One hundred and fifty four days since a state budget was proposed and we are still without a done deal with less than three months to go.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t ease her way into her first budget. She proposed a lot, like the 45 cent gas tax increase.
But now five months later there has been little to no movement either way on an agreed-upon budget, and time is running out.
“The legislature needs to get back into session and get serious about finalizing a budget,” Whitmer says. “I feel the pressure, but I don’t know if the legislature feels the pressure because they haven’t really been in session this summer.”
The clock is ticking. Governor Whitmer proposed her first budget proposal on March 5. Five months later, there is no agreement and the legislature is on break.
“I understand their conversations amongst themselves, but at the end of the day I have to sign the budget,” Whitmer says. “It’s got to be one that is balanced and prioritizes the fundamentals like education and our kids.”
As the governor spoke with agriculture business leaders in Zeeland, she was adamant that she did not want to use the word “shutdown.” With less than three months to go before the end of the fiscal year, she knows that that’s the only option if a different deal isn’t struck.
“As we end this fiscal year, it’ll be weeks, after weeks, after weeks like this where they haven’t been in session to do their job,” Whitmer says. “That will be to blame if we get close to the end of the calendar year.”
School districts would appreciate a plan soon. Many are starting classes this month without an idea of what they will be receiving from the state and may not get that answer until October.
“They will be a sixth of the way through their academic year budget and they won’t even know what they are working with,” Whitmer says. “That’s unconscionable.”
The most talked about sticking points are the roads and Whitmer’s proposed 45 cent gas hike.
“I said from the beginning a roads deal had to be part of the budget, and I believe it,” Whitmer says. “Obviously, the House does too because they mixed the roads right into their budget.”
The legislature is expected back by the end of the month, with five weeks to go before the budget deadline.
“By pushing this off, I think it’s not just compressing a timeline,” Whitmer says. “It’s really jeopardizing our ability to get it done and do it right.”