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Weekly Legislative Round-Up

September 3, 2010

Legislative Leaders Making Progress on Budget

There are four weeks to go before the end of the State’s fiscal year.  In two out of the last three years, legislators and the Granholm administration have been unable to resolve the state’s budget until after Oct. 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.  This has forced brief government shutdowns.

Legislative leaders and members of the administration have been meeting this week to work out the details of the budget.  There appears to be a chance that the last minute maneuvering of recent years can be avoided.

Two weeks ago Gov. Granholm laid out a proposal to resolve both the current year deficit and the 2010-11 FY budget.  For the most part her proposal has been positively viewed by legislators from both sides of the aisle.

The budget deficit for this year is estimated to be around $300 million and for next year it is $484 million.

The governor made the following proposals to address this year’s budget:

  • Transferring $208 million from the School Aid Fund to the General Fund to be spent on community colleges.
  • The proposal also relies on $94 million of federal money that goes to Medicare pharmaceutical coverage.

While many in the education community do not like the idea of using School Aid funds (which historically go to K-12 education) to cover the community colleges budget, it is felt that in the end the legislature will go along with it.

For the 2010-11 budget, here is what the governor has proposed:

  • An additional $222 million in cuts to the various state departments and agencies.
  • Re-structuring long term debt to take advantage of lower interest rates that would save $77 million.
  • A tax amnesty program that would allow those who owe back taxes to pay without penalties would raise an estimated $88 million.
  • Various other proposals would amount for the rest of the savings.

In addition some kind of state employee retirement program remains a possibility.

The difference between this year and past years and the reason that there is optimism that the legislature can complete the budget this month, is that the governor has not proposed any tax increases to solve the budget problem.

We will keep you posted on any developments related to the state’s budget issues.

Gubernatorial Candidates Choose Running Mates

Last week, prior to the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, both Rick Snyder and Mayor Virg Bernero chose their respective Lt. Governor nominees.

Rick Snyder, the Republican candidate and the SBAM endorsed candidate, chose State Representative Brian Calley (R-Portland).  Calley has been a strong ally of small business during his three plus years in the House.  He was chosen as the 2008 SBAM Legislator of the Year.  SBAM believes that Rep. Calley is a strong pick to advance the small business agenda should the Snyder/Calley team be elected.

Mayor Bernero, the Democrat candidate, chose Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence as his running mate.  

The Governor’s race will feature two candidates with business backgrounds on the Republican side vs. two candidates that are mayors of urban areas on the Democratic side.

Party Conventions Round Out the Rest of the Ballot

Last weekend, both the Democrats and the Republicans held their nominating conventions to name their nominees for Attorney General, Secretary of State, the Supreme Court and State Board of Education and the various University Boards that are elected.

Attorney General

The Democrats nominated Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and the Republicans nominated former Court of Appeals Judge, Congressman and State Senator Bill Schuette.  Schuette edged out Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to win the nomination.

The Democrats choice was a forgone conclusion as they held a early nominating convention in April to unofficially name both their Attorney General and Secretary of State nominees.

Secretary of State

The Democratic candidate is Jocelyn Benson, a Wayne State University professor.  On the Republican side, Oakland County Clerk and former State Representative Ruth Johnson was victorious in a crowded five person race.

Supreme Court

In a surprising move last week, former Republican nominated Justice Elizabeth Weaver, who had earlier in the summer announced she would run as an independent with no party affiliation, announced her resignation from the Supreme Court.

This allowed Governor Granholm to select her replacement and she chose Appellate Court Judge Alton Davis of Gaylord.

So what was a 4-3 majority for the Republicans on the court (in reality it was not because of Justice Weaver’s schism with the other Republican justices) became a 4-3 Democrat majority.

So the two incumbent justices, newly appointed Alton Davis and Republican nominated Justice Bob Young will appear on the ballot as incumbents.

To challenge them the Republicans nominated Mary Beth Kelly a Wayne County judge and the Democrats nominated Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris.

We will continue to keep you updated on election developments throughout the fall.

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