Whitmer tells Republicans she won’t relinquish executive powers in budget negotiations

By: - October 29, 2019 1:43 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The GOP state Legislature has shown no shortage of consternation at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of executive powers to better align the Fiscal Year 2020 budget with her priorities. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 29, 2019 | Andrew Roth

In a letter to legislative leaders on Tuesday, Whitmer said she remains unwilling to give up those powers, but believes that through “good faith” negotiations, there will be little need for the use of such power in the future.

In her letter to state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), Whitmer noted that the use of the State Administrative Board, which Whitmer used earlier this month to shift around $625 million in spending, was established by a Republican. 

“I urge you to choose a path of negotiation towards a responsible supplemental budget and forego your attempt to gut state executive authority that’s been around for 98 years and championed by [former] Governor [John] Engler,” Whitmer wrote. “We all hold office for a prescribed number of years, and I will not spend my time here diminishing the Office of the Governor for me or any of my successors, Democrat or Republican.”

Another Michigan budget standoff dawns

Spokespeople for Shirkey and Chatfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon. 

The GOP leaders last week doubled down on their displeasure with Whitmer’s tactic on Oct. 1 — the first day of the state’s 2020 Fiscal Year — of transferring $625 million within state departments. She did so by circumventing the Legislature and using the State Administrative Board to transfer funds. 

Such moves are rare, but have been upheld by the state Supreme Court. 

The day before, she had vetoed almost $1 billion in spending within the budget, which GOP leaders largely put together without her input after negotiations broke down over road funding. 

State board OKs $625M in spending transfers, Whitmer invites GOP leaders to budget meeting Thursday

While multiple supplemental spending bills have emerged on both sides of the aisle, Shirkey has gone as far as saying that he believes the budget process is complete. 

The governor urged haste in getting back to the negotiating table, as both chambers have minimal session days in November due to a usual hunting break.

As part of the negotiating process over supplementals, Whitmer wrote that she’s willing to rescind the administrative transfers, and has asked the board to convene for two additional dates in the coming week if needed. 

While she’s not willing to give up the power, Whitmer wrote that with negotiation the need for future transfers would be diminished. 

Dem spending bills emerge as budget talks resume

She also is willing to agree to not veto specific line items the Legislature may wish to add.

“In other words, let’s negotiate a budget as our predecessors have always done,” Whitmer wrote. “If you accept my offer to negotiate in good faith, this matter could all be resolved in a matter of hours. If you decline, my administration is prepared to move forward making the hard decisions necessitated by the budget as it now stands.” 

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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.