Chamber group calls on Whitmer, lawmakers to fix budget

ALPENA — Another northern Michigan organization has spoken out against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s line-item vetos to the state budget, which have reduced or eliminated funding to many programs that will directly impact law enforcement, education, and economic development in the region and elsewhere.

On Monday, the Northern Chamber Alliance, of which the Alpena chamber is part, issued a statement outlining a few of the cuts that will be damaging to key sectors in the region and asking the governor and Legislature to return to bargaining.

“Our organization is here to serve the interests of our region, and we are very concerned about the status of the 2019-20 budget with the Governor’s vetoes,” the statement said. “These priorities are serious issues for northern Michigan, and we are disappointed to see them used as bargaining chips for budget negotiations.We urge our legislative leaders to go back to the drawing board to find an agreement that will fund these critical rural programs, which were included in either the 2019-20 Executive Budget proposal, and the legislative budgets passed at the end of September.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, vetoed nearly $1 billion from the budgets approved mostly along party lines by the Republican-controlled Legislature, calling their proposals “a mess” and some of it irresponsible. Talks between the governor and legislative leaders broke down after lawmakers refused to consider her proposal to raise gas taxes by 45 cents per gallon to fund road improvements.

Whitmer has called on lawmakers to come back to the the negotiating table.

The Chamber Alliance said cuts to the Pure Michigan tourism marketing campaign, the Going Pro job training program, and to community development grants need to be restored, as does rural health care and education.

Whitmer’s vetoes have left school systems in the dark about how much money they are going to receive from the state. They need those amounts in order to budget accurately. Rural hospitals and clinics are also facing a loss of financial support from the state.

The Northern Chamber Alliance has nearly 8,000 members from 14 counties.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.