Gov. Whitmer and GOP Leaders Square Off On Budget Debate

The legislature is back in session and the budget negotiations are heating up as we speed towards a potential government shutdown.

The state fiscal year ends September 30th, if the state does not have an approved budget by then, the government shuts down.

That gives the Governor and Republican leaders in the legislature five weeks to come to an agreement. That seems far away, given the divide over road funding and the Governor’s proposed 45-cent gas tax hike.

“In order to have a legitimate negotiation you have to go to the table with something worth talking about,” says Governor Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference in Lansing Wednesday.

Budget talks with Republican leaders on her bold budget proposal are stalled.

“I am not wedded to every aspect of the plan I put on the table,” says Gov. Whitmer, “Although I’m confident it’s the best plan.”

“However, there was a price tag to that and that price tag was based on the 45-cent gas tax and there was no chance any of us were going to get on board with that,” says Representative Scott VanSingel of Grant.

That’s the main divide. All other decisions in the budget seem to be affected by how roads will be funded.

“I’m calling on the Governor to continue budget negotiations and drop her insistence on a 45-cent gas tax,” says Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, “We cannot hold the budget hostage because of her desire to tax every driver in the state.”

“People understand and they are skeptical of any politician who says, ‘You get everything and pay for nothing,’” says Gov. Whitmer, “We know what we get, we get nothing.”

Gov. Whitmer says the state needs to raise $2.5 billion to fix the roads. She says the gas tax does that but is open to other ideas.

“Has the public seen a Republican plan?” says Gov. Whitmer, “Or is it just having these quiet conversations behind closed doors?”

Both the House and Senate say they have given her their budgets, she just doesn’t agree with them. They say their plans pay for roads in more sensible ways.

“Right now, there’s still a difference of opinion and how to get to those numbers, ‘How do we pay for these things?’” says Representative Triston Cole of Mancelona, “But I can tell you that the things that I’ve heard, I’m very excited about.”

“All of these little snippets of rumors from around town are not a plan,” says Gov. Whitmer, “And that’s what I’m calling on the legislature to bring.”