Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Speaker Dillon Needs a New Set of Friends

Hey Andy. Check out what your buddies at the GOP are saying about you. Geez, if you are going to "sign agreements" with their top dog in the Senate and move all their budgets for them, the least they could do is stop trashing you. Don'tcha think?

House Democrats who are voting for these Republican budget bills might want to make note of this, too. If this is what they do to the guy who is making deals with them, just stop and think about what they are going to do to you when you vote for these drastic cuts. From the MI GOP:

House Majority Leader Andy Dillon and Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi are busy men. While most Michigan residents wait on pins and needles tonight for word of a state shutdown because of the deficit, the two Democrat leaders are on their way to a fundraiser, as reported in Gongwer.

“Who was dumb enough to schedule a fundraiser for Sept. 30,” said Michigan Republican Party Director of Communications Jennifer Hoff. “Apparently Dillon and Prusi are more concerned with raising money for the Party than balancing the state budget and protecting people from losing their job.

Dillon could’ve taken care of the budget and protected Michigan families and jobs earlier, but he spent all summer on a media blitz in his run for governor. Prusi could have done the same, but he spent all summer twiddling his thumbs and wishing he could run for governor.”

The Senate Dems, who have been fighting mad all day, are on the ball with this press release in response.

“Senator Prusi has been at the Capitol all day and will be here as long as it takes to work out a budget resolution that doesn’t rob our kids of an education, take police and firefighters off our streets, or slash health care for our families. Michigan Republicans are putting out blatant lies because of the guilty conscience they have for running off to party on Mackinac Island last weekend with their political donors instead of sticking around town so that we wouldn’t be in this last minute crisis. Where was the Michigan GOP’s concern for attendance when Senate Republicans canceled session all summer so they could enjoy their vacation?”

Hmmm. "Immediate effect" looks more distant all the time.

And Speaker Dillon might end up the loneliest guy in Lansing before this is over. Can't say we didn't warn him.

Senate Republicans Now Balking at Continuation Budget - Will They Shut Down the Government?

UPDATE: Granholm has begun the process of a shut down, sending letters to state employees telling them they are temporarily laid-off as of 12:01 AM Oct. 1st.

If this isn't an indication that the Senate Republicans have no intention of protecting the best interests of Michigan citizens, I don't know what is. What does it take until people realize they are in this for the game alone? Do we actually have to shut down the government?

The Senate passed a continuation last week. Now, because it's politically advantageous to do so, they are balking at putting their own bill into effect.

The Senate has balked at the pressure, saying Granholm could sign off on the continuation budget and then veto all of the tough budgets hammered out by the House and Senate. Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Granholm is trying to put herself into a budget process she's only been marginally involved in. He said 2 p.m. is a phony deadline.

"She's desperately trying to interject herself back into control," Marsden said. "What motivation does the House have to pass the tough cuts they must make if there is a continuation budget?"

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, said the House acted on the Senate version of the continuation budget in good faith. It's time for the Senate Republicans to give immediate effect to their own bill, he said.

"Bad things start happening" about 2 p.m., the speaker said. He added the House put up some tough votes this morning and "we made good progress." He predicted the budget will be done by the end of the day.

It's all about "motivating the House" to do the Senate Republican bidding. Consideration for the rest of the state does not apply.

Get a clue, House Democrats. Please. Before it's too late. The Republicans are not going to do anything to help you - they want these cuts to happen FOR A REASON. If you can't figure out what that is, perhaps you need to get out of politics.

House Gambit: Pass the Cuts, Blame the Republicans When They Won't Vote for Revenue Later

This comes from the comments in my previous diary, just to let everyone know what is happening here as these contentious budgets with their devastating cuts appear to be passing in the House using Republican votes.

The House Democrats have introduced a supplemental spending bill to "save" the Promise Scholarship and other important things like revenue sharing, etc. They have not identified the funding for the $434.7 million dollar bill - and it appears that the House leadership wants to have it both ways here; appease the "agreement" that was made with Senator Bishop, and then fall back on the position later that they really tried to save these quality of life issues, sure they did, when they know darn well that the Senate Republicans will not vote for them.

Call it a "Get Out of Cuts Free Card".

The supplemental would restore about $197.8 million in funding for the Promise Scholarships, state aid for libraries and revenue sharing to communities. It also would add $236.8 million in money for health care for the poor.

The supplemental bill passed by a 66-42 margin, a straight party-line vote, but it’s future in the Republican-controlled Senate is far less certain. Republicans have said they want to pass a budget with deep cuts and no new taxes. The supplemental bill would have to be accompanied by some sort of targeted tax increase.

And when it comes to actually finishing the job, this is what we get:

When asked how the legislature could pass a spending bill without the money to back it, state Rep. George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, replied, "We’ll get to that by the end of the day."

Sorry, but if you are relying on the Senate to save your souls and thinking you can wash your hands later of this fiasco - forget it. The voters aren't that stupid.

And another interesting bit of information has come up in the last hour. I'm usually not one to print rumors, and contrary to popular opinion, I am not any kind of "insider" - but this was relayed to me by a reliable source (OMG now I'm MIRS. Oh well.) and I'm going to go with it.

Rumor has it there is a movement underfoot to remove the current Democratic leadership in the House. Not just Dillon, but all of them. Complaints about how this is going down are really starting to take hold with Democratic members, and we could see some action on that front soon. If I get anything in print that confirms this - I will get it up here as soon as I can.

Again, this is just strong rumor at this point - but if these budgets go through on the strength of Republican support, I hope it's true. I didn't vote for the Republicans, and neither did the majority of Michigan. Time to act as the voters intended last fall - or you won't get their support next time around.

Portrait of an Underfunded State Government

With all the hand wringing over taxes going on, maybe it's time to drag out this chart once again. From the Senate Fiscal Agency, it shows the Headlee revenue limit for state government - and how far we are below it at this point.



Peter Luke explained it back in March:

The state can collect up to 9.49 percent of total Michigan personal income in taxes and fees approved by the Legislature. Pretty much any money collected over that limit has to be returned to taxpayers. The aim was to cap the growth of state government.

Now after years of tax cuts and spending restraint, Michigan will collect just 5.5 percent of personal income in assorted state taxes and fees in fiscal 2010. (Comparing apples to apples, that 2010 percentage factors out some $6 billion in school taxes shifted from local to state coffers in the 1994 Proposal A school finance changes).

So in funding essential services, state government in 2010 will collect a little more than half the revenue--some $14 billion--that a conservative Republican thought appropriate three decades ago. That figure takes into account the $1.7 billion in personal income and business tax hikes approved in 2007.

Throw in the Great Recession on top of that, and now you can understand why we are at the place we are today with the state budget deficit.

We are not properly funding our government to provide the services we need. And as far as the Republican claim that we need low, low, low business taxes to attract economic growth, a report by the conservative Tax Foundation shows that Michigan is currently at #17 for the "best business tax climate in the nation, up from 28th in 2006", beating out all out Midwestern neighbors except for Indiana, which came in at 12th. Even with that eye-opening (and myth-busting) tax comparison, Rick Haglund explains that it's not the taxes, stupid, it's the quality of life that keeps states competitive.

In calculating its tax climate index, the foundation looked at personal income taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and unemployment insurance taxes.

Adding them up, it found South Dakota has the best business tax climate in the country.

But businesses aren't exactly flocking there. South Dakota has attracted 94 new or expanded corporate facilities in the past three years, according to Site Selection magazine.

That's just a fraction of Michigan's 731 new corporate investments in the same time period.

And South Dakota is dwarfed by other states, such as New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, that have high concentrations of businesses, high incomes and yes, high taxes.

