Michigan government won’t shut down, state tells workers

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LANSING – The Michigan government will not be shutting down next week, the budget office and department directors said Friday night in a note to state employees telling them to plan to report for work as usual on Tuesday morning .

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has until the end of Monday to decide the fate of 16 separate budget bills drafted by the Republican-led legislature without her input after talks broke down two weeks ago. Tuesday is October 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

Whitmer called GOP budgets a “mess,” but the state employee’s opinion makes it clear that the first-term governor has no intention of rejecting the plan as a whole.

Lawmakers approved the latest batch of budget bills on Tuesday, but the full $ 59.9 billion spending plan did not reach Whitmer’s office until Friday, prompting the budget office to prepare an opinion for the roughly 48,000 state workers who had already been warned of the potential for temporary layoffs. .

“There will be no temporary layoffs,” the state said in the Friday afternoon memo prepared by the budget office for distribution by individual department heads.

“With just days to go into the new fiscal year, the legislature has now presented all budgets to the governor. Therefore, planning and preparation for a possible state government shutdown can now come to a halt. “

As the state appears poised to avoid the first government shutdown since 2009, Whitmer should still use his veto power to reject several Republican spending provisions without vetoing the entire budget, an approach that could relaunch negotiations on unallocated funds.

As Bridge Magazine reported on Wednesday, Whitmer could also declare certain budget provisions inapplicable or use a rare maneuver by the state’s board to shift money into departmental budgets to better reflect its own priorities.

“The governor will exercise whatever powers she can to put our budget in the best possible shape with what has been presented,” the state told employees, promising the administration would work all weekend to complete the exam. “Thank you for your patience and continued understanding during what has been a very uncertain process.”

Whitmer, who campaigned on a pledge to “fix the bloody roads”, initially vowed to veto any budget without a “real” plan to fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure. But she fended off that threat earlier this month after Republicans rejected her $ 2.5 billion proposal for a 45-cent fuel tax hike, agreeing to postpone long-term talks on the financing of roads until after budget.

The Republican budget includes an additional $ 400 million in one-time money for roads, a bump Whitmer criticized as a half-measure that would not actually fix roads and could increase costs if contractors don’t have enough certainty of long-term financing invest in new employees or new equipment.

Devoting $ 400 million in general funds to roads would also consume a large reserve of discretionary money that the governor had proposed to inject into other programs.

Whitmer slammed the legislature’s approved K-12 schools budget after Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering struck a deal with House Democratic Minority Leader Christine Greig of Farmington Hills.

Republican House spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said he was “happy to hear” Friday afternoon’s notice to state employees.

“Obviously, a stop would have been a bad idea for the governor. She would have rejected a strong bipartisan budget plan and halted essential services. I’m glad to see that she didn’t take this route.

The K-12 budget would increase spending 2.6% to $ 15.24 billion, about $ 136 million less than Whitmer proposed in the executive’s budget it unveiled in March.

The plan would increase per student funding from $ 120 to $ 240 – which is more than what the governor had asked for – but includes less than she wanted to move the state towards a weighted funding formula that would send more to districts with a higher number of students at risk, special education and vocational technical education.

The GOP budgets include several other provisions that will certainly be the subject of further consideration by Whitmer, including a plan to halt funding for the Michigan Department of Education if it does not release the grades. accountability of AF schools by the end of March and a requirement for Attorney General Dana Nessel to notify lawmakers of any lawsuits against the federal government that she signs or joins.

D’Assandro said it was “impossible to say” how aggressive Whitmer could be with article vetoes or other budget maneuvers that stop before a full veto.

“She pulled out of budget negotiations a few weeks ago and has really not engaged since then,” he said. “So no one is quite sure what she is thinking.”

Whitmer complained about the pace of the GOP budget process. As of Thursday night, the Legislature had sent her only five of 16 budgets, a delay she called “downright irresponsible.”

The governor presented his own budget six months ago, spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said on Friday, noting that the administration “just received budget bills from the (GOP) three days before the Oct. 1 deadline. “.

Whitmer and the state budget office “will be working around the clock this weekend to do the budgets,” Brown said.


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