State budget chief begins planning for possible government shutdown

By: - August 26, 2019 10:21 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Budget Director Chris Kolb at the Fiscal Year 2020 budget presentation | Casey Hull

With about five weeks to go before the beginning of the state’s 2020 Fiscal Year and no clear sign of a budget deal, the state budget chief is preparing for a possible partial government shutdown. 

State Budget Director Chris Kolb on Friday emailed each state department head seeking “a comprehensive list of all functions and services within your department, including administrative functions,” in an effort to determine what areas would be affected in the event of a shutdown. 

“Because the new fiscal year is just over five weeks away, we must begin contingency planning in the event we do not have a signed budget by midnight on September 30,” Kolb wrote in the email. “While we remain optimistic and hopeful that we will reach a budget agreement with the Legislature prior to October 1, we must be prepared if that does not happen.”

The Republican-led Legislature returns in full to Lansing this week after a two-month summer break. Lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have to reach a budget deal, which she must sign into law before midnight Sept. 30 to avoid a partial government shutdown. 

The key sticking point remains new funding for Michigan’s roads and bridges. Whitmer ran on a platform of “fixing the damn roads.” 

Last week, she rejected a GOP recommendation because, according to her office, the proposal would have cut education funding statewide by $400 per pupil. Both state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) deny that the recommendations slash education funding, however.

Whitmer and legislative leaders
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the auto insurance reform bill signing, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Kolb, the budget director, gave department heads until Friday to complete a template in an effort “to determine those functions within your department that would be continued and those that would be temporarily discontinued in the event of a government shutdown.” 

Michigan had brief shutdowns in 2007 and 2009, which were also periods of divided government, but also took place during a decade-long recession when revenue was down. Whitmer, who served during both shutdowns, has insisted that all parties involved in the budget negotiation hope to avoid a shutdown. 

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.