Then why such a fear of raising revenue? Quite simply, the Democrats are letting the Norquist Republican myths win this argument once again - even though people are agreeable to necessary tax increases, deep cuts would be more damaging in the long run than small tax increases, and no one was recalled or made to pay in the election of '08 for their vote on tax increases. Hard to figure why they can't stand up now, but here we are.

Time to stop being afraid, and start funding this government so we can move Michigan forward. Destroying health care, education and public safety will not attract business to this state - and the smart legislators know this. Let's hope they win the argument this time, because our future depends on it.

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".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Legislature Filling Holes With Stimulus Dollars

So much for this "signed agreement". "Adjustments" are being made to the big ticket controversial budgets, and as you probably could have guessed, the Bishop-Dillon Dance Troupe is taking the path of least resistance and using more stimulus money to avoid having to do any really heavy lifting when it comes to revenue, or "reform", or whatever else they said they would do and never quite got around to this year. From Gongwer, we learn that both the budgets for the Dept. of Community Health and the Dept. Of Human Services, like Corrections before them, are receiving higher targets courtesy of the stimulus dollars that lawmakers claimed they wanted to save to use on the FY 2010/11 budget.

The budget for the Department of Community Health has been given a $41 million reprieve by legislative leadership as the Legislature rolls into town Tuesday with the goal of completing the 2009-10 budget in two days.

An "adjustment" also seems likely for the proposed budget for the Department of Human Services.

A Senate Republican spokesperson said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) recognized there would have to be some adjustments to the largest budgets and that those increases could be made without affecting the intent of the agreement to balance the budget without new tax increases.

...

A spokesperson for House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said the revised target for DCH was not taken out of any other budget and that the hole in funding likely would be made up with federal stimulus dollars.

The Freep and the DNews confirm that this is part of the plan - we'll go with the Freep here.

Several sources told the Free Press on Monday that House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, had agreed to use additional federal stimulus money to fill some of the gaps that have delayed action since early summer.

Cropsey indicated to Peter Luke that Corrections would be receiving stimulus also, right after he got done saying that officials would have to find cuts in operations, so it's not quite clear what he meant when he took all those shots last week. It should be noted that Republicans, who were vehemently against the stimulus, are now counting on it to save their sorry hides though. Thank the nice President and the Congressional Democrats for the help, because we sure needed it.

The promised vote for revenue also seems to be up in the air at this point as well, so let's go back to Andy Dillon's words from last week. Just to have it handy.

Dillon said “we are going to move revenue in the House...to make certain that our priorities are taken care of, the Promise scholarship, police and fire, Medicaid, early education. You’ll see revenues we believe are necessary to make certain the cuts aren’t too deep.”

Dillon declined to say what taxes he had in mind, but said budget bills funded with them would be approved by Wednesday’s deadline. “We’ve identified what we think is most saleable and acceptable to the public.”

But remember that Mike Bishop is calling the shots here, and if he has any chance at receiving the nod for AG from the teabaggers, he can't have a vote for revenue. Back to the Freep:

On Monday, Bishop's spokesman Matt Marsden said "adjustments are being made," but insisted the final resolution would not include tax hikes.

Dillon was more opaque, suggesting in a statement that House Democrats were "preparing plans to protect ... programs that are essential to Michigan's economic turnaround."

Republicans don't want Michigan to have an "economic turnaround" until they are back in power, so don't look for anything in the way of solid reform to get resolved in the next year, either. Apparently Dillon will defer to Bishop on this as they grab for just enough stimulus to slide this budget through the Senate Democrats and the Governor, and they will kick this can down the road, and make even more false promises next year as they campaign for their next job.

The next 48 hours will tell, but one thing is for sure - this Legislature is going to steal from Michigan's future one way or the other. The responsible thing to do would be to adequately fund this government for the services that everyone wants, keep the quality of life that will attract business and people alike, but the political reality is that lawmakers probably won't choose the responsible path when there is an easier one to take instead.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grand Haven Today

Grand Haven Wind 6425


It's all fun and games until you are hit with a little phenomena that I like to call "horizontal mud rain" - blowing sand mixing with raindrops that not only soaks your clothes, it covers you and all your stuff with wet sand as well. At that point, I had to go.

The things Tim Allen neglects to tell you...

Is Dillon Lying About the Revenue Vote?

Curious statement from Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi yesterday indicates that perhaps Dillon is once again making promises that he has no intention of keeping. Remember, he was going to have the budget done by summer, he was going to have the budget done by Sept. 1st, he was going to introduce three big "reform" proposals by now - and so far, he hasn't kept any of those promises, so it's really hard to believe a word he says at this point. The newest claim is that the Speaker is supposedly going to move revenue on the House floor tomorrow, and Prusi has been briefed on it, but yet he said this to the DNews -

Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, said he hasn't seen any evidence the Legislature is poised to pass the $500 million-$600 million in revenue increases needed to save Promise college scholarships, early childhood education, revenue sharing and public school aid.

"It sounds like they (legislative leaders) are maintaining an all-cuts priority," Prusi said.


Where we stand now:

Since the target numbers for some budgets in this so-called "signed agreement" have obviously changed, the only option other than revenue at that point would be to tap more of the stimulus money to keep Dillon's promise of saving scholarships, Medicaid, revenue sharing, and whatever else it will take to slide this budget past both the Senate Democrats and Governor Granholm. The budget committee on corrections cut $42.7 million less than their target yesterday, forcing the Dept. of Corrections to find savings in the areas of health care, food, education and transportation to the tune of $841 per prisoner, a figure that Alma Wheeler Smith calls a "stretch" as she indicates a need for more revenue. One visit from 60 Minutes apparently wasn't enough and perhaps more prison uprisings are in store in the future as lawmakers simply pass the buck (or, no buck, in this case) to department officials to find these mythical savings.

While the Republicans were up on the Island of Dr. Moreau cheering for the obviously now quite insane notion of "more tax cuts" and trickle-down economics, Alan Cropsey was busy talking out of both sides of his mouth down here in the land of reality. He tells Peter Luke that he is "adamant" and doesn't "see any votes for tax or fee increases", but he tells Mark Hornbeck that "times change" when asked the same question - so who knows what the Senate Republicans are thinking at this point.

They still haven't moved the big budgets for revenue sharing and Medicaid out of committee yet (and others such as Transportation and Natural Resources), let alone vote for any of this stuff on the floor, but they did manage to cut libraries to the tune of 40%, from $10 million down to $6. If there are any books you wanted to read or studying you wanted to do at your local library - better do it now, or at least start making plans for how you are going to meet your needs in the future, because they might not be there after this vote.

Although lawmakers are off today for Yom Kippur, committees are still going to meet - so stayed tuned to see what they come up with next. Budget Director Bob Emerson indicated to MIRS last week that the targets on some budgets are constantly changing and legislators were given smaller cuts to work with as Bishop and Dillon asked for help from the administration, so this "signed agreement" is already out the window. What that means for any continuation is up in the air also.

Can they get the votes for revenue? Can they get the votes for cuts? Who wants to sign up to say they voted to bankrupt their local cities and schools? Dillon better get all his Republican friends in line to vote for all these things, seeing as how he has shut out his own party in these negotiations to side with the people that the voters threw out of office last fall. And, if he does pass these budgets using Republican votes, House Democrats need to consider whether or not this is the leader they want going into a very contentious election year. How can you ever trust someone that doesn't brief you on plans and signs agreements with Republicans without your consent?

