Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Budget Work Pushed to September, Republicans Want to Pass "As Many Cuts As They Can"

The Do-Nothing Legislature is doing what they do best, and that is... nothing. They are going to take the budget to the last minute one more time, Republicans will insist on getting everything their way, and it's highly unlikely the House will put up much of a fight.

In other words, different year, same story, and no one is surprised by this anymore.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) said he expects target meetings to take place among the top negotiators between now and September 7 with the hope of getting conference committees to act on budget bills as soon as possible. There are some concerns with some aspects of Granholm's plan, Bishop said, but lawmakers still need details on some pieces, such as opening up for bid the state's liquor distribution.

Overall, Bishop said Senate Republicans want to pass as many cuts as they can to reduce the size of what he said is a $1 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year facing the next governor.

"We'd like to take as big a chunk out of that problem as we can," he said.

Of course they do. Much better to hurt people on the Dem watch rather than take responsibility for their "all cuts" fiscal policies. And amazingly enough, Republicans are more than happy to spend that federal assistance money - just as long as they get to decide how it's spent.

House Republicans do appear weary of accepting the governor's plan to transfer $200 million from the School Aid Fund to pay community colleges in the current fiscal year.

Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham) and Rep. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) said they want reforms tied to the proposal, as well as a process to pay the SAF money back, before they're willing to vote on the transfer.

A major piece that remains in question is the state employee retiree legislation (SB 1226 ) that is stuck in the Democratically led House. "We are still encouraging the House to do it," Emerson said, acknowledging that there has been little to no progress on passage of the issue in the House.

Not sure why the minority party is calling the shots here... oh wait, I remember now. Had a bit of traumatic amnesia there for a moment. Never mind, carry on.

With the Senate adjournment, the question of a constitutional ban on Great Lakes drilling will die for this year. The folks who are serious about getting this on a ballot in the future will probably have to take it outside the legislative process - but kudos to Dan Scripps for giving it a go, and blasting the Senate in the process.

"Michigan's waters are too important to our way of life and our economy to just throw it all away because the Senate wants to take even more time off of work," said Rep. Daniel Scripps (D-Northport) said in a statement. "With the disaster in the Gulf and the recent oil spill in our own Kalamazoo River, it's more important than ever that we protect our workers' jobs and small businesses in Northwest Michigan and across the state from the economic ruin that an oil spill in our Great Lakes would cause. It's too bad that the Senate has gone back on break without giving voters the power to safeguard our Great Lakes."

It would be nice to see this added to the Great Lakes Compact some day. Getting all the states and Canada together on the issue would be a monumental task, but it's worth a try. Throw sulfide mining on there too, while we are at it.

Progressive activists would do well to start thinking about how to get their issues straight to the ballot for 2011 or 2012. The challenges of funding, gathering signatures, etc. and so on - start planning now. It appears to be the only avenue you can count on to get the questions in front of the voters.