The Republicans finally revealed their budget-balancing proposal. It included their approval of Governor Granholm’s $344 million negotiated cuts via executive order and the rejection of her 2-percent service tax plan. It also included $600 million of their own cuts, revealed in the proud manner befitting a cheating spouse. They brought the supplemental legislation to the floor at 7:30pm Thursday, refused to let Democrats debate it, and passed it. Then the Republicans ran out of the chamber. Yes, they did the deed then ran.
The Governor and many Democrats denounced the cuts and the manner in which they were passed. Republican supporters countered by calling Granholm, Democrats, and their supporters “a bunch of Chicken Littles.”
Across the state a wide range of these supposed “Chicken Littles” are condemning the proposed cuts.
They are condemned here.
A 2 percent wage hike for home health service workers would be rolled back under the Senate plan.
“We already have trouble getting people to do the work and this is going to make it even more difficult,” said Dohn Hoyle, executive director of The Arc Michigan, which has 38 agencies around the state that advocate for the mentally impaired.
He said the $11 million cut won’t be a money-saver for Michigan because it’ll force people into more expensive nursing home facilities.
Ross said Jackson officials are struggling to find the $230,000 that would be lost if the plan is approved. Preliminary figures have police officers, out-of-town travel and city-owned vehicles on the chopping block, he said. Ross also has issued a citywide hiring freeze.
“The Republicans have no strategy, no plan,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek. “These cuts would have a devastating impact on our community, on our people and on our state.”
‘‘We should be thinking about (how) we can invest in public education, not how we can take money away from kids in public education,’’ said Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor.
Republicans countered that the $34 per-student cut is a modest amount for schools to have to make up in the two months remaining in the school year and that a tax increase this budget year is unacceptable. Some districts have warned they’ll have to lay off teachers if their state aid is cut at this point in the school year.
If approved by the House, a $34 per pupil reduction in funding means a loss of $500,000 in Rochester schools, $411,352 in Troy schools, $391,792 in Waterford schools, $535,775 in Walled Lake schools and $310,338 in Pontiac schools, according to the Senate fiscal agency.
That’s money that has to be dealt with by the end of schools’ fiscal year June 30, said Waterford Schools Superintendent Robert Neu.
“It’s hard to swallow,” Neu said.
Neu said he appreciated that the per pupil cuts weren’t as bad as the $225 that was an earlier number tossed around as a likely reduction.
“I appreciate the governor and Legislature making education a critical part of the conversation,” Neu said. “We’re still hopeful there won’t be any cuts. I think the Legislature has to understand that no cuts are acceptable.”
Worse, Neu said, is that school districts have to have budgets prepared for the next fiscal year beginning July 1 without knowing what the Legislature will eventually approve.
“That’s the insanity of it,” Neu said. “We’re going on the assumption of no increase next year. That means $5.5 million in cuts.”
…where they were also declared Dead On Arrival in the House. But not by Speaker Andy Dillon himself. Based on his lackluster performance during this whole battle, I don’t know that he would actually do anything to rally the votes against the Republican budget plan. He seems content to let Granholm do all the heavy-lifting in this battle while he does whatever he’s doing. (If you want a study in contrasts, just view House Speaker Dillon’s and Senate Minority Leader Schauer’s recent appearances on Off The Record with Tim Skubick. With Dillon, you get the impression he’s in over his head and that he doesn’t feel any sense of urgency over the current situation. With Schauer, you get the impression that he has a clear idea of both the gravity of the situation and what needs to be done to fix it.)
If the Senate Republicans had actually believed in the soundness of their budget proposals, they would have introduced and passed them in a more transparent manner, one the budget process deserves. Doing otherwise, in order to duck debate with their colleagues on the floor of the Senate and avoid the reactions they’re now getting from Michigan citizens, demonstrates their cowardice and lack of vision. It also demonstrates they would rather continue to play games with the budget than do any serious work.
So, for the benefit of this state, it should not be difficult for Democrats to stand up to the Republicans and reject their severely flawed budget proposals. To approve their budget would be to embrace the Republican’s brand of cowardly politics and disinvest in Michigan’s future.