So, whether he can get the rest of his caucus to join him is another question altogether at this point, and the next two days are shaping up to be pretty wild indeed. Buckle your seat belts; we might be in for quite a ride.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

100,000 Paper Planes and Melodies Over Monroe



The symphony played as a rainbow of color rained down from the sky. An estimated 20,000 people packed Monroe Street in downtown Grand Rapids for "100,000 Paper Planes and Melodies Over Monroe", urban legend Rob Bliss' entry for the ArtPrize competition. (This is the same guy who did "Chalk Flood" that I diaried earlier this year)

Tough event to shoot as it stretched for blocks and I had to wade through thousands of people - but what a sight to see. It would start with the red planes at one end, followed by the orange, yellow, green, purple and finally blue tossed from the top of buildings in a wave, repeated four times at about five minute intervals. Recycled paper, in case you were wondering, and the kids went nuts trying to collect all the colors for souvenirs. There were containers set up for people to recycle the paper again as well - and when I came back about 1/2 hour after it was over, it was all cleaned up.

Smiles all around. What a great crowd.

ArtPrize itself has been a phenomenal success, you can read the GR Press stories on the event here. Amazing displays of talent from all over the world. I'll have a diary of pictures on it later this week. It runs through Oct. 10th - if you get a chance, come to Grand Rapids and check it out.

Bridgewater 2B

Bridgewater 2B


Not an ArtPrize entry, but maybe it should have been. Breathtaking in person, gotta admit that in the right conditions those Bridgewater Place buildings are very cool.

Still going through ArtPrize pictures. It was one of the shoots where I overwhelmed myself (13GB worth, love those big cards!), and then I ran into a space issue on my computer again - so be patient. I'll get there.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

NFL Week 3

Washington at Detroit (ha ha ha! - I'm going for it)
Green Bay at St. Louis
San Francisco at Minnesota
Atlanta at New England
Tennessee at NY Jets
Kansas City at Philadelphia
NY Giants at Tampa Bay
Cleveland at Baltimore
Jacksonville at Houston
New Orleans at Buffalo
Chicago at Seattle
Miami at San Diego
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Denver at Oakland
Indianapolis at Arizona
Carolina at Dallas


13-3. 38-10 for the year.

Saturday Deep Breath Open Thread



New Pure Michigan Fall TV ad. Enjoy.

Now take a deep breath, and ponder on the word "deal" for a moment.

House Speaker Andy Dillon says the chamber is prepared to move budget bills that reduce cuts to scholarships, Medicaid providers and local governments by raising revenues he declined to specify.

“There’s a deal, you’ll see it as it evolves,” Dillon said Friday as the House ended its work for the evening. “The big areas of concern that I had have been resolved.”

Dillon said “we are going to move revenue in the House...to make certain that our priorities are taken care of, the Promise scholarship, police and fire, Medicaid, early education. You’ll see revenues we believe are necessary to make certain the cuts aren’t too deep.”

Alrighty. According to my main man Peter Luke, Dillon has a list of revenue "saleable and acceptable to the public", but he has not shared that list with his caucus yet. Mike Bishop hasn't made any promises about anything, but then again he had a teabag rally to attend on Mackinac, so maybe the flip-flop is coming next week. And Bishop, who practically giggled about how they had cut Governor Granholm out of these negotiations, is now taking the decidedly schizophrenic position of repeatedly accusing her of not being involved in the budget talks - but her voice on this week's radio address about saving the Pure Michigan campaign begs to differ. She's been talking quite a bit.

And as Cushingberry recently said once again, "the governor proposes, the legislature disposes", so it's all on them in the end anyway. Governor issued a statement last night that echoes that sentiment:

"Legislative leaders have made a decision to leave town without finishing the critical work on the budget they've had seven months to complete. Putting off the tough decisions will not alter the choices they face, which are clear: Stand up for the priorities of quality schools, access to health care for seniors, and adequate police and fire protection or make deep, devastating cuts that threaten our families, our security and our economy. Their main constitutional duty is to pass a budget, and they need to do their job."

It's not clear when legislators will "do their job". WOOD TV says this morning that the House is off today, they may or may not come in Sunday, and they are supposed to be off Monday for Yom Kippur.

So take a deep breath this weekend, and get prepared for what happens next. Knowing how these guys operate, it should be quite a show.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The First of the 11th Hour Ideas Start to Take Shape

That's fine, as long as you guys don't go and do something crazy...

State Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, said the 13.4% cut to revenue sharing for local governments was too steep and he was able to find $20 million from other parts of the budget so the cut would only be 12%.

More than $5 million of that total would come from Secretary of State budget by using permanent license plates instead of having to get annual tabs for licenses.

"The need to go to the Secretary of State office would stop and that would lead to the closure of some offices," Pappageorge said.

He estimated that 10 offices employing 60 people could close under the plan.

Um, is Senator Pappageorge aware of the fact that the Secretary of State does quite a bit more than issue license plates? The DNews says this would be a five-year plate - would motorists then have to come up with the full five-year cost at one time?

This budget hasn't made it out of committee yet, but it kind of makes you wonder where he found the other $15 million...

EPIC: Most Voters Disagree With Bishop-Dillon Cuts Only Budget

New EPIC poll is showing that the majority of voters disapprove of the cuts-only budget agreement that Andy Dillon signed with Mike Bishop - and when the cuts are specifically identified, not surprisingly support drops even further.

800 voters, a bit higher than the usual EPIC sample, tell the real story here. Michigan doesn't want the Republican solution to this budget crisis, and legislators would be wise to stop listening to the teabaggers like Bishop and the Detroit News and start listening to the majority of citizens that have no problem with what Governor Granholm suggested, a blended solution of cuts and - yes - taxes.

When asked what option they preferred for the Governor and Legislature to use in balancing the state budget, only 28 percent replied that “cuts in existing programs and services ALONE should be used to balance the state budget.”

When informed of some of the specific cuts being considered as part of a reported budget deal between House and Senate leaders, the percentage supporting a cuts-only solution dropped to 24 percent. A 59 percent majority believe a combination of budget cuts and at least some increases in taxes and fees should be used to solve the current budget crisis.

When asked about specific possibilities for budget cuts, as in a previous publicly released EPIC-MRA survey, voters continued to oppose cutting education, Medicaid and public safety funding. K-12 funding reductions led the way with 77 percent opposing cuts, followed by cuts to state police (75 percent), Medicaid (75 percent), senior citizen tax exemptions (74 percent), the Michigan Promise scholarship program (68 percent), and community college and job training programs (68 percent).

64 percent of voters support some level of revenue increases to balance the budget. The most popular revenue options cited were the elimination of $600 million in corporate tax exemptions (66 percent), implementing a graduated income tax (61 percent), and expansion of the sales tax to cover non-essential, luxury items (59 percent).

The Bishop-Dillon agreement smacked right into the wall yesterday as legislators could not move major budgets on health care and revenue sharing out of committee, and it appeared that the cuts approved to K-12 wouldn't pass on the House floor. What was supposed to be a marathon session last night actually adjourned at 5:30 in the afternoon as progress came to a stand-still over the realization that the depth of these cuts would severely damage Michigan schools, cities and health care providers.

The possibility that taxes will be raised to avert some of the painful cuts hung over the proceedings, and according to some Republicans, stalled any final agreement on closing a $2.8 billion deficit.

"We're still working on all of it," said House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, shortly before the House adjourned. "The obvious budgets are still difficult."

He cited $163 million in cuts to revenue sharing for local governments and hundreds of millions in reductions in Medicaid health care to the poor and other health programs. Committee talks over revenue sharing broke down and a House-Senate conference panel on the Community Health budget still hasn't scheduled a meeting.

The Senate, after saying they would wait on passing budgets until the House was done, sensed that the agreement was falling apart and quickly passed the budgets for judiciary, veterans affaris and DELEG. Bishop is still holding "the deal" over Dillon's head.

"What we wanted to do was to empty out what we had in the queue and make sure that we show forward progress," Mr. Bishop said. "We want to make sure that everybody knows the deal is still on."

