No Movement On Budget Renegotiations in Lansing
As I sit down here in early November to write an article updating GLTPA members on what is new in Lansing since last month, I am reminded of a lyric made famous in pop culture by Peter Noone, lead singer and frontman of the 1960s British pop group Herman’s Hermits. In their 1965 second U.S. Billboard #1 hit, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am”, Noone famously shouts, “Second verse, same as the first!” While at first glance an odd comparison, it truthfully is an accurate description of the lingering dispute over the budget that continues to hang like a black cloud over even unrelated topics currently under discussion here at the state capitol.
The Michigan Legislature traditionally takes a two week recess every November in recognition of the start of firearm deer season and the Thanksgiving holiday. Leading up to recess this year, it appeared that we might finally see a breakthrough in negotiations between Governor Whitmer and legislative leadership to fund various budgetary items that were vetoed or defunded via State Administrative Board (SAB) transfers at the start of the current state fiscal year on October 1.
While there appears to be a developing consensus in Lansing around restoring funding to many of the more controversial items left out of this year’s budget, such as appropriations for small, isolated school districts, charter schools, secondary road patrol, rural health care, autism navigator services, and tourism promotion, the breakdown in negotiations once again came with respect to Legislature seeking to restrict the Governor from using her SAB authority to such a degree again in the future.
The latest development in the process was Governor Whitmer offering earlier this month to consider boilerplate language in a negotiated supplemental budget bill preventing such transfers. Additionally, she put on the table possible action to rescind some of her SAB transfers that occurred on October 1. While those offers seemed to indicate progress toward a potential deal prior to the November recess, the Senate GOP in particular indicated they would not be party to any deal that did not include a specific statutory change restricting executive branch administrative transfer authority going forward. In other words, no deal.
So, what does this all mean to GLTPA and the forest products industry in particular? The Legislature is now adjourned until the first week of December. Without adoption of a supplemental appropriations bill, more of the budget cuts resulting from the Governor’s vetoes and administrative transfers will start to take effect throughout the month, likely prompting further public outcry as the effects of those actions become more and more “real” back home. Additionally, the ongoing debate over the Governor’s SAB transfer authority appears to be slowing down consideration of any new appropriations or policy initiatives impacting the state budget in any way as well. While we wait for news on the budget, we continue to work proactively advancing GLTPA policy priorities with state departments and policymakers, and are focusing on work we can get done on your behalf despite the lack of resolution on the aforementioned budget items.
It remains to be seen whether the tenor of the budget discussions changes when legislators return, or if, to paraphrase Noone, the third verse will also be same as the first.