Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 15: Michigan Budget Held Hostage: Dillon Speaks. Sort Of.

Michigan Public Radio managed to land a quote:

"One of the frustrations has been that we don't get any signal from them as to what's acceptable," he says. "So I got to make my people make some bad votes on something that may not survive in the Senate."

Many House Democrats voted for painful cuts to balance the budget with the understanding that the Republican-controlled Senate would discuss raising more revenue. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says the House can send as many new revenue proposals as it wants - but that does not mean the Senate has to vote on them.

Some of us saw this coming a long time ago; make the cuts, blame the Republicans later. No wonder the public gets frustrated and turns away. This has become entirely too predictable.

Dillon was a non-factor in yesterday's big Meeting of the Minds, but at least there was a nice prepared statement of surrender all ready to go.

In a prepared statement, his spokesman, Dan Farough, said, "Sometimes in politics, two's company and three's a crowd. The Speaker felt his presence in this meeting wasn't necessary and that it was more important that the Governor and Senate Majority Leader have some time together to come to an understanding so we can get this budget done."

That is correct. A House Democratic presence wasn't necessary. Since Elsenheimer is running the show in the House, his presence probably would have been more appropriate. Does make you wonder though: Whatever happened to this guy?

House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said today that while House Democrats are prepared to move a budget with deep cuts in order to balance the state budget, they will fight to protect programs essential to jumpstarting Michigan's economy, moving the state into the future and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. These priorities include K-12 education, scholarships including the Michigan Promise, local police and fire protection, and health care for kids and seniors.

Nah. Never mind. Apparently protecting vulnerable citizens and jumpstarting Michigan's economy are "bad votes" after you have already conceded defeat.

I'm being very hard on the Speaker, I know. But quite frankly, I'm really tired of hearing about how they're going to "fight", when the reality has been quite different. Show me that you will stop rolling over for the Republicans, and I'll be the first to cheer. I promise. Until then...

  • About that K-12 education that y'all were going to "fight to protect"? Treasurer Bob Kleine crunched the numbers, and the bill is short to the tune of $264 million.

    We have a major problem in the K-12 budget," (Granholm) said. "The law has mechanisms that force action if the School Aid Fund is not funded. I'm asking the Legislature not to force that to happen by passing the revenues that will support public education in Michigan."

    The $165 per pupil cut is going to get deeper if this isn't addressed. Soon. I'm no expert on school funding nor do I want to be, but I'm pretty sure we don't want to see what "mechanisms" are involved here. Since the $165 number pushes 95 more school districts into the red as it is (joining the 25 that are already there), and these schools are already into the second quarter of their yearly spending, every day that passes will require districts to take drastic action to balance any further cuts that come their way. Tick tock, people.

  • Governor is wary of using the Admin Board for good reason. The AP has a little more detail on what happened when Engler used it, the legal challenge being whether or not the powers of the board really existed at all.

    When Republican Gov. John Engler did so in 1992, he was sued by the then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dominic Jacobetti along with three other Democrats. Only Jacobetti was found to have standing to sue, and he lost his argument that the law allowing the board to transfer money within departments had been repealed by implication.

    But it was a narrow loss. In the January 1993 ruling, three justices concurred, three dissented and Justice Conrad Mallett consented in part and dissented in part, making it 4-3 in Engler's favor.

    And remember, even if the attempt was made, any funding shifts within this already devastated budget would require deeper cuts to other departments. Since Bishop has indicated he would let something like the Promise Scholarship die rather than use funding that comes from any line-item vetoes, it doesn't leave much choice on where to turn next.

  • Conflicting reports about when Bishop is going to release the hostages. He apparently told some reporters it might be as early as today, or maybe next Tuesday. It's confusing as to why he would continue to hold them since he won't compromise on anything, so any delay of his constitutional duty now really is just a petulant fit. But that's what it was in the first place, so...

    Got another four-day weekend on tap here, business as usual for our lawmakers. And apparently the Senate Republican idea of working on "reform" of government consists of passing bills that remove the restrictions on fuzzy dice in your car. If we are going to be a low-class state with uneducated citizens, we need the ornaments to prove it, right? Look for the "Playboy Mudflap" bill next.