If Dillon and the Democrats go forward with this "deal", they now know that they are acting against the will of the majority of voters. Elections have consequences, and we didn't elect the Republicans to run this show for a reason. Turns out the people actually like having quality schools, health care, and public safety - and anyone who ruins that is going to be treated accordingly.

So, Democratic lawmakers, are you going to listen to the voters who put you in office, or are you going to listen to the teabaggers? If you choose the later, better hope you can get them all to turn out and vote for you in 2010 - although it's doubtful that the "all-cuts" 24% who are going to vote Republican anyway would put you over the top.

Time to do the right thing. Reject the Bishop-Dillon deal and listen to your constituents. We all know that painful cuts are going to be made, but don't completely destroy the state's ability to provide the services that deep down we all want.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tim Walberg Holds Fundraiser With Joe "You Lie!" Wilson

Two extremist peas in one pod for one morning, turning a buck off of disrespect and fifteen minutes of wingnut fame. Guess Walberg can't afford Palin... or Joe the Plumber, for that matter. He will have to stick with Old Yeller.

South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, who famously shouted "You lie!" at President Obama in his address before Congress, will be in Jackson next week to raise money for former Rep. Tim Walberg.

Walberg is running for his old seat in Congress that he lost to Battle Creek Democrat Mark Schauer last fall.

Wilson will appear at the Commonwealth Conference Center, 209 E. Washington Ave. in Jackson on Oct. 2. It begins around 8 a.m.

8 am? Must have a full day of crazy planned for Wilson after that. Tickets are cheap (just like his stunt!), $20 a head, and if you want your picture taken with Wilson (doesn't mention Walberg), it's $150. Get there early. Bring donuts.

The Battle Creek Enquirer had a nice piece about Wilson's outburst:

When Wilson called the president a liar in the middle of a speech outlining Obama's plan for health care reform, it was clear the street performance had invaded what is supposed to be -- even though it isn't -- a deliberative, altruistic and peaceful process. The lunacy had breached the laboratory.

And now the lunacy is breaching the 7th district. But you knew that the moment Tim decided he didn't want honest employment and wanted to get back to hatin' his government benefits, while he votes to deny everyone else a piece of the pie.

Ahhh, back to the good 'ol Bush days, right?

Rock, Meet Hard Place

Uh oh. Will Daniel Howes have to eat his words? Will I have to eat mine? Will we all get free Valium before this is over? Will it help if we say please? How about pretty please?

For the second time this week, the "T" word comes up as the "R" word, only this time it's probable. Or something.

House Speaker Andy Dillon said this morning it's probable he will send the Senate a recommendation to increase state revenue to fill part of the state's $2.8 billion budget hole.

But the Democratic leader from Redford Township said he's waiting until all of the state budgets pass out of conference committee before coming up with any numbers.

The Dept. of Corrections, Human Services, Transportation, Community Health, and general government (revenue sharing) were the major budgets left in committee as of last night - and those are proving to be difficult if not impossible to reconcile.

Dillon said he believes the Senate may be amenable to some revenue increase, but only after conference reports are completed. The committees are trying to meet a target of $1.279 million in budget cuts.

"They're recognizing these cuts are going to be too deep to achieve ... but we haven't given up yet," Dillon said. "I think from what I'm hearing a lot of senators are nervous about the magnitude of the cuts, so we're going to have to find a fair and equitable solution."

As noted in a comment earlier, a panel voted to continue the Promise Scholarship - but they have not found a way to fund it.

The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted along party lines to come up with $120 million to pay for the Promise scholarship in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. A specific revenue source was not identified, making Thursday's vote merely symbolic.

But it's very important to note the words "along party lines" - meaning the Republicans wouldn't vote for it, even when there wasn't any revenue attached. That should tell you all you need to know about getting votes "later" for any attempt to restore funding and/or programs that are being cut now.

When you guys settle on a plan, let us all know, k?

UPDATE: As of 6:00 tonight, it looks like nothing has moved today. No reports of budgets making it out of committee. Albin reports that they can't get 56 votes on the floor for the K-12 cuts reported out yesterday. And probably the most important bit of news to come out of all of that is that Granholm said she would sign a continuation budget. Looks like we may need it.

Good Dog Democrat No More

A collection of quotes for you to ponder.

"We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible." - President Barack Obama

State Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids, said he might agree to a budget deal with deep cuts to have a balanced plan in place before the Oct. 1 deadline. But he said there is the potential for amendments to return some money if both sides can agree on tax increases or other revenue enhancements. - Grand Rapids Press

The committee reports cannot be amended on the floor of the Legislature. They must be voted up or down. - Detroit News

"Children are going to get hurt in this game of chicken, and that's really unfortunate." - Ron Koehler, Kent Intermediate School District assistant superintendent

"It's a step in the wrong direction and it's time for people to stand up and say, 'No, enough is enough,'"- Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor

"We are telling our friends in the Legislature that you and you alone will own any decision to support the proposed cuts-only budget," said Mark Gaffney of Michigan AFL-CIO in a statement. "When you go back to your districts next month and try to explain why you chose to put cities into bankruptcy, close prisons, slash school funding and remove water protections instead of ending corporate tax loopholes and other reforms we will not have your back. You are on your own." - Gongwer News Service

"Ditto." - wizardkitten

I've often wondered where the line was. Voting for Mike Bishop's slash-and-burn fiscal policy is it.

George Cushingberry tells the Freep that this strategy will scare people - including Republicans - into accepting a tax increase that he plans to push after the cuts are made, "perhaps as soon as next week".

Well, if they aren't scared by these "draconian" cuts now, why in the world would they be scared after the Democratic leadership of the House has made this a "bipartisan" deal and has provided plenty of political cover for these cuts?

"We're confident there is nothing in the way that will keep us from completing the budget," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

If the House Democrats think they are going to came back after the fact and try to blame this on the Republicans because they wouldn't vote for revenue after the cuts are made, they are wrong. And they are fools.

And if Marsden thinks there is "nothing in the way" at this point, I'm wondering which 4 Senate Democrats he is counting on to complete the Bishop-Dillon budget for him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Budget Committee Approves Elimination of Michigan Promise Scholarship

This is just a tweet from MPR's Rick Pluta at this point - will fill in details later.

rickpluta House and Senate committee approves higher education budget that eliminates the Michigan Promise college scholarship.

UPDATE: Props to the Freep for getting this up so quick:

A House and Senate conference committee has voted to eliminate the Michigan Promise tuition grant for 96,000 college students this year as part of a new state budget for universities.

The budget also trims another $60 million in financial aid in a plan on which the conference committee chair voted no.

Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, objected to the elimination of the Promise grant and other cuts, saying it would rank Michigan down with Mississippi and Puerto Rico in its financial support for college students.

...

The committee voted 4-2 on the $1.6-billion spending plan for the state’s 15 public universities. One other Democrat Sen.James Barcia, D-Bay City, also voted no.

Rep. George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, voted for the conference report. Cushingberry said without money to pay for the scholarships – the state faces a $2.8-billion deficit next year – it would be irresponsible to vote for them.

In other budget news, Dillon claims they are still on target to get budgets out of committee by today. A tax on doctors is being considered to fill (some of) the DCH budget cuts:

Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, said key legislators are looking at a tax ranging from 1.7 percent to 4 percent that would be paid by doctors and other health care providers.

"The lower the rate, the better chance we have of getting it passed. But it will be very, very difficult," he said. "We're looking at how soon we could implement it. We're hoping we could get six months of revenue."

The money generated by the tax on doctors would allow the state to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates to physicians and hospitals and draw additional federal match money, McDowell said. As it stands, the budget bill for community health would cut reimbursement rates.

And they have kept wetlands protection in the state - but have cut other environmental programs, leading Liz Brater to reject the committee report.

The state wetlands protection program is saved, and the departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality are combined under a budget bill approved today by a House-Senate panel.

