GOP leaders still insist Whitmer must permanently give up executive budget powers for short-term deal

By: - November 5, 2019 2:53 pm

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

Michigan Republican legislative leaders continue to insist that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must permanently limit her executive power in order to move forward with a supplemental Fiscal Year 2020 budget. 

The parties have been at odds since after signing the GOP’s budget, Whitmer last month used the legal powers of the State Administrative Board to unilaterally transfer $625 million within state departments to better align with her priorities. 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Monday sent a letter to House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) saying that the administration is 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.”

Another Michigan budget standoff dawns

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Shirkey and Chatfield said that they’d prefer to repeal the board or cap the amount a governor could transfer, but called the addition of boilerplate language “a simple solution that we can agree to. Let’s come together and get this done.”

Chatfield and Shirkey
Lee Chatfield (left) and Mike Shirkey (right)

In order to do that, the GOP leaders want Whitmer to agree to sign legislation — SB 616 and HB 5176 — that would require legislative approval to transfer funds using the board. 

For its part, the Whitmer administration says the lawmakers are misinterpreting the offers made in Gilchrist’s letter, which also included a willingness to agree to spending targets and other tactics to avoid future impasses. 

“Nowhere in the plain language of the letter does it indicate she is willing to agree to a statutory change in powers that have been around for 98 years,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown wrote in an email on Tuesday. “In fact, she has made quite clear for the last month that she will not.”

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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.