Whitmer admin offers GOP guarantees for supplemental budget deal

By: - November 4, 2019 2:51 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has made another pitch to GOP legislative leaders in an effort to pass a supplemental budget as time ticks away before a schedule hunting break. 

Gretchen Whitmer (left) and Garlin Gilchrist II (right), Jan. 7, 2019 | Ken Coleman

In a letter on Monday, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist sought “to provide clarity regarding [Whitmer’s] position on the budget, potential supplemental budgets, and the state administrative board transfers.” 

As part of that, the administration says it’s willing to insert boilerplate language into a spending bill “that would reflect the agreement not to use the state administrative board transfer powers, which the governor would agree to follow and not challenge.”

The letter from Gilchrist comes after state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) largely rebuffed Whitmer’s offer to negotiate a supplemental Fiscal Year 2020 budget and undo some of the governor’s budget vetoes and unilateral transfer of funds. 

Shirkey, in particular, has said he wants Whitmer to first undo her transfers and Republicans in both chambers have introduced legislation that would limit the governor’s power to use the administrative board.

Another Michigan budget standoff dawns

Gilchrist, who presides over the Senate, stressed that the administration wants to see a properly negotiated budget that would ensure there would be no need to utilize the somewhat obscure board that has the power to unilaterally transfer departmental funds without the Legislature. Whitmer has said she will not unilaterally give up that power, however.

“Assuming the governor and the legislature resume the consistent past practice of negotiating budgets and supplementals, the governor will not exercise her state administrative board transfer powers,” Gilchrist wrote. “Not only is this the governor’s offer; it is her strong preference for this and all future budget negotiations.”

Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, May 24, 2019 | Nick Manes

Spokespeople for Chatfield and Shirkey did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gilchrist’s letter. 

The Legislature has limited time to pass a supplemental spending bill, as the House is set to adjourn for the rest of the month after this week and the Senate only plans to meet this week and two days next week ahead of its break for the remainder of November. Cuts to key programs are already being felt, according to an analysis by the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

First-semester tuition grants for private colleges, for instance, were scheduled to go out this week; funding for rural hospitals was scheduled for December, and a charter school foundation allowance increase would have been incorporated into the first state aid payment beginning in October, with 1/11th being paid out on the 20th of each month between October and August. 

“Until a supplemental can be negotiated, all of the vetoed items remain unfunded,” DTMB spokesman Kurt Weiss said in an email. 

Another Michigan budget standoff dawns

Weiss added that an autism navigator program to help families with services for autistic individuals “remains operational” for now, and the nonprofit Autism Alliance is working on a fundraising effort.

Republicans passed budget bills in September largely without input from Whitmer after talks broke down over how to provide road funding. Whitmer signed all budgets ahead of an Oct. 1 deadline, averting a partial shutdown of state government operations, but she vetoed almost $1 billion in spending and issued $625 million in fund transfers. 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Mackinac Policy Conference | Susan J. Demas

In the letter, Gilchrist laid out a number of methods the administration would seek to demonstrate its commitment to avoid using the board.

In addition to the boilerplate language, Whitmer offered to negotiate spending targets for a supplemental spending bill; rescind spending transfers, and hold a joint press conference “before and/or after the governor signs an appropriations bill.”

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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.