The spending plan approved by the conference committee also cuts some environmental protection programs, which prompted Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, to refuse to sign the panel's report.

"Under this bill, the pollution of our streams and lakes will go unregulated," Brater said, adding, "I hope we will be able to breathe the air in the state of Michigan."

More later...

"Cuts Would Be So Devastating It's Not Realistic"

That was Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, speaking about the target number for the cuts to the community health budget.

About the only thing that is certain about the budget this morning is that they missed the 5PM deadline that Dillon had set for yesterday, but that's not surprising considering that they have missed every other self-proclaimed deadline that had been set this year. You get to the point where you can't believe a word that comes out of their mouth because they have mislead the public at every turn with endless promises about the budget doing done on time, about "reforming government"... about everything. No major accomplishments, a whole year wasted.

We did learn that lawmakers are like delicate flowers that can't handle media scrutiny as they work in secret to destroy health care, public safety and education.

"I want to be careful about the process here," says House Speaker Andy Dillon, "I don't want to disrupt it - it's very delicate right now. They Senate's watching us closely, we're watching them closely. I don't want something in the media to disrupt where we're heading."

That's OK. When the public finds out what this Legislature has done here, there is a chance a lot of these people will be looking for new jobs anyway, and they won't have to worry about the media ever again.

Mike Bishop did take this opportunity to spit on the House once more.

I don't even know what he's proposed, yet. The House sends me lots of crazy things."

Respect. Right there. Can you feel the love?

The media silence and lack of agreement did give me the opportunity to look back over this year at the endless procrastination, though. Remember this one from April, when it was discovered we were merely $1.3B in the hole?

"We're going as deep as far as we can," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ron JELINEK (R-Three Oaks). When asked if the whole $785 million would be addressed in cuts, he said. "I doubt it. I think that's pretty ambitious. We don't want to lay off the whole state."


Can't say that they didn't know this was coming. Revenues kept falling month by month, and they stood back, and they watched it happen, and they did nothing. On April 30th, it was a bunch of faux outrage coming from certain lawmakers over the State Fair. Big, bad governor and her cuts. Some people in the "media" were led to say things like this though:

Now what? And, how in the world do you do the budgets for FY 2010 with these numbers? Everyone who was complaining about the cuts already on the table - you better start thinking about working on selling new revenue. We all love the State Fair, but in light of these numbers, saving the local police department might have to come first.

Nah. Guess they didn't want to do that.

Don't worry, legislators. The media will be there for you when you get done. They, too, will look back at what you have "accomplished" this year. Then your name can be forever tied to destroying your local schools and police department, simply because you didn't have the spine to stand up for the things that matter, for the things that keep people safe, for the things like education and health care, for the things that we need to move this state forward and stay competitive.

You can be the ones who brought us destruction, and the media will be very happy to point that out. Wait and see.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chinese Hummer HQ Plans Detroit Location, IT Company to Bring Jobs to Ann Arbor

Little break from the budget battle to bring you some good news. Last anyone knew, they were still wrangling in the legislature over expanding the MEGA credits, although there were a few left for this year. Maybe these two companies managed to grab whatever was left.

MEDC approved a tax credit yesterday (today?) that will land the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corporation's Hummer HQ near Detroit, bringing 100 jobs to start and the potential for up to 300 later, with 641 spinoff support jobs at other area companies as well. This is all based on the sale of Hummer being completed, of course.

The Chinese company that's in the running to buy Hummer from General Motors Co. likely will locate the brand's corporate headquarters near Detroit, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Nick Richards says Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corp., which is still negotiating to buy the brand, initially will employ about 100 people at the headquarters with plans to grow that to 300.

The headquarters would house global design, engineering, product planning, purchasing, sales, service, marketing and financing, Richards said.

The Michigan Economic Development Authority on Monday approved a $20.6 million state tax credit over 10 years to lure the company to Michigan, Richards said. It also had considered sites in South Carolina and Tennessee.

The fact that we had to compete with Tennessee and South Carolina shows the importance of having these credits available. The sale falls through and the jobs don't get created, no harm done - but if Nancy Cassis had her way, the credit wouldn't have existed in the first place, and we couldn't even make the offer.

Even better was the announcement that California company Systems In Motion plans to bring 1,085 jobs to the Ann Arbor over the next five years, and apparently the company sales model is based on providing an alternative to clients that are currently outsourcing their IT work overseas.

The Silicon Valley-based IT services firm will open its center in Pittsfield Township. The company will create a software development training program to train recent graduates and mid-career workers new to IT work. The service center will provide customers with help desk support, software testing, IT operations, business analysis, software architecture and engineering and project and program management.

The company’s new center will serve clients that are outsourcing their IT work, which often goes to China or India. The business model calls for Systems In to provide a low-cost U.S. location at a price similar to offshore vendors.

Michigan beat out Texas and Ohio for this company.

So, it looks like Senate Republican attempts to stop job creation in Michigan are falling flat. Maybe Dillon will eventually sell-out to them on the MEGA credits as well, but in the meantime, be happy for the jobs we did manage to land.

Bishop-Dillon Agreement Starts to Unravel, Time to Play CYA

That's "cover your ass" for the abbreviation-challenged readers out there. The Mike and Andy Show hit the road yesterday, laughing and grinning for the cameras at the Detroit Economic Club breakfast, while back at the ranch, both Democrats and Republicans were stuck doing the heavy lifting on making, literally, "life and death decisions" over the now famous agreement that the two had signed. The game now appears to be a matter of figuring out how much these two can get away with when it comes to forcing other legislators into taking votes they don't want to take, and sliding a cobbled-together-at-the-last-minute budget past the governor who stands poised with a veto pen.

Dillon is now backtracking on the cuts he agreed to just last week. Watch him backpedal in Gongwer (and other places in the media), trying to placate health care providers who are absolutely furious about the Medicaid cuts...

The speaker, acknowledging that some of the proposed cuts are "pretty aggressive," singled out Medicaid reimbursement rates to hospitals and physicians, citing the potential impact on the Detroit Medical Center, which treats a huge percentage of the state's Medicaid population. Mr. Dillon said the impact of the cuts on the DMC would be devastating.

"He's finally got that place solvent," Mr. Dillon said of DMC chief Mike Duggan. "I don't want to do anything to disrupt the positive trend at the DMC."

... as he dumps the responsibility onto the conference committee charged with fulfilling his agreement with Bishop.

On Friday, Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Twp.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Community Health Subcommittee, told Gongwer News Service that it was possible the House-Senate conference committee on DCH would need to ask for more funding. Mr. Dillon said it might not be possible to meet the $2.23 billion target for the department.

"Gary McDowell is putting in the college try in getting to that number," Mr. Dillon said of Rep. Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard), who serves on the conference committee with Mr. Kahn. Mr. McDowell, too, has said the budget needs more revenue.

And as far as revenue sharing goes, he passes the buck to Rep. Fred Durhal to simply "look elsewhere" - as if that magical place still exists after years and years of cuts.

Mr. Dillon also said he has asked Rep. Fred Durhal (D-Detroit), chair of the House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee, to look for cuts elsewhere in that budget to put some money back into revenue sharing. The $163.4 million cut to revenue sharing has alarmed local governments.

"I think those cuts are too deep," Mr. Dillon said.

If the cuts to revenue sharing and health care are too deep, why on earth would Dillon sign an "agreement" in the first place? He said back in June that the “Senate-passed budgets fail to address what is necessary to turn Michigan's economy around. Eliminating Promise Scholarships and cutting funding for police and fire protection will not create jobs and jumpstart Michigan's recovery", so he can’t claim that he didn’t realize what was going on here. Apparently he made the agreement so he personally could avoid having to do the hard work of putting together a budget. With the time we have left, the goal now is meeting the minimal requirements to slide something past the governor.

