Thursday, November 05, 2009

Legislature Skipping Vacation to Work On Budget?

This was rather interesting:

That is the schedule for the House. The Senate has this time slot penciled in for "tentative" after Nov. 12th, back for the first week in December, and "tentative" after that, meaning their possible intention is to bolt for the year after Dec. 3rd.

Think that public pressure is getting to them? Just a little bit, maybe? K-12 stories are bubbling up here and there, one being that the House is going to reach for stimulus money to plug the proration cut. From WKAR:

The state House Appropriations Committee has taken a step toward averting a $300 per-student cut to schools later this month. The committee voted to tap federal stimulus money the state has been saving to help balance next year's schools budget.

The action would not eliminate the cuts. Instead, schools would lose just $165 per student -- which would still force many districts to lay off teachers and other staff.

Remember that at $165 per-pupil we were looking at pushing the total of districts to red ink to almost 100, and drastic cuts would still be required from all districts. Dillon is worried that using the stimulus might interfere with his campaign plans the desire to find a "long-term solution" for school funding, but with a future deficit that is estimated to be anywhere from $719 million to $1.6 billion in the next budget, a “long-term solution” has to remain on the table anyway. Use it now, use it later, cut it in half, it might be easier to get this particular piece off the table so it can't be a point of contention in political legislature games later.

The gigantic hole in the road for FY 2010-11 is looming, with Granholm calling for state departments to prepare for a "worst case scenario" of a 20% cut across the board.

"We're working on a realistic plan based on the loss of federal revenue," said Megan Brown, spokeswoman for the governor. This year's general fund, the state's main discretionary account, is balanced with $973 million in stimulus money. Less than half of that will be available for the fiscal year 2011 budget, state fiscal experts say.

"With the state's revenue picture and the expected growth in demand for services in tough economic times, 2011 is shaping up to be a very difficult year," Brown said. "We're preparing for the worst."

Good idea. It would eliminate any stalling to debate how much money we really have available, as we saw the this year from the Senate that wants to ignore the reality that revenue had fallen precipitously since May, requiring the extra $127 per pupil K-12 proration cut.

Bishop now admits that the K-12 hole exists (anyone catch the contradiction there? anyone?), and, while he was doing that, he admitted that he would have destroyed state government two years ago - which would have been a disaster given the level of assistance that is being required now from the fallout of the Great Recession. While his assessment that this is current situation is "political" is refreshing in its honesty, one wonders if Bishop is willing to look at his own reptilian behavior in the process. Probably not.

Mr. Bishop (R-Rochester) said the cuts enacted by the Legislature, and then added to by Governor Jennifer Granholm, total 4.8 percent, compared to the 2.9 percent cut passed by the Legislature. Mr. Bishop said he would like to find a level somewhere in between those two numbers.

Of the 20 percent general fund cuts Governor Jennifer Granholm has requested of her departments, Mr. Bishop said it's about time Ms. Granholm sought a crisis-level plan from her staff.

"It's about two years too late," he said.

Asked if it was a political move, Mr. Bishop said, "At this point, everything is."

Good that we have both leaders in the legislature admitting that the health, public safety, and education of the citizens of Michigan is "political". At least we know where we stand, and we can dismiss any further platitudes from lawmakers that try to make us think that they actually give a damn about the people that pay their salaries and generous benefits.

Deep down, we all knew that anyway. It is nice to see them skip their "hunting" vacation though, even if they are going to take a partisan shotgun to fixing the budget problems. Maybe something good will come of it. You have to figure that they will get lucky and actually hit the target one of these days.