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Whitmer Vetoes $947M, Including $375M For Roads

Whitmer Vetoes $947M, Including $375M For Roads

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed 147 line-items, including $375 million in one-time road funding and $128 million from the School Aid budget, before signing all 16 state budgets last Monday, according to a press release issued by her office Sept. 30.

In a conference call with supporters, Whitmer's chief of staff characterized GOP road action as "not doing a damn thing to fix the roads." In reviewing the state's 16 budgets, the governor sliced close to $1 billion from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending plan submitted by lawmakers. It ends up being $947 million out of a $60 billion budget.

"Now it's time for the Republicans to come back to the table and find a real, long term solution," said Chief of Staff JoAnne Huls in a conference call with chief stakeholders.

The line-item vetoes are designed to put pressure on Republican lawmakers to come back to the negotiating table and talk about her proposal to raise more revenue for road funding while making sure School Aid Fund dollars are no longer used to fund public universities.

"This budget impasse was silly and completely avoidable," House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said in a statement. "Instead of working this out together, the governor decided to play political games and walk away from negotiations. Her tactics wasted everybody's time and manufactured a crisis out of thin air. I hope it was worth it."

In addition to the $400 million road funding line-item veto, the governor also nixed $132 million in what Huls described to supporters as GOP "pork," including funding for Algebra Nation -- a "swanky" proposal that she said included a junket for lawmakers to Florida. 

"The Legislature is broken," Whitmer wrote in her news release. "Talking point budgets don't fix our fundamental problems as a state. The budgets they passed don't do enough to give our schools the resources they need to educate our kids. They won't protect our communities, ensure clean, safe drinking water in our schools, and they won't do a damn thing to fix the roads." 

Only two budgets survived Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's veto pen entirely -- community colleges and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

That's according to the Office of the Great Seal (OGS), which is where the bills Whitmer signed into law are filed. The OGS sends out updates to the running list of public acts whenever the Governor signs bills.

While the Governor's office didn't make an announcement about what she did with the budget until about 7 p.m. Sept. 30, every budget except two were signed Sept. 29 -- the School Aid and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budgets were signed Sept. 30, with the DHHS being the last one at 11:32 a.m.

The OGS update Sept. 30 indicated all 16 budget bills had signing pages tagged on by Whitmer -- including community colleges and LARA. The OGS indicated the 14 other budgets all contained line item vetoes.

Whitmer also signed 21 additional bills on Sept. 30, which extend the sunsets on various fees.

MIRS has learned the following other details about what Whitmer had planned:

- Shift $507 million back into the School Aid Fund

- Eliminate $37.5 million from the Pure Michigan program 

- Veto funding for Smith's Bridge in Ferrysburg, which Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.) decried in a late press release Sept. 30. Whitmer had visited the bridge, along with the three others during her tour to drum up support for additional revenue for roads.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the MIRS Monday podcast the Legislature sending Whitmer an "unnegotiated budget" was the "nuclear item."

For her to heavily use the line-item veto power and the seldom-used tool of the State Administrative Board to move money around state departments was a "proportionate response."

"If she didn't have a strong response, there would be no point in being governor," Hertel said. "At this point, when somebody has put us in this situation where unnegotiated budgets are on her desk . . . if she were to sign it and not have a strong response back, what would be the point in being governor?"

If the Governor is attempting to get more support for her initial plan to raise the gasoline tax 45 cents, the initial reaction from conservative Republicans in the House wasn't positive.

"The governor campaigned on a promise to fix Michigan roads – yet she just rejected $375 million to boost repairs without tax increases or cuts to essential services," said House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron).

"She is clinging to her widely rejected proposal to raise gas taxes by 45 cents per gallon, even though we already know that's a burden Michigan drivers don't want and can't afford . . . She's more interested in playing politics than working with the Legislature."

"I'm extremely disappointed. I believe that she is putting her own ego before the needs of Michigan drivers, and I think that is tremendously disappointing," Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford), who chaired the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. "Michigan voters are not in favor of doing any more gas tax increases. We did our due diligence in Lansing and identified waste within our budget and moved money from other budgets to backfill and increase road funding without giving Michigan taxpayers another tax increase. We did our job and she doesn't like that."

Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) also expressed frustration over the "legislature is broken" comment.

"I have had enough of the governor's comments, and the more she keeps on throwing bombs, the less and less likely I will be to support any new revenue," Miller said. ". . . I don't know how she expects us to continue to work with her on supporting any new revenue with comments like this."

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