Mr. Bishop said the plan to which he and Mr. Dillon agreed is the only viable option to get a budget finished by September 30.

"It's our only shot at getting it done within the timeframe that we have," he said.

Asked whether the agreement would contain enough measures to satisfy Governor Jennifer Granholm, who has criticized the Bishop-Dillon agreement, Mr. Dillon said, "Enough to get the bill signed."

But can they get it past the rest of the Legislature? House Republicans are looking to extract more concessions from Dillon in return for their votes.

MIRS talked to Minority Leader Elsenheimer, who indicated that "up to a dozen" House Republicans aren't willing to take the fall on revenue sharing and health care, and that any votes they do concede will come with conditions.

"We're certainly willing to cooperate," Elsenheimer said. "But we need to hear from the Speaker as to what he expects and what he would like to get. Also, we need to discuss what would be the appropriate consideration we could expect for these votes."

As far as Bishop goes, he can just sit back and laugh at the Democrats at this point - although there was this curious sentence in MIRS that seems to indicate he would take a vote for taxes before it came it a government shutdown.

Chiming in with that optimistic prognosis was Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP (R-Rochester), who noted, "My confidence is with the Speaker and if the Speaker's confident, I'm confident." Asked if he would shutdown government before voting for a tax increase, Bishop said nothing is worth shutting down government over.

But Bishop also reiterated again that he hasn't made any promises about looking at new revenue. Ever.

So, what we have now is a last minute deal that seeks to strong-arm Democrats into voting against party principles to fulfill Dillon's ambitions for the future. He and Bishop are already looking to next year's budget, and are once again promising "reforms" - even though everyone conveniently forgets that is what Dillon promised for this year as well. Back in January, Dillon called for the budget to be done by summer break in June, and said that tax reform should be completed by then as well. From the DNews (now archived):

House Speaker Andy Dillon launched the legislative session Wednesday with a call for lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm to forge a bipartisan overhaul of the state tax system, and put it on the statewide ballot as early as this year.

The Redford Township Democrat said the proposal should be drawn up and ready for a vote by the time the Legislature takes its summer break — usually at the end of June. It should comprehensively tackle the state's tax structure and make it more conducive to job growth, he said.

And here is Andy yesterday:

Mr. Dillon said he would like the Legislature to begin working on the 2010-11 budget in October and wrap up work on it by January - and complete tax reform in tandem.

Right. Just as soon as he can figure out how to screw over the Democrats on that one as well.

Rumors of removing him from his leadership position continue to circulate, but Dillon doesn't "sense that there is a coup building". He also stated that if he runs for governor, he would run as a Democrat.

"I would run as a Democrat," he said. "I value the role of the Democratic Party in this state and country, which is fighting for the underdog."

Try not to bust out laughing at that statement, because what is going on here is tragic. Speaker Dillon has thrown both his own caucus and supposed party principles under the bus as he made promise after promise this year that all of this would be taken care of on time, and at the very last minute turned around and joined forces with Senate Republicans who have done nothing but obstruct House legislation at every turn. Now he tries to make himself look good for the media as other House Democrats will be asked to pay the price for his betrayal.

But hey, if that is the kind of leadership that House Democrats want, don't come crying if you lose your job because of it. If all the Democrats are going to do is buckle under to minority Republican demands anyway, it's probably better if Republicans have the majority so they can take the blame for the devastation.

Too bad that all of the devastation is going to happen with this budget, and Democrats will take the blame for the "bipartisan" agreement. They now have one week to figure out if they want to help Andy Dillon's career, or help the citizens of the state of Michigan.

Go. The clock is ticking.

House May Look at "Targeted Revenues"

Why do I have this picture of Matt Marsden running through the halls of the Capitol at this very moment, waving a piece of paper and yelling, "Signed agreement! We have a signed agreement!"

Seems that Speaker Dillon might have a little problem on keeping his promise that he would deliver his caucus for Republican slaughter.

"We may look at targeted revenues before the end of this week," he said.

Asked which tax or fee increases he was considering, Dillon said: "I have a list of what my tax group has put together that we could get the most votes for," but he declined to elaborate.

The speaker said passing a continuation budget for those departments in which spending targets can't be reached "is a possibility," but one he wasn't interested in exercising before taking a shot at getting the entire budget passed. He said voting on budgets could begin as early as Wednesday, but would more likely happen Thursday and Friday.

The big ticket items - human services, community health, and revenue sharing - are the hold up. From the Freep:

“I don’t think I can get the DHS budget out of the House,” said Dillon, referring to the Department of Human Services budget which provides Medicaid funding for health care for the poor.

Good for the House. Maybe they do have some spine after all...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Luke: Dillon Using "Leverage of Budget Pain" to Force Discussion on Taxes

If this is true, it should chill you to the bone.

Peter Luke suggests this morning that Andy Dillon is going along with the Senate Republican cuts on purpose as a way to leverage a discussion of tax reform. In other words - if we hurt a bunch of people now, destroy their schools, health care providers and take away their public safety officials, the people would be willing to accept new taxes later.

It's a shakedown that would make schoolyard bullies and the cowardly, petty thugs of this world proud: They will burn down your house, and then if you don't give them some money, well by golly they'll let your next house burn down, too.

Luke points out the curious timing of this whole thing as further proof; the Senate made the cuts in June, the House didn't respond, Granholm's early August plan to at least mitigate some of this devastating pain is instantly shot down, the House waits another six weeks - and at this point, it's too late to do anything else.

Given the magnitude of the state's budget trouble, the absence of new revenue leaves only the option of severe budget cuts Republicans already had voted for and were sticking by. That Dillon waited until mid-September, just two weeks before the start of the new budget year, to accept them leaves no time to do much of anything else.

Dillon appears to have two goals.

The first seeks to produce a budget on time to avoid a government shutdown. The second attempts to leverage the pain of budget reduction to force a fall discussion that leads to an overhaul of Michigan's tax system.

"What this is doing is really getting us through Sept. 30, which I think is important, and we need to do it in a way that doesn't lose credibility with the public so that when we come back and say there's a lot of heavy lifting (on taxes) that needs to be done, the public isn't furious with it," Dillon said last week.

What Dillon implies here is that lawmakers can't find the backbone to make the tough decisions beforehand - they have to wait until people get hurt before legislators will stand up and do the right thing for citizens. After grandma gets throw out on the street, or your child has all their educational programs cut at school or has to drop out of college, or you can't get a cop to answer your emergency call, perhaps now you will gladly give up the money so these things don't happen again. Our elected officials will be off the hook at that point, because you will be begging for relief.

"We need tax reform, and I don't think anyone would object to that notion," Dillon said. "On Oct. 1, you're going to see a lot of energy to start taking it up. I think you're going to see a coalition built beyond just business. You're going to see local units of governments, schools, higher ed."

The phrase that is running through my mind this morning is "legislative terrorism" - and it is the province of true cowards. The hope here is that Luke is wrong about this, but Dillon's own words would lead you to believe that Peter is right on target.

Stunning.

Consider it a lesson learned. When it comes to Lansing, sometimes you just can't be cynical enough.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More Cities, Townships to Lose All Revenue Sharing Under Bishop-Dillon Budget Plan

Gongwer tells of how the agreement between Bishop-Dillon will completely eliminate some Michigan cities and townships from revenue sharing, and that counties will be taking a big cut as well. You didn't really need your police and firefighters, did you?

The proposed cut in revenue sharing under the targets negotiated by House and Senate leaders is 13.4 percent below Governor Jennifer Granholm's revised recommendation and would mean as many as three-quarters of the state's cities, villages and townships would no longer receive any statutory revenue sharing.

