As the state legislature prepares for its summer break, there are still major decisions to be made on the budget and the COVID-19 fight in Michigan.
Despite the challenges, legislators defended their decision to step away from session for a few weeks.
“We’ve got some tough budget decisions we have to make as it pertains to this budget for 2020 and the budget for 2021,” says Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield.
The state legislature promised Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year that it would have the budget plan to her by July 1.
Then COVID-19 hit and that is no longer possible.
“This virus did not cause the budget shortfall that we are facing right now,” Chatfield says. “The government’s reaction to the virus is what has caused a budget shortfall.”
The state is reopening, but the final touches have not been made on how to finish the plans and get Michigan back to 100%. Leaders say that doesn’t have to be done in session.
“Sometimes it’s easy to take a shot at legislators for taking a break but committees are where the work is supposed to be done,” says Sen. Jim Ananich, of Flint. “I think, I am hopeful, there will be quite a bit of committee work being done over these next few weeks.”
“I think any successful reopening plan will happen when our colleagues, our representatives, are in their district for the next couple of weeks listening to their people and understanding how they’ve been impacted,” Chatfield says. “We’re going to continue to have budget negotiations and discussions.”
Listening to their constituents and ironing out the details so in a month or so, when they return, lawmakers are ready to vote.
“That’s going to be our focus as we come back in a couple of weeks,” Chatfield says. “Roll up our sleeves and get a budget done and have a successful and safe reopening of our state.”