State lawmakers are back to work after their summer break. The clock is ticking to get a state budget done before the new fiscal year starts in October.
A budget deal hinges on the Republican-led Legislature coming to terms with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a major fix to Michigan’s roads problem.
GOP leaders quickly dispatched Whitmer’s proposal to hike the gas tax by 45-cents. That idea was dead almost as fast as it was unveiled earlier this year.
So what alternative are lawmakers proposing? We’re still waiting on a final proposal that will start serious negotiations.
In the meantime, the budget has been held up. Now, we’re starting to hear the dreaded “s” word around the state Capitol — “shutdown.”
Will state leaders fix the damn roads so they can pass a damn budget?
Click on the player above to hear Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk about what happens if the budget doesn’t get passed.
State agencies are already starting to plan for possible layoffs
We’re not at the point of a shutdown yet. Gov. Whitmer has floated the idea that lawmakers could pass a continuing budget, which would push back the October 1 deadline to get a budget done.
But Whitmer’s budget director Chris Kolb recently asked state departments to identify those “critical functions” of each department that we hear about during partial government shutdowns. Those are the duties that must continue in the event of a shutdown.
That means state agencies are already preparing for a possible partial shutdown, and could soon start sending out layoff notices to state workers and unions.
Students are starting class and schools still don’t have an education budget
It’s been nine years since the last time districts starting their school year before state leaders have agreed to a budget.
During the Snyder Administration, Republicans insisted on getting a budget done in June in part so districts could prepare before their school year began.
Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) — the state’s largest teachers union — posted a letter she says she received from Whitmer this month.
“I know the Legislature’s choice to take the summer off means that you’ve been operating for nearly two months without an education budget,” the letter reads. ”You deserve better. Please know that while I am working day and night to get a deal and avoid a state government shutdown, I must also responsibly prepare for that outcome. I am asking that you continue to do the best you can and if you want to lend your voice, please reach out to your legislators and tell them what a bold investment would mean to you and your students.”
The MEA says more than 130 of the districts it represents don’t have contracts.
“Tens of thousands of school employees across the state have expired contracts,” the MEA’s David Crim told WKAR. “Districts are taking a wait-and-see approach because the Legislature did not pass an education budget before taking a long summer break.”
Legislative leaders say they have been in talks all summer long and that they’re optimistic they will reach an agreement with the governor and avoid a partial state government shutdown.