Of the $163.4 million reduction, $38 million alone would be cut from the city of Detroit, coming at a time when the city is in a serious cash crisis and at risk of municipal bankruptcy.

About half of the state's cities, village and townships no longer receive any statutory revenue sharing funding, but the plan under work in the Legislature would mean between two-thirds to three-quarters of them would cease to receive such funds.

On top of the $163.4 million, another $23 million due to counties would be cut under the targets. These are funds they would have received to account for inflation.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is already speaking out about the revenue sharing cuts, calling them "unacceptable, reckless, and unconscionable", as city police chief Mark Allen speculates that Lansing's cut would translate into the loss of "over 20 police officers and firefighters". Grand Rapids city manager Greg Sundstrom told legislators that "we are teetering on insolvency" in the state's second largest city, as officials grapple with a $20.8 million hole to the 2010-11 budget. Detroit officials have yet to comment on the situation, but Representative Fred Durhal Jr. called the cut to that city "draconian".

Peter Luke characterized the cuts under the Bishop-Dillon agreement as "some of the largest spending cuts in state history" as he added a couple more horrifying health care figures to the pile.

Instead of the Senate's proposed 8 percent cut in Medicaid payments, health care providers could see a 12 percent reduction.

Factor in the additional loss of matching federal aid, and one health care lobbyist said Friday that Michigan hospitals could lose $160 million in revenue in fiscal 2010.

Rep. Gary McDowell is working at cutting "another $200 million from already limping health care programs while hurting the fewest number of people possible", and is hoping that the targets will be revised after people see how damaging the cuts will be.

"What will be the impact on long-term care, on community mental health agencies and hospitals?" McDowell wondered. "Several facilities will probably have to close. What's the contingency plan for these people?"

And the ever-charming Matt Marsden lets everyone know just who is in charge here, thank you, and makes it very clear once again that Republicans only legislate for other Republicans, and that they have no intention of listening to other points of view.

"The people we represent have expressed that they want cuts and not new taxes, and that's what we're going to give them"

Well, it's a darn good thing they got so many supporters out in the last election then, isn't it?

Oh... wait... that was us. And the people that voted for "change" from Bush Republican policies are not going to be happy that their hard work and votes don't count at all in this matter.

The really scary thing - some House Democrats don't seem to get it yet. No matter how many times the Republicans say no to any other options besides these devastating cuts that are going to hurt people, and perhaps even lose Dems some seats in the next election after the fallout becomes clear, certain members seem intent on not listening to what is being said here.

But Representative Fred Durhal says it's time for lawmakers to start trusting each other. And he says that includes trusting that the Senate will be open to vote for new revenue if the House is open to deep cuts.

At some point, it becomes a dereliction of duty to ignore the intent of the voters, as well as destroy vital services that are needed for the health and safety of the people and the future economic growth of this state. If certain House Democrats want to believe that the Senate is going to restore this revenue after they have repeatedly said "no" to the idea, voters need to consider whether that representative is capable of fulfilling their responsibilities to their office.

And if they don't, perhaps it's time to start looking for someone who will.

New Pure Michigan Fall Ad: "Deep Breath"



Good stuff.

NFL Week 2

Carolina at Atlanta
Minnesota at Detroit
Cincinnati at Green Bay
Houston at Tennessee

Oakland at Kansas City
New England at NY Jets
New Orleans at Philadelphia
St. Louis at Washington

Arizona at Jacksonville
Tampa Bay at Buffalo
Seattle at San Francisco
Pittsburgh at Chicago
Baltimore at San Diego
Cleveland at Denver
NY Giants at Dallas

Indianapolis at Miami

13-3 last week.

25-7 for the year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Look at the Michigan 2010 Budget Cuts

The following list is by no means all-inclusive, and reports are now that the cuts will go even deeper than what the Senate Republicans passed in June. For example, this list reports a $90 million cut to revenue sharing for cities, and as of last night, Gongwer is now reporting a $163 million cut to revenue sharing. That's quite a difference. The list also doesn't contain overall department cuts; for another example, the Department of Corrections budget isn't listed at all, but the target cut is $78 million - and officials say that means the possible closure of three more prisons. So when looking at the list below the jump, keep in mind that the numbers have changed, and not everything is listed.

An update on where things are now:

Governor Granholm is standing firm on rejecting some of these cuts. Keep in mind, her proposal cut very deep in the first place, but the scope of the Bishop/Dillon cuts will, in her words, "hurt Michigan". Gongwer sources claim that she is telling aides, "I'm not running for anything", and is not worried about the political fallout from stopping this so-called "bipartisan" deal if need be. Granholm issued a statement last night praising the Senate Democrats' plan that "protects Michigan citizens from harmful budget cuts to public safety and education programs". Since she mentioned them twice, it's pretty easy to tell which "Democrats" the governor is siding with on this issue.

As far as a veto, it's not clear how it would work. Peter Luke reported that Dillon is considering lumping all the budgets together as one single bill to try and ram it through the legislature and tie her hands on the matter. This would appear to eliminate a line-item "correction" that could be made (Gongwer again):

Officials said if the Legislature moves ahead with the budget agreement reached by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) then they would expect to see either a continuation budget take place on October 1, or so many line item vetoes that the proposal would be unrecognizable.

If the second scenario took place, under this thinking, legislative Republicans would be forced to come back to the negotiating table to restore a variety of programs they support by reaching agreement on reducing the impact of the cuts in the agreement.

While the speculation among many observers is that Ms. Granholm would sign the budget, or at least not veto it, in order to prevent a shutdown of state government, aides say she is not wavering from her belief that the budget would hurt the state in the long term.

Senator Prusi made this stunning statement about the budget yesterday, "I will be encouraging my grandchildren to leave the state because if we go down this road we would not have a state worth living in." Tells you where the Senate Democrats are on this.

As far as the House Democrats go, apparently they are waking up to the numbers and finding that they just can't get there from here. Alma Wheeler Smith said of the Corrections budget:

Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.), chair of the corrections budget, said of her $78 million in cuts, "I can't get $28 (million) in cuts."

She said she would propose changing the state's truth-in-sentencing laws in order to cut the number of prisoners and save money, but she was certain Senate Republicans would reject that approach.

Rep. Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard), looked at the Community Health budget that would "literally put Michigan residents out on the streets" and asked, "Where do they go?" Gongwer claims that House Democrats are concerned about getting enough votes to pass the deal, which probably means that Dillon would have to rely on Republican votes to get this through the House.

And if you haven't figured out that Speaker Dillon is doing the bidding of Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans yet, just check this next statement from Marsden:

Of the possible doubt among Democrats, Bishop spokesperson Matt Marsden said Mr. Bishop trusts that Mr. Dillon "will be able to deliver what he needs to deliver to get this accomplished."

As reported yesterday, Senate Republicans are downplaying, if not flat-out rejecting compromises and other ideas to solve this problem. Their stance has been to immediately fall back on the "signed" agreement with Dillon. It appears that they are dead-set on seeing these "bipartisan" cuts go through (meaning they can hold them against Democrats later), period, and will not commit to any supplemental bills that might be proposed.

City leaders, school officials and community groups are rounding up the torches and pitchforks, declaring that this budget threatens, well, everyone. They reject the idea of trying to pass something later to restore cuts, and are now rallying House Democrats and the Governor to reject Dillon's deal with Bishop. This sentence said it best:

One official described the mood as one of "collective shock" that House Democratic leaders would essentially embrace the Senate Republican plan to enact deep cuts in college scholarships, Medicaid, revenue sharing and K-12 education.

Following is the list of cuts, all credit goes to the AP. Keep in mind it is not complete, the categories fall a little different (there are 15 budgets overall), and the numbers are based on the Senate Republican budgets that passed in June.

