Granholm - and get this. Put down your coffee, swallow anything in your mouth before you spit it out on your keyboard.... you ready?

Mike Bishop is worried about "trust".

Yeah, I know, too funny. Or seriously deranged, can't figure out which. But call it what it is: The new excuse de jour as to why he won't do his job.

Bishop was asked why he would not release the budget bills to Granholm's desk as well as why he continues to insist on speaking with the governor about her concerns even though she already has publicly said which portions of the budget she opposes.

"I'm trying to preserve trust," he said. "I think we're at a very, very difficult point where if this is handled improperly, if we send budgets and (they are) summarily vetoed, or if action is taken where vetoes are made on line items and then revenues are transferred to different line items, it will blow up whatever's left of the trust in this town. If that happens, there's no hope of bringing people back together again to have a discussion about long-term public policy."

Trust. From the Legislature that has lied to us, and to each other, all year long. That's a knee-slapper. Liz Boyd says, "You're joking, right?"

But Boyd said the Senate has an obligation to send Granholm the budget bills.

"What does this have to do with trust?" she said. "The budget was passed as the senator wanted it passed. It's now his constitutional responsibility to send the bills to the governor. I'm not sure what he's saying when he's saying it's a matter of trust. It's a matter of doing his job."

Bishop is playing for time to get his way. Although he claims he won't cause another shut down, he refuses to say when he will turn over the remaining budgets. Bishop wants to preserve "trust" just as long as he doesn't have to give any indication that he is trustworthy, and he will keep all his cards in his hand by refusing to do his job. That's the Mike Bishop definition of "trust" - he will trust that everyone around him will follow his wishes, or he will throw another fit and shut down the government, go to court, whatever it takes so he can avoid having to compromise with anyone.

Putting that cognitive dissonance aside, everyone in Michigan needs to stop and ask themselves this next question: Do you want the legislative leaders that brought government to a shut down two out of the past three years in charge of "long-term public policy"? Uh, no. Kind of scary when you really think about it, isn't it?

  • From that same Gongwer/Mi-Tech story, we find out that Granholm mentioning using the Administrative Board is indeed a legal tactic, although it applies to appropriations and not vetoes. And guess who was behind it the last time it came up...

    With the Democratic-led House resisting, Engler used the Administrative Board, which is dominated by gubernatorial appointees, to unilaterally implement the plan. The board transferred the money for General Assistance to Medicaid and other social service programs.

    A lawsuit was filed and delayed implementation of the plan. While awaiting the case's outcome, Engler and then-House Speaker Lewis Dodak reached a deal to reduce General Assistance (which was later eliminated in the 1991-92 budget). The board's action ended up moot, but Engler ultimately prevailed in the Supreme Court on the action's legality.

    Republicans hate it when their own weapons are used against them. That's something every Democrat should keep in mind. It's doubtful the governor will go that route; maybe it all comes back to whether or not she feels she can "trust" legislative leaders. * cough *

  • Dillon apparently will say anything to anyone at this point. After the K-12 "budget" passed last week, he indicated to the press that the House would take up new revenue this week; Christoff at the Freep mentioned it twice in this article. But listen to Dillon's official statement on the matter:

    "I am relieved that the Senate has finely put a proposal on the table, but also very concerned that their plan seems to hit the very tax credits that are creating jobs in Michigan," Dillon said. "While we're still reviewing the Senate's proposal, I'm not sure there is an appetite in the House for cutting incentives that create jobs. The House believes taxing tobacco more fairly and closing corporate loopholes would be better ways to protect education, police and fire and other essential programs than ending rewards for companies that invest in Michigan and create jobs for our workers."

    Didn't flat-out say no, did he. Of course not. That's because he is still following the wishes of Mike Bishop, and has indicated in the Lansing rags that the House would take up the future deficit-creating, rob from the poor to give to the rich and kill the film industry too, K-12 fiasco of a budget that read like every Republican legislator's dream come true - and chances are he would pass that with Republican House votes as well. Elsenheimer also indicated that Dillon had made the promise that he would find the unidentified $100 million in revenue for K-12 "elsewhere" in the budget. So while Dillon tells the press one thing, he apparently has told the Republicans another, and seemingly will ram this through too.

    Or, will he? MIRS reports that Bishop said Dillon "has agreed to take up the Senate plan", and reiterates that the Senate will not consider any compromise at all. More my way or the highway from the Senate Republicans. Why should they bend, when they obviously run the House?

    Gongwer has a different take on the matter though. Despite all of Bishop's bragging, the House doesn't have his plan on the calendar...

    After the Senate adjourned for the day, Mr. Bishop told reporters that Mr. Dillon had agreed "to use the sources that we identified to fund the agreement on the K-12 budget." And he forecasted quick House action on the Senate revenue measures.

    "I expect they'll take it up today," he said.

    But the House did not act on the Senate bills. Mr. Dillon said in a statement, similar to what he said last week, that while he was relieved at the Senate's apparent recognition of the need for revenues, "cutting tax breaks to working families in favor of giving tax breaks to businesses is not a good idea. We must do all we can to protect working families during these tough times."

    Dillon spokesperson Abby Rubley said it is not currently on the House's agenda to run the Senate revenue bills.

    Dillon had expressed some dismay about the MBT surcharge being cut in this way because he wanted to include it in his tax reform plan. Bishop has screwed his "friend" over once again by trying to score points with the business community and take credit for delivering a tax cut. Or, maybe other House Democrats have had enough of this shit, thank you very much, and are tired of rolling over for the minority Republicans who are running around gloating that they are in charge.

    You would hope anyway. After all, you busted your butt to deliver a Democratic majority. No sense in voting for people that don't stand up for the wishes of the electorate, right?

    Maybe Andy is finally waking up to what is going on around him. Hope it's not too late.