Education
  • Cut K-12 school funding by $110 per pupil, dropping the lowest foundation grant to $7,206 per student: $174 million. A waiver would be required from the federal government to keep stimulus education funds.
  • Michigan Promise Grant college scholarship: $140 million.
  • Grants to K-12 schools with declining enrollments: $20 million.
  • Adolescent health centers in schools: $5 million.
  • School readiness program (pre-schools): $104 million.
  • Reduce adult education funding: $2.4 million.
  • Great Parents Great Start ISD programs: $5 million.
  • Funding to create smaller high schools: $8 million.
  • Vocational education funding by 10 percent: $2 million.
  • Math remediation grants: $1 million.
  • Math/Science Centers and Health/Science Middle Colleges: $6 million.
  • Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy, (program run by the Michigan National Guard for high school dropouts or near-dropouts): $1 million.
  • Other college financial aid programs and scholarships: $48 million.
  • Stop reimbursment for community colleges for property tax revenue lost because of renaissance zones: $4 million.

    Family Assistance and other Human Services
  • $10 per person per month cut in the Family Independence Program, dropping the maximum grant for a family of three receiving welfare to $462 per month: $31 million.
  • Children's clothing allowance from $88 per child to $43 per child: $6 million.
  • $14 per month cut to Supplemental Security Income, provides assistance to the elderly and people with disabilities who live independently: $30 million.
  • Cut hours and provider rates for child day care: $80 million.
  • Strong Families/Safe Children grants: $4 million.
  • Families First program that helps train new parents: $1 million.
  • Cut Department of Human Services field staff by 179: $16 million.
  • Add fewer foster care workers, management and support staff at the Department of Human Services: $26 million.
  • State Disability Assistance grant by $5 a month: $1 million.

    Health Care
  • Non-Medicaid mental health services $54 million more than the governor recommended: $62 million.
  • Payment rates to health care providers who treat Medicaid patients by 8 percent: $355 million.
  • Move more people from nursing homes to community-based settings: $49 million.
  • Mental health initiative for older residents and respite services for caregivers: $3 million.
  • Cut substance abuse services by 5 percent: $1 million.
  • Loans for health care providers who establish practices in medically underserved areas cut in half, as the governor recommended: $1 million.
  • Reduce Healthy Michigan programs : infant mortality, minority health, poison control centers, senior nutrition services, diseases ranging from heart disease to arthritis: $20 million.

    Other
  • Revenue sharing payments to local governments (police, firefighters, other city services): $90 million.
  • Cut Employment and Training support programs by 43.5 percent: $13 million.
  • Close Adrian Training School for young women; close the Nokomis challenge Center and State Community Juvenile Justice Centers: $7 million.

    List Source: Detroit News/AP
    Other source on quotes and numbers:Gongwer News Service.
  • Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Dillon Dithers as the Senate Democrats Step Up

    Mike Prusi and the Senate Democrats stand up for their priorities, and, unlike Andy Dillon, they do have solid plans and proposals that provide funding for those priorities without a general tax increase.

    “For anyone to imply that the only way to fix our budget is through cuts alone or general tax increases alone is baloney,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming). “Our alternatives present a compromise approach that still includes some painful cuts, but uses reforms to protect the things that will make our state competitive in the future. These options should at least be on the table as we hammer out a final budget deal in the coming days.”




    Watch my favorite Yooper above. Some of those options are:

  • Ending Michigan’s status as a donor state. Assessing just a 2% fee on physicians, like we do with hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers, allows us to secure a 3 to 1 match from the federal government. This is an idea that even members of the Senate Republican Majority have supported in the past and it could provide more than $300 million dollars. By ignoring reforms adopted by other states, we are allowing Washington to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to states like California, Texas, and Alaska instead of Michigan.

  • Asking multi-millionaires to pay their fair share. Decoupling from the federal government on estate taxes for estates more than $2 million, like a number of other states have done, would allow us to collect at least $130 million to avoid these painful cuts. A majority of other states, including all of our neighbors in the Midwest, already have some type of system to require this.

  • Reducing tax expenditures. By temporarily scaling back the more than $36 billion in tax credits the state hands out every year, we can avoid wiping out important services.

  • Limiting tax loopholes. We currently give millions of dollars in breaks to oil and gas companies, insurance companies, and others, while some are advocating for the complete elimination of programs that help our kids. Those aren’t the right priorities for Michigan.

  • And the sad thing is - Senate Republicans have always indicated this year that they were willing to look at trimming tax credits. If the House Democrats had been working on a plan such as this over the summer, we might not be facing the difficulty that we are now. Instead, we find Andy Dillon grasping at straws, as he throws a totally new idea to the wind, and hopes that a promise of "later" can get him and the House Democrats through.

    House Speaker Andy Dillon said today he'll pursue discounts from state contractors to help pay for college scholarships, health care for the poor and other programs before crafting a tax increase plan to send to the Senate.

    Say what? This idea comes up on September 17th - and is not possible to implement in less than two weeks, of course. And there is always an unspecified tax increase that the Senate Republicans will gladly vote for later, right?

    The House likely will consider a package of tax hikes to fund Promise scholarships for college students, revenue sharing municipalities use for police and fire protection, early childhood education and Medicaid, Dillon said.

    Dillon then went back to his "concessions from vendors" spiel. Meanwhile, Mike Bishop said they would get around to looking at all these things... oh, right around the time that they repeal drug company immunity and pass a smoking ban.
    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he expects to see a revenue package come over from the House after the budget is passed.

    "Legislators will have to decide how they want to vote on that," he said, reiterating that there are no votes in his caucus right now for tax increases.

    Asked whether tax hikes will ultimately win approval to pay for college scholarships, revenue sharing and other programs, Bishop said: "It's too hard to say."

    It should be well known by now what the answer to "tax hikes" would be. As news broke that Governor Granholm met with the Senate Democrats today to fight off the Senate Republican cuts, Bishop's tone on the matter changed radically to one of defensive posturing as he used Dillon's signature as a weapon, even though he still throws in his "we're really flexible, honest" caveat at the end.

    Bishop said he was just seeing Prusi's proposals for the first time -- though Democrats say the ideas were known about before.

    "The speaker of the House, the Democratic speaker of the House, also agreed to these targets and signed a document," Bishop said on the Senate floor. "This is a bipartisan, bicameral target."

    He said Senate Democrats should not "throw stones at the only proposal on the table" or "complain about the cards we're dealt because we have no way to change that." He added, however, that Republicans are not against reviewing revenue proposals.

    Matt Marsden took an even bigger shot at the Democrats last night in an extreme case of the projectionist pot calling the kettle black. This laughable and yet vaguely disturbing tirade comes to us from MIRS:

    "Sen. Prusi and his caucus can stand opposed to what is a bipartisan, bicameral plan to move Michigan forward without balancing the budget on the backs of taxpayers. He can choose to be an obstructionist. But instead of just opposing everything, it's more productive in society to put forth solutions instead of screaming about what you won't accept."

    Marsden said if the caucus chooses to withhold immediate effect on the budgets, the Democrats would "show why they're in the minority and I suspect while they'll continue to be there."

    Yes, those are the kind of guys that Dillon and George Cushingberry cut this deal with, ones who will instantly and gladly turn on all Democrats, as Dillon scrambles to come up with these last minute ideas that you know will ultimately be shot down. There is no "later", and anyone who has been paying attention since Mike Bishop took over leadership of the Senate should know that. Say, just how is that drug company immunity repeal coming along, anyway?

    If Dillon wants to make deals with Mike Bishop, then he can own these cuts. If the House wants to stick with Dillon, they can own them as well. Tuck it away and act accordingly when your House member comes to you later and claims that they "will fight for you". Just thank God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whoever it is you pray to that we have people like Governor Granholm and the Fightin' Senate Democratic caucus who are going to stand up for this state now.